Leading Saudi artist focuses on the modernisation of Mecca and Jerusalem
Ahmed Mater to consider “uneasy fit” between architecture and social realities in the Middle East
By The Art Newspaper. Web only
Published online: 30 July 2014
The leading Saudi artist Ahmed Mater, who caused a stir with a series of photographs depicting the rampant redevelopment around Mecca, is due to take part in his first public talk in the UK at Sotheby’s London (12 August). Mater will also discuss this work in relation to other cities such as Jerusalem and Medina during the discussion, entitled “Contemporary photography and hybrid architecture”.
Initially a medical doctor, in 2008 Mater co-founded Edge of Arabia, an artist-led organisation that promotes dialogue between the Middle East and the Western world. His artistic career took off after his piece X-Ray, 2003 was first shown in the British Museum’s 2006 “Word into Art” show and was added to the museum’s collection.
Mater’s recent “Desert of Pharan” photography series focuses on the redevelopment of Mecca as it is turned into a luxury holy destination. His supersized images of the cranes and construction work threatening to overwhelm Islam's holiest site were shown at the 2013 Sharjah Biennial. “Bringing together a hybrid form of Islamic and Western urban architectural models, the plans being used in cities such as Mecca make for an uneasy fit that does little to accommodate social and religious realities on the ground,” the talk organisers say.
Mater will be in conversation with Lina Lazaar, Sotheby’s international contemporary art specialist and founder of Jeddah Art Week, as part of the auction house’s Tuesday Talks programme covering the Middle East art world.
The series of talks launches on 5 August with the Morocco-born artist Hassan Hajjaj in conversation with Anthony Downey, the programme director of contemporary art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. The final discussion, between the Lebanese photographer Ziad Antar and the journalist Coline Milliard, is due to take place 19 August. The talks, which begin at 6pm, are open to all with no prior booking required. The Art Newspaper is a media sponsor for the Sotheby’s Middle Eastern art talks.
An exhibition of highlights from Sotheby’s Doha sale of Middle Eastern and international contemporary art, due to take place 13 October, coincides with the talks series (until 22 August). Works on view include Damien Hirst’s butterfly-covered canvas Tranquility, 2008 (est $1m-$1.5m), and Tehran-born artist Ali Banisadr’s painting The Chase, 2011 (est $180,000-$250,000). Other artists featured include Anish Kapoor, Shirin Neshat and Ayman Baalbaki.
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