How the Saudi art scene is determined to keep up with the changes of its country

Mohammed Bin Salman’s encouragement of art sector is seen as proof of his modernising and reforming credentials, as well as his commitment to Saudi Arabian youth There is at present a remarkable flowering of the Jeddah art scene, a sense that the young and reforming country of Saudi Arabia – having been relatively isolated from the rest of the world – has something new and different to offer on the artistic stage. Jeddah’s yearly arts festival, 21,39, took place last week, and its ancillary events this year stretched across the country. Organisers took international visitors to Dammam, on the country’s east coast, to see the gorgeously high-spec Ithra: King Abdullah Aziz Centre for World Culture, the Saudi Aramco-funded art and cultural space that opens later this year, as well as to the King Abdullah Economic City to see the country’s first-ever solo show, Drum Roll, Please of Ahmed Mater. The latter is in itself an incredible development. Mater is widely regarded as the pre-eminent figure in the Saudi art scene, and his photographs have toured to major institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. But his work, which has been critical of development in Saudi, has lacked visibility in his home country until last weekend, when his photographs, sculptures and videos were installed across an industrial-looking gallery in the still-under-construction King Abdullah Economic City. How the Saudi art scene is determined to keep up with the changes of its country

thumbnail courtesy of