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Alãan Artspace in Riyadh: Challenging The Status Quo

20th March 2015

Click here to read the original article by Mariam Nihal in Saudi Gazette

Alaan Artspace is a three-year-old art hub based in the capital of Saudi Arabia. It enables artists share a common platform to facilitate arts and culture in the region. Alaan also helps cultivate engagement with the contemporary art culture among Arab audiences via interactive events that cover a range of subjects, from artist talks to collectors sharing their experiences. The government of Saudi Arabia has committed to spending more than US $1.7 billion on building 230 new museums.

Saudi Gazette caught up with the founding director, Neama A. Al-Sudairi, in a recent interview. She welcomed the government initiative and said the King Abdulaziz World Cultural Center in the Eastern Province is now collecting contemporary Saudi art, which is great for the Saudi art scene.

“It will further put our artists on the map, as there seems to be a thought that some Saudi artists are under-valued by global investors, in comparison to artists from other parts of the region. So now it is time for Saudi, and Riyadh in particular, to step up and take its place at the table. I am convinced the Riyadh arts scene will grow so much as to be unrecognizable in just five years time,” she added.

Alaan Artspace activities have also been designed to contribute to Riyadh’s cultural life. These include curated exhibitions, arts education, workshops, guest speakers, artist conversations, documentaries, talks and their expansive library of art and design books. The hub’s latest pop-up show ‘CRATE’ which is Riyadh’s first and most popular designer trunk show, recently created a huge buzz on social media. Sudairi said the team is thrilled at the response and interest in locally designed goods and we will continue to host CRATE events throughout the year.

SG: How does development of local artists and industries come into play at Alaan Artspace?

NS: We provide a stunning space, curatorial support, a library and educational programs. Alãan (meaning “Now”) Artspace aims to always be at the heart of the city’s emerging arts scene. As a proudly authentic Saudi style evolves, on its own terms, in Riyadh, Alãan Artspace fosters the city’s growing arts community through exhibitions, event programs and an important arts library.

Our stunning exhibition space is deliberately set at street level, welcoming a relaxed, immersive experience.

SG: What segment of the art market is interesting to you right now?

NS: From the beginning, our fine art shows were interspersed with Riyadh’s first designer trunk/ or popup shows such as CRATE, providing a home for Riyadh’s young, talented and highly creative fashion, jewelry and accessories designers. These took social media by storm, as well our physical space, growing so popular as to squeeze our schedule for more time slots.

We have been compelled to recognize the scale of interest in this form of art. We decided that for the coming year, we would open the schedule to more designer shows.

In this we continue to provide a forum for new talent and entrepreneurialism, and to celebrate the art of every day life – bringing the pleasure of exquisite beauty to the familiar world.

SG: Lets talk about the evolving art scene in the Middle East.

NS: The influence of the Middle Eastern art market boom began in earnest with the establishment of the Art Dubai art fair in 2005, and gained steam in 2008 when a work by Farhad Moshiri passed the US$1m mark. In addition, the government of Saudi Arabia is planning to spend more than US$1.7bn on building 230 new museums, which will not only display archaeological works but contemporary art. The scale of the region’s cultural building boom is massive, as countries that once had few museums are overnight turning into repositories of the latest art trends and styles. Also, Qatar is considered one of the world’s biggest contemporary art buyers.

SG: How do Alaan Projects help facilitate the contemporary art scene?

NS: We are dedicating the entire 2015 -2016 calendar to design, featuring the creative work of some of the best talent in the region.

The success of the young designers platform compelled us to recognize the scale of interest in “design for everyday living”. A new branch of our mission called “Alaan Projects” will gather together designer events, arts education programming, and interesting future ventures.

“Alaan Projects” continues our important original mission: to nurture creativity and to support the entrepreneurial spirit of talented independent designers. On reflection, this is a natural reaction to the crush of global brands that surrounds us. We are proud to present local and regional designers who articulate their own creative vision and craftsmanship in response to the mass-produced world around us.

In short, the Alaan known for experimentation, for commitment to nurturing talent and creativity, remains true to our founding mission. And we’re still home to majlis/library and our restaurant.

SG: Alaan Artspace’s next move.

NS: We wanted to open our space in Riyadh in particular, which is catching up a full decade after the art scene in Jeddah hit the map.That’s the reason we named the gallery Alaan. Our idea was to emphasize and express urgency: “more art now” in the Kingdom and in Riyadh too, our capital city. We view our arts scene as authentically Saudi, evolving on its own terms – we are landlocked, in the center of the country. Whereas the Jeddah scene has been influenced by its international community and the fact that it is closer to other countries.

Alãan Artspace Events

Alãan meaning Now is Riyadh’s key contemporary forum, at the heart of the city’s emerging arts scene. We foster the city’s growing arts community through exhibitions, event programmes and an important arts library. Through Alãan Projects we integrate arts education and community events with exhibitions showcasing unique local design talent. Our stunning exhibition space is deliberately set at street level, welcoming a relaxed, immersive experience.

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