Contemporary art Market Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia breaks onto contemporary art scene

First curated contemporary art space to open in Riyadh next month

Alaan Artspace, opens next month in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia is making its mark on the global contemporary art scene: works by Middle Eastern artists such as Talal Al Zeid and Mohammed Farea are available at Lam Art Gallery in Riyadh, the Empty Quarter photography gallery in Dubai was founded by the Saudi photographer Princess Reem Al-Faisal, while Message/Messenger, a 2010 installation incorporating a wood and copper dome by the Saudi artist Abdulnasser Gharem, was the top lot at Christie’s Dubai in April 2011, fetching $842,500 (with buyer’s premium; est $70,000-$100,000). A new contemporary art gallery called Alaan Artspace, which opens next month in Riyadh, also hopes to succeed in the field.

“There is a tremendous amount of energy around the arts in Saudi, but relatively few institutions and Alaan Artspace is Riyadh’s first curated contemporary art platform,” says Neama Alsudairy, the founding director of the new gallery. “Revenue from the shop, restaurant and cafe give us the flexibility to hold non-commercial exhibitions, commission new works, stock an art research library, and offer free non-profit educational arts programming.” In a significant move, the venue will also host commercial shows.

The opening exhibition, “Soft Power” (26 September-10 December), represents a breakthrough, featuring three Saudi female artists. Sarah Mohanna Al-Abdali’s paintings and works on paper depict female figures whose bodies are cloaked in geometric patterns, including a series of arayis (brides) planted head first into the soil. Sarah Abu Abdallah’s video, meanwhile, presents a wrecked car sourced from a local junkyard. “The artist superimposes her own experience onto the object,” says Alsudairy. Manal Al Dowayan’s installation incorporates large prayer beads, decorated with the names of individual anonymous women, which were painted in community workshops.

“The works are each very different but together present a complicated and even humorous approach towards questions [about] the position of women within contemporary society. Like our artists, we seek to turn the narrative on its head but to do so with solidarity, ambiguity and a heavy dose of irony,” says Alsudairy. "Soft Power" and Alaan Artspace's educational programmes are organised by Sara Raza, the former curator of public programmes for Tate Modern in London who has also worked at the South London Gallery.

Alsudairy adds that the show reflects an important art world trend, in that a significant number of leading artists and dealers in the Middle East are women. In Jeddah this January, when the UK non-profit organisation Edge of Arabia organised the 40-piece exhibition "We Need to Talk" for instance, more than a third of the works were by women.

And what about the thorny issue of censorship in the notoriously restrictive state? “We are not seeking to alienate anyone and we are also not going to shy away from showing art that has real potency… we feel as though we have a great deal of flexibility to share works, hold a dialogue and support an open discussion of what contemporary art means in Saudi and how artists in the Middle East and North Africa region create.”

Manal Al Dowayan, Esmi, 2012
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11 Feb 14
15:19 CET


Happy to know that Arabian art become popular in west as well good to see some works on internet.hoping for the best in future.

23 Nov 12
20:2 CET


Interest to be informed with date and location of events In advance many thanks . Regards

30 Aug 12
15:3 CET


Hello, this is the web editor, thank you all for your comments. We are reporting on a new venture and, as we stated, Alaan Artspace is an addition to the field. This article is not a survey of contemporary art galleries in Saudi Arabia, but if you would like to send us any further information on that topic, please contact me at helen [at]

29 Aug 12
15:0 CET


Comment cont - hewar art gallery 52nd floor, Kingdom Tower, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 11411 from Saturday to Thursday 9:30 am to 1:30 noon and 3:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – Riyadh – Kingdom Tower – Floor 52 – Hewar Art Gallery Tel: +966 1 2111 200/300 Fax: +966 1 2111 400 Box : 460 Riyadh 11411 To contact : Lahd Gallery Riyadh Suleimaniya Musa Bin Nusir St. Olaya Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Tel: +966 (01) 464 0320 Fax: +966 (01) 464 5116 TWITTER : FACEBOOK : I hope that was helpful, And indeed Athr Gallery remains the first and best in saudi

29 Aug 12
14:59 CET


responding to NOELEEN CURRAN there are 4 Art galleries in Riyadh that i know of , and Alaan art space joins them Alaan art space : 280 Ourouba road, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia T +966 (0)1 4169550 E- mail Website : lam art gallery Riyadh Olayiah street . Centria Mall Tahlia Str. 2nd Floor Mon - Sun:4:00 pm-11:00 pm 01 293 9394 mishkat art gallery Address 44 el rabia ebn anas st, from the prince soultann (30 olaya ) el Olaya - Riyadh- Phone: 014629926 Fax: 014629943 E-mail: open from sat - thur 10 am - 12 pm 5 pm - 10 pm website :

28 Aug 12
15:50 CET


The specific locations of the Lam Art Gallery and Alaan Artspace are not mentioned so would like to know where they are so that I can share this with my art students and encourage them to support the Arts in Saudi initiatives as they happen. Also, I would like to know if there are other art venues in Riyadh that are open for visiting. Thank you.

27 Aug 12
16:0 CET


Agree with comments above. It is the first in Riyadh, but Athr gallery has been in the scene for years and participated in Art Dubai for 4 consecutive years. Since there are more people paying attention to the Saudi art scene, I wish they would do their research first.

27 Aug 12
15:59 CET


Very impressed to read an article about Art events in the Arab World and contacted them to write a story about them in the newspaper I work for (Arabic). I mainly cover and monitor the art scene movement in Dubai and sharjah, and spotlight the emerging artists in the area. Thank you

24 Aug 12
16:22 CET


Responding to Maha's comment, the feature on Alaan Artspace is that it is the first curated space of its kind in Riyadh. There are several galleries now in Jeddah and the article mentions other arts initiatives, so it does acknowledge the scene itself is growing on a number of levels.

23 Aug 12
18:36 CET


Nicely written but please fact-check first. Athr Gallery in Jeddah has been open for years and participated in Art Dubai as well, bringing contemporary Saudi Art and artists to the world. So this is hardly the first.

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