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13 women who are ruling the rapidly changing Saudi art scene
It’s no secret that times are a-changing in Saudi Arabia....
Art Girls Jungle 05 Sep 2019

It’s no secret that times are a-changing in Saudi Arabia. From the much-celebrated lift of the driving ban for women to the reintroduction of cinemas, the country’s new, young crown prince Mohamed bin Salman seems set on shaking up some of the old traditional ways. While there’s still much to be done to improve freedoms in the vast desert kingdom, one of the big overhauls has been the country’s treatment of the arts. The crown prince announced the country’s first ministry of culture in 2018 and has since made the arts part of his strategic “Vision 2030” to end Saudi’s dependence on oil. While the kingdom has long been a place with a rich heritage, now artists, designers and cultural leaders are taking advantage of these new opportunities and the number of museums, festivals and programmes for art are on the rise. Here are some of the women who are leading the scene.

Effat Abdullah Fadag

An artist and academic, who grew up in Dhahran. She was one of the early pioneering women artists in the country and the first woman in the country to receive a PhD in fine art. She is currently the Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Jeddah and she curated last year’s edition of 21,39—a not-for-profit contemporary art festival that last year was organised around the theme of Al Obour, or “crossing”.
The Edge of Arabia exhibition We Need to Talk in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Fatima Al Banawi
A Jeddah-based social artist and an actress, she became known internationally for her debut in the 2016 award-winning Saudi feature film Barakah Meets Barakah. Not only does she have a Masters Degree in Theological Studies from Harvard University, where she focused on gender and identity theory in the Middle East, but she is also the founder of The Other Story Project— a storytelling platform that collects real life stories from people on the street and turns them into creative productions.
Fatima Al Banawi_theartgorgeous

Antonia Carver @antoniamcarver

The British-born director of Art Jameel, the cultural philanthropic arm of the Saudi business conglomerate Abdul Latif Jameel, she is based in Dubai at the organisation’s Jameel Arts Centre. Formerly a journalist and the director of Art Dubai fair, her next major project at Art Jameel is the launch of Hayy: Creative Hub, a 17,000 square metre arts district in Jeddah, which is scheduled for completion in 2020.
Antonia Carver_theartgorgeous

Jumana Ghouth @thehumancontainer

She was the curator at Jeddah’s Athr Gallery—one of Saudi Arabia’s leading commercial contemporary art spaces—for almost seven years. She now works as a senior manager for public engagement at Jeddah Historical District, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Jumana Ghouth_theartgorgeous

Basma & Noura Bouzo @nourabouzo @basmabouzo @saudidesignweek

This sister duo are designers as well the founders of Oasis Magazine, a bilingual arts and design magazine. In 2014, they also initiated Saudi Design Week, an annual festival in Riyadh. This year’s edition will take place 5-9 November around the theme “Designing Happiness”.
Basma & Noura Bouzo

Noor Al-Dabbagh @banafsajeel

A curator who studied at both Sotheby’s Institute of Art and Harvard University, she is now the director for cultural residencies and incubators at the country’s new ministry of culture. She also created Banafsajeel, a curatorial platform with that aims to aid the exchange of ideas through creative collaborative projects. This includes an annual exhibition highlighting artists and designers from the Gulf region.
Noor Al-Dabbagh _theartgorgeous

Laila Al-Faddagh
She is the Head of Museums at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), the first mega museum in Saudi Arabia. A new initiative of the oil company Saudi Aramco, the museum in Dhahran has permanent collections of Islamic and contemporary Saudi art and hosts international travelling exhibitions.
Lila Al-Fadag_theartgorgeous

Manal AlDowayan

An artist whose work looks at Saudi identity, she has been exhibited in several important exhibitions including Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2015) and Home Ground (2015) at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum. One of her best-known works is Suspended Together (2011), an installation of porcelain birds printed with permission documents that Saudi women must have from their male guardians in order to travel.
Manal AlDowayan_theartgorgeous

Maha Malluh @mahamalluh

One of Saudi Arabia’s most popular artists, she was born in the traditional region of Najd and her work looks at the rapid challenges of modernity in the kingdom. One of her most famous series’ is an installation that uses discarded multi-coloured tape cassettes of extremist religious preaching, assembled to spell out words in Arabic like “temptation” and “heresy”. Her work is included in international collections including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Tate Modern, the British Museum, and the Centre Georges Pompidou.
Maha Malluh_theartgorgeous

Valeria Mariani @valeriamariani

A cultural arts producer, since 2011 she has been part of Edge of Arabia—an independent arts organisation that curates exhibitions, facilitates artistic exchanges and creates publications, with a special focus on Saudi Arabia—and she is now the International Projects Director. In 2018, she helped secure a permanent pavilion for Saudi Arabia at the Venice Biennale, and managed their first ever participation in the 16th International Architecture Exhibition showcasing the work of Bricklab.
Valeria Mariani_Profile Photo

Eiman Elgibreen @eelgibreen

An artist and assistant professor of Art History at the Princess Nourah University in Riyadh, she has a PhD in Modern and Contemporary Art History from the University of Sussex in England. Since 2011, she has been writing articles and reviews for Al-Riyadh, and Al-Jazirah Daily Newspaper. This year, she was chosen as the curator for Saudi’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale; its first representation in eight years.
Eiman Elgibreen_theartgorgeous

Alia Fattouh @tandemworks
Now the director of the Athr Gallery, an important Jeddah commercial space, in 2015 she also co-founded TandemWorks, an arts initiative that encourages change on social, cultural and environmental issues with art interventions in public places.

Princess Jawaher bint Majed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
A member of the Saudi royal family, she is the first woman to have been granted the title of the patron of arts in the country. She supports many arts initiatives in the kingdom, including the festival 21,39; is the president of the Al-Mansouria Foundation; and the founder of the Saudi Art Council.
HRH Princess_theartgorgeous
Text by Aimee Dawson

Images via vogue , bfa, @valeriamariani, edgeofarabia, artsatl, saudigazette, instagram, annaseaman

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