Currently exhibited at the 55th annual Venice Biennial until September 24th, Edge of Arabia is an independent arts platform founded in 2003 by Saudi artists, Ahmed Mater and Abdulnasser Gharemwith, and British co-founder Stephen Stapleton. Today, it involves over 60 contemporary Arab artists.
Curated by London-based art critic, Sara Raza, and Saudi-based poet, Ashraf Fayadh, Edge of Arabia‘s latest edition is entitled Rhizoma, named after the underground root of a plant that shoots its roots both horizontally and vertically. The name is a metaphor for a new generation of Saudi artists who challenge the perception of contemporary Arab art and culture. “These artists are part of a subterranean network, independent and distinctive in their styles and approach, technologically astute, experimental, and possess the ability to break away from the mainstream”, explained curator, Sara Raza.
Indeed, the exhibited art works all come with a focus on some of today’s boldest trends, including reworked photography, Internet and video art related to the “YouTube-generation”. Additional featured works include graffiti, such as a spray-painted camel, and cartoons by 22-year old artist, Omamah Alsadiq.
Meanwhile, the young photographer, Nouf Alhimiary presented a series of photographs entitled What She Wore, a spinoff of the popular online concept of “outfit of the day” in which women globally post pictures of their different outfits on blogs. The Saudi version features portraits of abaya-wearing women photographed on different occasions and in various locations.
In addition to the selected Saudi artists, a special rhizomatic structure was exclusively designed for the exhibition by The Amen Art Foundation, a new Riyadh-based platform set up by Abdulnasser Gharem, which stages several art works dedicated to advancing design in the Middle East.
Edge of Arabia is not the only artistic pavilion showcasing contemporary Arab art during the Venice Biennial. This year, the Iraqi pavilion was also present for the first time, housed in the Ca’ Dandolo, a 16th-century palazzo.