Contemporary artist Manal AlDowayan has been selected to represent Saudi Arabia at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. Taking place from April 20 to November 24, the festival will feature a Saudi Pavilion commissioned by the Ministry of Culture’s Visual Arts Commission.
“My approach to art over the last two decades has given me the chance to be part of a transformation that is taking place in my country,” shares the artist, who is considered one of the most significant contemporary artists from the Kingdom. “The Biennale Arte 2024 presents a rare opportunity to represent where I stand in my practice, positioned in the context of my community, my country, and the world as a whole.”
Spanning a plethora of mediums – photography, sound, sculpture, and participatory practice – AlDowayan’s work is mostly concerned with the status and representation of women. With powerful themes such as invisibility, active forgetting, and collective memory, her decades-long practice is a symbol of the changing social landscape. AlDowayan emerges as an important cultural commentator in a metamorphosing Saudi Arabia, whose work must be celebrated.
“Throughout my decades-long practice, I have engaged with women in my country to collectively reflect on social customs relating to their position both within Saudi Arabia and further afield,” AlDowayan said, before diving into her work. “My 2023 performance From Shattered Ruins, New Life Shall Bloom invited visitors to navigate a space which featured a landscape of totems topped with porcelain rolls that were filled with texts and images depicting narratives that have upheld structures around women for generations. I asked participants – women — to destroy the scrolls – ultimately stripping the words and images of their power, encouraging solidarity in the face of fragmentation of action, and highlighting the need for a multipolar approach when it comes to helping women and girls around the world.”
This commission will mark Saudi Arabia’s fourth participation in La Biennale di Venezia, and is the third National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia to feature female artists. AlDowayan revealed that the Saudi Pavilion for this edition will remain in line with the Biennale’s theme of ‘Foreigners Everywhere’. Curated by Adriano Pedrosa, the theme will bring together artists to reflect on the differences and disparities conditioned by areas such as identity, nationality, race, and gender, amongst others.
Manal AlDowayan for The National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia, commissioned by the Visual Arts Commission, 20 April – 24 November: Saudipavilion.org