Al Hangar and the New Generation of Saudi Artists

d7hftxdivxxvm.cloudfront.netMyrna Award writes about  Al Hangar (The Warehouse) an initiative by young Saudi artists, who describe it as a cultural movement which aims to “ignite a sense of community.”

Artists are individually invited to show work at Al Hangar, similarly to a biennial. And so far, they’ve been inundated with requests to participate, an indication of both the buzz around the alternative space, and the growing energy around Saudi’s art scene.

The initiative is led by Ramy Alquthamy and Nasser Al Salem who hope to provide this sense of community for emerging Saudi artists, the “generation in waiting” as they were referred to in Edge of Arabia’s exhibition from a couple of years ago, Rhizoma, which aimed:

to provide a clear vision of the radical transformation in Saudi art, which is now more affiliated with its roots, to the real culture represented by the awareness of the different living conditions in Saudi Arabia. This awareness is creating a strong message from a new generation of artists to formulate art in their own way.

The exhibition featured the rising stars of the new generation including the artists leading Al Hangar, Ramy Alquthamy and Nasser Salem.
As Joseph Loyd writes, “To say Saudi Arabian art is burgeoning is an understatement.”
despite the censorship of Saudi Arabia, highlighted by the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.
In this NPR piece, Saudi artist Abdulnasser Gharem comments on the effect the new generation might have on the culture of censorship and self-censorship:
 “If you’ll give them a space where at least they can speak freely — that’s the beginning, and I think that’s what’s missing in this country,” he says. “If you go to school, you cannot say what you want. If you go to mosque, you cannot say what you want [because of] family pressure, society pressure.”
It’s a fine line to walk, a “quiet riot,” as Cassandra Flores writes in this piece on the political art of Saudi Arabia and how “artists are navigating ways in which they can address sensitive topics in ways that can be celebrated rather than shunned.”
Though Gharem has become one of the most established Saudi artists, his work has not been uncontroversial, as he discussed in this interview.
The exhibition seeks toexplore the complex relationship between image, speed and time in the Gulf, questioning the chronological and territorial notion of the region and the paradigms of its underlying identity.”

Nasser Al-Salem: Jameel Prize 3 from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

Among the pieces featured in Al Hangar was “Al Salem’s green neon Arabi/Gharbi (2016), meaning Arabic/Westerner. In Arabic, the first letter for both words is differentiated by a dot, which flashes against the bare brick wall. “I’m talking about Jeddah, how some orient to the West and others to the East,” he says.”

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