Dear readers, Our Art Paper is back this issue, covering the latest cultural highlights from the region. It’s certainly been a busy time recently, with SELECTIONS having been invited to attend a number of major events, giving us a front-row seat to the most significant happenings in the art community in this part of the world. Public art has become increasingly important in the Gulf region, with cities and landscapes across the area seeking to promote their artistic heritage. Wadi AlFann, which means ‘Valley of the Arts’, is a new, awe-inspiring cultural destination for contemporary art that will see era-defining works from some of the most compelling artists in the world placed permanently in the monumental landscape of AlUla, opening in 2024. Qatar Museums has also commissioned an impressive array of public artworks, including installations by Simone Fattal, Ernesto Neto, and Olafur Eliasson in the desert. Eliasson’s solo exhibition, The Curious Desert, provides us with a glimpse into the mind of this Icelandic-Danish artist, allowing us to get to know him better. Abu Dhabi has also made significant strides in the art world by launching its first major art biennial, which will undoubtedly put the city on the international art map. We were excited to see the multimedia crashing wave display by the Seoul-based collective D’strict, which was recently unveiled in the emirate. As for our main theme this issue, we have fully dedicated it to highlighting established contemporary artists from Saudi Arabia who explore themes such as identity, tradition, and modernisation through various mediums including photography, installation, and sculpture.
Our cover features the remarkable artwork “Songs from the Shore” by Manal AlDowayan from 2022, which delves into the history of the Gulf’s fishing economies and musical culture, exploring themes of connection and hope. The edition concludes with a special section curated by Iwona Blazwick, a British art critic and lecturer who currently chairs the Royal Commission for Al-’Ula’s Public Art Expert Panel. Through her selection of 12 artworks by Saudi artists, she offers a unique and insightful glimpse into the thriving art scene of the country