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Qaswra Hafez: “Art is about dialogue, communication and expression”

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Qaswra Hafez, founder of Hafez Gallery in Jeddah and unofficial ambassador for the Saudi arts around the world. At Paris’ Young International Art Fair (YIA) exhibition, he shares his views on the vibrant art scene of the Kingdom.

As one of Saudi Arabia’s most influential art expert, gallerist and conceptual artist, Qaswar Hafez has used his international platform to present the works of Saudi artists to the world. His gallery has housed some of the Kingdom’s most innovative and prolific artists. Highlighting Saudi Arabia’s renewed sense of identity, Hafez’s eponymous gallery is not only the springboard for Saudi artists’ international careers but also a bridge to connect the cultures of Kingdom to those of the rest of the world.

Which are the three biggest topics in the artworks of young Saudi artists ?

Qaswra Hafez: I would think the three topics that are most engaging to Saudi artists today, number 1 is definitely identity. Number 2 has to be spirituality and number 3 maybe expressionism, existentialism.

Can you describe the district where is located your gallery ?

Qaswra Hafez: My gallery is located in King’s road in Jeddah. Jeddah is a coastal city. it’s on the West Coast of Saudi Arabia, on the Red Sea. It’s one of the largest open air museums for modern sculptures. We have a few Cesar (Baldaccini) sculptures in Saudi, in Jeddah specifically, a few Henry Moore as public works of art.

What’s the role of art in contemporary Saudi society ? How have new technologies influenced the Kingdom’s art scene?

Qaswra Hafez: Dialogue, Communication, expression, people get together to engage in conversation about their lives and what’s happening around them. Art finds a way, At the end of the day it’s like a sponge for society. It sort of picks up all the energy and then it’s released in the form of an artwork.

Saudi Arabia is a country that benefited a lot from the Internet. The kind of information my children have access to on their fingertips is way beyond what I had growing up. It, in a way, creates trouble but it also brings us together. It allows us to see how each other lives, how we communicate and how we enjoy our lives. It allows us to find common ground.

Contemporary art is influenced a lot by technology and communications in Saudi Arabia. I can only imagine that it’s the same in the rest of the world. Pre-internet, most of the art that was produced in Saudi Arabia was in a way some classical medium : paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs… But the internet brought conceptual art to Saudi. People are now using multimedia, doing collages, video works, audio works…

Saudi artist told me last week that all artists have a message. What’s your message ?

Qaswra Hafez: Love. Very Simple.