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Jeddah — the city of arts and culture

Jeddah has become the Kingdom’s showcase of contemporary, conceptual, traditional and modern artwork of local and international artists. The city regularly features various art exhibitions, workshops, auctions, and art shows at various galleries, exhibition centers and halls. It has more than 15 famous art galleries including The Gallery, Ayyam and the Atelier. The city has three historical art museums including the Abdul Rauf Khalil museum, Darat Safeya Binzagr, and house of Sami Angawi, which showcases the heritage and traditions of the Kingdom in different eras. They also have displays of ancient Saudi and Islamic art between 60 and 100 years of age.
The 100-year-old architecture at a Christian cemetery, dating back to 1541 on the south side of Al-Balad next to the market for electrical supplies, is also a perfect location for art lovers.
The city’s downtown area has a unique collection of rich Hijazi architecture including wooden lattices covering windows, and decorated doors that reflect the architecture of many Muslim countries. Jeddah contains a large number of modern open-air sculptures and works of art, typically situated at its roundabouts. The new open-air sculpture museum at the Corniche includes works by a variety of artists, ranging from the obscure to international stars such as Jean/Hans Arp, César Baldaccini, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Joan Miró and Victor Vasarely.
Abdulhalim Radwi was one of the most respected Saudi artists and has outdoor artwork including the Inkwell and Pen and Paper, made of clay and plaster, next to the Red Sea. The second most famous sculpture of Jeddah is the Supplication featuring a pair of praying hands, designed by artist Mahmoud Banat, which was carved from marble and is on the Corniche.
The Cosmos sculpture is one of the most well known monuments in Jeddah, partly because it is located on a roundabout at one of the busiest intersections of the city and partly because of its enormous size. Constructed from steel and aluminum, the Cosmos is the creation of German artist Ottmar Hollmann, who produced a dozen works of art for the expansive beautification project in Jeddah. The piece is over 44 meters in height and about 8.5 meters in diameter at its base, and is one of the world’s largest pieces of art. This astonishing work took seven years to complete and required people from many countries. Even the huge base depicts the solar system in the form of a stunning mosaic of 2 million pieces of tile.
The Sunflower Field Fountain, constructed with corrosion-resistant acid-proof stainless steel, is an outstanding work of art located on one of the lagoons on the Corniche. The imposing fountain has the distinction of being the largest sculpture by a Finnish artist ever commissioned from overseas. The attractive work has been a Jeddah landmark since 1984. Another work of 55 meters in height, The Seagull, stands erect as one of the world’s tallest abstract sculptures in Jeddah. The sculpture was made by Egyptian artist Mustafa Senbel especially for the city of Jeddah over three years. Senbel fashioned more than 25 sculptures for the city during a 10-year period in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Spanish architect and sculptor Julio Lafuente created a very distinctive monument called Science and Religion standing in the middle of a manmade lagoon at the Corniche, which comprises 72 solid marble “moons,” each weighing a whopping 1.8 tons and a crescent moon at the top. Recently Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI) developed part of the waterfront and the central Jeddah Corniche. It commissioned consultants Plowden and Smith, a UK company specializing in the restoration of artwork, to restore 27 steel sculptures made by prominent international artists along the Jeddah Corniche.
Saudi artists came under the spotlight when artist Eyad Maghazil organized his first solo art exhibition in 2011. Several Saudi artists then held exhibitions. The city held its first art week in 2012.
Recently, Arabian Wings held an exhibition of the work of 26 artists under the auspices of the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information. “The art exhibitions, auctions, workshops, talks and residence programs are a way to exchange knowledge and share experiences,” said Mohammed Bahrawi, founder and chairman of Arabian Wings. Jeddah’s contemporary artists include Khalid bin Afeef, Najla Felemban, Ahmed Mater, Abdulnasser Gharem, Abdul Nasir Ganim, Ayman Yossri, Manal Al-Dowayan, Eyad Maghazil, Sara Abdu, Nasser Al-Salem, Mohammed Rubat, Ahmed Husain and Saud Mahjoob. Bahrawi said the “mission” of Arabian Wings is to ensure that every house in the city has a piece of art, in line with Islamic principles.
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