It won’t be long now until the inaugural edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale takes off in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Hosted by the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, the exhibition is set to take place between January 23 and April 23, under the theme of Awwal Bait (First House), through which artists will explore “how the holy Ka’bah in Makkah Al-Mukarramah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Al-Madinah al-Munawwarah inspires Muslims—on both cultural and metaphysical levels—to create a sense of belonging in their own home, their own ‘bait’, wherever that may be.” The works of 18 Saudi artists and art collectives, over 40 artworks, and over 200 artifacts from Saudi institutions will be presented at the repurposed Western Hajj Terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport.
The Biennale will also host some of the world’s leading international artists, alongside commissioned and existing works from both emerging and renowned Saudi artists. They have been selected for their media, methods, and practice, as they share common themes of spirituality, collectivity, and belonging in their work. Overseeing the exhibition is a distinguished international curatorial team: Dr Saad Alrashid, leading Saudi scholar and archaeologist; Dr Omniya Abdel Barr, Barakat Trust Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Head of Development at the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation; Dr Julian Raby, Director Emeritus of the National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; and biennale Artistic Director Sumayya Vally, Artistic Director, Principal of Counterspace, and Honorary Professor of Practice, UCL.
“The Diriyah Biennale Foundation has placed a special emphasis on nurturing and providing a platform for homegrown talent in its inaugural edition; It’s an exciting, first-of-its-kind new stage for the local, regional, and international art community to get inspired by fresh, thought-provoking perspectives on the diversity of the past, present, and future of the Islamic arts from around the world,” Aya Al-Bakree, CEO, Diriyah Biennale Foundation says. “Local artists from Saudi Arabia have done an incredible job in bringing the sacred aspects of Islam to life through indigenous and modern techniques and media. We are keen for people to join the dialogue and experience, first-hand, the sense of community that the faith can evoke, through art.”