On 25 June crowds packed into the Nassif House in Jeddah’s historic district of Al Balad to preview approximately 40 words of contemporary Middle Eastern art in ‘Art for Al Balad’ – the first charity auction in Saudi Arabia.
Organised by the Saudi Ministry of Culture with the support of Christie’s, the auction featured works by artists from across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, donated by collectors, artists and gallerists.
Among the top selling lots were Lot 40, Tawaf Around the Kabbah 2 by Abdullah AlShalty, $173,000 (SAR 650,000); Lot 12, Where to by HRH Prince Badr bin Abdulmohsen bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, $133,333 (SAR 500,000); Lot 30, Witness in the Desert 1 by Abdullah AlShaikh, $101,333 (SAR 380,000).
Abdullah Alshaikh. Witnesses in the Desert 1. 1996. Oil on wood. 104 x 91cm. Courtesy of Christie’s (Estimate: $100,000 / SAR 379,000)
“It has been great to partner with the Ministry of Culture during a time when the Kingdom is making art and culture a priority,” said Caroline Louca-Kirkland, Christie’s new Managing Director of the Middle East. “Seeing so many people attending the two-day long preview was a real indicator of Saudi Arabia’s passion for the arts.”
The auction is the first of its kind to take place in the Kingdom since its grand plans to increase cultural activities across the country were announced earlier this year. All eyes have been on Saudi Arabia as it fast-forwards to becoming a country open to a range of new cultural initiatives in a bid to decrease its reliance on oil.
It’s part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 national transformation plan, initiated in 2016, wherein Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has pushed for greater cultural and entertainment options in the country.
Abdullah AlShalty's Tawaf Around The Kaabah 2.Acrylic on Canvas. 100x150 cm.Courtesy of Christie’s (Estimate $32,000 / SAR 120,000)
On 27 March, during a ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi’s minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud unveiled the Cultural Ministry’s Our Culture, Our Identity, a document that outlines how arts and culture projects will support international exchange, cultural understanding and contribute to the Kingdom’s economic growth – an ambitious and noble mission.
“Not only has the auction helped two important local causes, it has demonstrated the wealth of artistic talent that exists in the Kingdom and the wider Arab world,” said Ministry of Culture spokesperson Abdulkarim AlHumaid. “It is the Ministry of Culture’s aim to provide many more opportunities like this where our artists can showcase their talent to a global audience and Saudi citizens can enjoy culture as part of their everyday lives.”
HRH Prince Badr bin Abdulmohsen bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. Untitled. 1996. Acrylic on canvas. 75 x 120cm.
Courtesy of Christie’s (Estimate $100,000 / SAR 350,000)
Christie’s will not be involved with the museum beyond the auction. Major plans to turn Jeddah’s historic Al Balad district into a cultural quarter are already underway by Prince Badr who is heading its restoration.
The district is already home to Jameel House of Traditional Arts, which opened in 2015, and is a collaboration between Art Jameel and the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional. It is also home to Art Jameel’s Project Space, which opened this spring, and acts as a bridge between the institution’s dedication to preserving heritage and promoting contemporary culture.
For more information, visit saudi.gov.sa
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