With Participation of more than 34 Saudi, GCC and International artists, The Saudi Art Council launched its eighth edition, 21,39 Jeddah Arts brings together the local, global, and celestial in a captivating survey of the Saudi art scene that’s complete with cross-cultural and interstellar dialogues.
This new exhibition intertwines cartography and astronomy in an allegorical perspective. Curated by Fabien Danesi, The Secrets of Alidades alludes to the pointers found on astrolabes (among other astronomical instruments) that assist us in observing distant objects and determining directions. Here, the ancient alidades designate the thirty-three artworks as they are united on a poetical journey that opens our imaginations, instincts, and intellects to an array of dimensions and systems, earthly or otherwise. As travel has been necessarily rethought in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Danesi invites us on a mental voyage, one that captures the spirit of sailors using the stars to orient themselves in terra incognita, or “unknown lands.”
In our globalized and digital culture, where the internet creates unprecedented ways of drifting through data and screens, The Secrets of Alidades calls for an exhibition as a (meta)physical experience in which distinctive artworks relate to one another and, in turn, offer a configuration of sorts that may guide us temporarily. As Danesi elucidates: “There is a double image at play: if artworks can be understood as navigational instruments, then an exhibition can be seen as a constellation . . . This shift of the symbolic, from the observer's tool (the alidade) to the object of observation (the stars), illustrates the consequences of our contemporary times — how objectivity and subjectivity are no longer a dialectic couple, but, rather, they affirm double meanings in an endless chain of significances. In this regard, the ‘exhibition as constellation’ approach may help us understand artistic creations as something completely different from the illustrations of the curatorial topics.”
Most of the commissioned artists responded to the exhibition’s orientations in either a playful or surrealistic manner. With Danesi’s guidance, we drift through their ephemeral yet memorable community — constellation — of objects, affects, wavelengths, lights, and bodies. From one proposal to another, we trace a pattern that is incomplete and thus asks for the integration of the celestial with our understanding of the Anthropocene — not as an escape, but as a mode for imagining new bonds and relationships between humanity and the Earth. Quite fittingly, the show will be extended through satellite exhibitions, talks, screenings, workshops, and an eponymous website that offers educational games and a science fiction fable. The entire event will dedicate its energy to further developing pedagogical perspectives across Saudi Arabia as well as the diversity of cultural approaches.
The core idea of the exhibition was brought to life in various artistic interpretations by works from multinational group of artists such as Qamar Abdulmalik, Sarah Abu Abdullah, Alia Ahmad, Eijia-Liisa Ahtila, Ahaad Alamoudi, Rajaa Alhajj, Moath Alofi, Bashaer Alhawsawi, Nasser Almulhim, Zahiyah Alraddadi, Nasser Alsalem, Mohamed Alsanie, Zena Amir, Dana Awartani, Asaad Badawi, Philippe Baudelocque, Hicham Berrada, Asma Bahmim, Sarah Brahim, Zahra Bundakji, Basma Felemban, Fabrice Hyber, Aisha Islam, Ammar Jiman, Zeyn Joukhadar, Ange Leccia, Sarah Ouhaddou, Agnieszka Polska, Matteo Rubbi, Stéphanie Saadé, Anhar Salem, Yasmeen Sudairy, Sarah Taibah, Esther Teichmann, and Ayman Zedani.
Speaking on the occasion, Nada Sheikh-Yasin, Director of the Saudi Art Council, said: “21,39 Jeddah Arts is organized by the Saudi Art Council, which seeks to maintain and develop the phenomena that has, for decades now, seen the city of Jeddah at the forefront of the kingdom’s contemporary art scene. The annual citywide program features curated exhibitions, educational workshops, talks and discussions, as well as other cultural events in different venues and with a range of partners.”
She pointed out that each edition aims to cultivate the local arts and cultural scene by showcasing Saudi art and artists while also encouraging collaboration across borders and drawing the international art public to Jeddah.”
Ali Janoudi, Vice-Chairman of the Board, UBS Saudi Arabia, said: “UBS is proud to be sponsoring 21,39 Jeddah Arts for the seventh year, thanks to our partnership with the Saudi Art Council. This year’s edition draws our attention to the guiding power of art, the unique ability that creative thinking and thinkers have to lead our way towards a rapidly changing future. At UBS, we see ourselves as lifelong partners for our clients, working with them on their most important decisions and helping them navigate shifting financial and economic landscapes, all while aligning their financial objectives with their values.”
Alessandro Maffi, Van Cleef & Arpels Managing Director Middle East and India, says, “High Jewelry Maison Van Cleef & Arpels has consistently expressed its dedication to the cultural and artistic sphere showcasing this commitment through a variety of collaborations. Participating in this new edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts continues to strengthen and reaffirm the Maison’s promise in this artistic endeavour. This exclusive exhibition will be the occasion to celebrate local Saudi artists, designers, and thinkers, encouraging creativity, art and passion in the Middle East, whilst welcoming jewelry connoisseurs into the astronomic universe of Van Cleef & Arpels’ enchanting creations.”
The 8th edition of Jeddah Art 21,39 is made possible by the support and sponsorship of Al Mansouria Foundation, UBS and Van Cleef & Arpels.