Largely self-taught artists are propelling the KSA art scene onto a global stage. This is one of the revelations of a lush new book, Contemporary Kingdom: The Saudi Art Scene Now, just released by Dubai’s Canvas Central. In one of its essays, Chris Dercon, director of the UK’s Tate Modern, argues that the absence of art education in the kingdom has led to a “‘bottom-up” phenomenon, with many Saudi artists educating themselves–and creating marvelously original works.
“The experience has been nothing short of exciting and enriching, and it has been very rewarding – professionally and educationally – to work on this seminal publication,” says Myrna Ayad, the book’s editor. She explains that such a book on contemporary Saudi visual art practices was conceived by Canvas Central’s founder Ali Khadra, and has taken three years to reach fruition.
Its themed essays by local and international artists and experts are accompanied by a generous selection of photographs, introducing readers to key contributors to the Saudi art scene along with its expanding market, galleries, and other institutions. Interviews with gallerists and collectors complete the reader’s journey through Saudi art, including an examination of the ties between art and society by Mona Khazindar, director-general of the French Institut du Monde Arabe, focusing on how traditional signs and symbols are being revived and incorporated in new ways.
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