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“21, 39 Jeddah Arts”: A look back at the strongest works of the event

Organised by the Saudi Art Council, “21,39 Jeddah Arts” is a non-profit initiative whose objective is to maintain and continue to develop the phenomenon that has, for decades, placed the city at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s contemporary art scene. Between organised exhibitions, gallery openings, a series of conferences and discussions, Kawa gives you a summary of its three favourite works.

Organised by French academic Fabien Danesi, and taking as its theme this year “The Secrets of Alidades“, the event features works by 35 artists who celebrate the universe by taking visitors on an interstellar journey. The works on display therefore focus on travel and exploration, both physical and mental.

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The first space shuttle 

Moving away from his familiar calligraphy, Jeddah-born Nasser Al Salem has created his first sculpture The First Space Shuttle. His inspiration? The design of the tents that nomads use as a habitat mixed with the design of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule

“This idea of mobility creates a connection between nomadic Bedouins and astronauts in their use of space and their engagement with nature” explains Al Salem. “In my opinion, this idea of mobility creates a clear link between nomadic Bedouins and astronauts in their use of space, their engagement with nature and their movement from one place to another.


Al Kalima 

As you can see from her work, the French-Moroccan artist who created “Al Kalima” is strongly influenced by traditional crafts and culture

This installation, made from recycled Iraqi stained glass, brass and rotating motors, consists of five circular windows covering a range of vibrancy and shows the colours gradually fading from one to the other. “It is a transformation that evokes the disappearance of Iraqi glass while what was probably Moorish glass replaced it, that is, before industrial glass was made in China or Saudi Arabia” says the exhibition catalogue. 

At the same time, this fading material also marks the passage from complexity to nothingness. Al-Kalima , which means ‘word’ in Arabic, is linked to the word and its power… The stained glass windows underline the link between human language and the cosmos, according to the calligraphic tradition” the catalogue continues. 

Cyprium 2135

Much of Alofi’s work is inspired by the deserts of Saudi Arabia. And this 10 x 7 metre print is no exception.

It is, according to the catalogue, a reproduction of a petroglyph from Jabal Uhain, which depicts arms and hands drawn on the Jubbah mountain in the Ha’il region. These last ‘mustatils’ or ancient stone structures visible in northwestern Arabia, were ritual sites that are unknown to us today

The artist has then subtly modified these symbols into a form reminiscent of the logos of the exhibition’s sponsors and thus creates “a bridge between ancient times and our contemporary world“. The artist describes this work as an invitation to search for the “stars that exist on Earth as well as in the sky.

And that’s not all! Feel free to discover all the masterpieces live or on their website!

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Published on 16 August 2021

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