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Sumayya Vally to curate Saudi Arabia's inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale in 2023

Saudi Arabia Architecture News - Apr 19, 2022 - 14:29   1004 views

Sumayya Vally to curate Saudi Arabia's inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale in 2023

South African architect Sumayya Vally, founder of Johannesburg-based architecture practice Counterspace, has been appointed as the curator of Saudi Arabia's inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale.

Announced by the Diriyah Biennale Foundation (DBF), producing Saudi Arabia’s first-ever art biennales, the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale will be the first of kind that will present the past and present art and creativity of Islamic culture.

The first ever Islamic Arts Biennale is set to take place in Jeddah in early 2023.

The location of the first Islamic Arts Biennale was originally planned for Riyadh, but it will now take place in the city of Jeddah to promote the city's historic significance as a gateway to the two holiest cities to Muslims across the world, Mecca (officially Makkah Al-Mukarrama) and Medina (officially Al-Medinah AI-Munawwara).

Sumayya Vally, who is the designer of the 2020/2021+ Serpentine Pavilion, will be directing the first Islamic Arts Biennale with a distinguished curatorial team, including Dr Saad Alrashed, leading Saudi scholar and archaeologist, Dr Omniya Abdel Barr, Barakat Trust Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Dr Julian Raby, Director Emeritus of the National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

Sumayya Vally to curate Saudi Arabia's inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale in 2023

Amina Kaskar, Sumayya Vally and Sarah de Villiers of Counterspace. Photograph © Justice Mukheli in Johannesburg, 2020, © Counterspace

Sumayya Vally is the founder of Johannesburg-based architecture practice Counterspace, directed by the all-woman team with Sumayya Vally, Sarah de Villiers and Amina Kaskar.

Vally was named as the world's most influential architect shaping the future in 2021 TIME100 Next List.

The first Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale was held from 11 December 2021 to 11 March 2022 in the JAX district of Diriyah. 

"I am inspired by the opportunity to present a range of works in this extraordinary setting"

Established in 2020 by the Ministry of Culture, the aim of the Biennales to showcase some of the world’s leading artists and lead cultural exchange between local and international communities, promoting a dialogue and understanding, and further establish Saudi Arabia as an important cultural center.

According to a press release, the Biennale will embrace innovation while supporting continuing traditions and encouraging the preservation of skills. 

"I have visited Jeddah as a pilgrim many times. The location has so much embodied meaning, that speaks to both communal and individual experience," said Sumayya Vally in a Facebook post

"Alongside my curatorial colleagues, I am inspired by the opportunity to present a range of works in this extraordinary setting. I hope many will join us in December for an exploration that is open to all," Vally added.

Sumayya Vally to curate Saudi Arabia's inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale in 2023

The 2020/2021+ Serpentine Pavilion was designed by Sumayya Vally/Counterspace. She became the youngest woman architect commissioned to design the Serpentine Pavilion to date. Image © Counterspace

"Islamic Arts Biennale will explore spirituality in the aesthetic realm"

"It will explore spirituality in the aesthetic realm and celebrate both shared heritage around the globe and diversity of artistic expressions and forms. By inviting artists from around the world, it will provide new dialogues and insights," stated a press release.

"Cultural and artistic exchange are essential in this period of unprecedented growth and development in the creative community in Saudi Arabia," said Prince Badr bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Culture of Saudi Arabia. 

"The Diriyah Biennale Foundation is at the forefront of this cultural awakening and flourishing art scene. Our contemporary edition closed in March after attracting critical acclaim, and the Islamic Arts Biennale represents our next chapter," added Prince Badr bin Farhan Al Saud.

The mission of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation is to celebrate and enrich the cultural and artistic exchanges between Saudi Arabia, as the birthplace of Islam, and communities around the world.

The Foundation aims to host a biennale every year, alternating between the Contemporary Art Biennale and the Islamic Arts Biennale

Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale’s public programs present various programs, including workshops, and talks under a specific theme. For instance, in 2021 the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale was divided into eight sub-sections: Talks, Panels, Creative Experiences, Master Classes, Kids Camps, Workshops, Films and DB Art 101. 

The Islamic Arts Biennale dates are yet to be confirmed.

Top image: Sumayya Vally. Photo courtesy Counterspace Studio.

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