As we approach the year anniversary of the Arab spring, the question arises: what do we expect to see? What qualifies as “progress”?
Edge of Arabia took a stab at answering, with its homecoming exhibition in Jeddah, candidly titled We Need to Talk. The idea for the cultural initiative sprung from an artist Stephen Stapleton’s 2003 visit to the Al Meftaha Artist Village, in which it became evident that the country lacked the means to promote and integrate Saudi artists into the larger international art world. The first international exhibition launched in London in 2008, and since then, the organization has sent group exhibitions of Saudi and Arab art across the globe, including the first ever pan-Arab presentation at Venice, The Future of a Promise.
We Need to Talk features over 40 artists brought together by co-curators Mohammed Hafiz and Stephen Stapleton. The exhibition is sited in a raw space within the Al Furusya Marina, a magnificent yacht club complex, and the kick-off symposium took place at the nearby university.
For more information, check out this review of the weekend by Baibakov Art Projects’ founder and chief curator, Maria Baibakova, who manages to capture the entire experience - from the various visa hurdles to seating at the symposium to learning the value of saying one’s name. In particular she takes a hard look at the position of female artists like Manal al-Dowayan and what happens when the air kisses of the international art world clash with local customs.
Read it online here, at Art Asia Pacific.