How to explore the Jeddah art scene, as told by a local curator

WT Writer
Mar 8, 2020

Maya El Khalil, curator of 21,39 Jeddah Arts, tells us how to get plugged into the emerging arts scene in the Saudi Arabian city

The interest in Saudi Arabia art and artists is growing, and those of us involved in the arts scene in the Kingdom are committed to developing young artists and art audiences within the city.

Over the last decade, there have been many milestones; one of them being the foundation of the Saudi Art Council, chaired by HRH Princess Jawaher bint Majed, who has been supporting artists since 1999 through the Al Mansouria Foundation.

Today, there is broader support and acceptance of creative and cultural activities, both socially and financially. As such, there’s a huge amount of activity both in Jeddah and the wider country. 

Cube sculpture outside Al Hamra Museum in front of water in Jeddah Saudi Arabia
There’s art to be soaked up as you walk around Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

As the gateway to Mecca, Jeddah has welcomed pilgrims from all over the world for centuries, so has always been a place of cultural exchange. However, like the rest of Saudi Arabia, it had very limited arts infrastructure until very recently. 

The seventh edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts is taking place from 28 January to 18 April, presenting a fantastic opportunity to meet new artists and engage with all those who make the city’s creative community what it is today.

As well as the main programme – I Love You, Urgently, which takes a look at the global climate crisis through a series of individual artistic explorations – you can visit various artists’ studios as well as leading galleries. 

Stacked cages and paintings in art gallery Jeddah
Visit the many galleries spotted around the city when in Jeddah

Athr is my favourite (although I am biased as I was the director there until 2016) while Hafez Gallery, Hayy (opening soon) and The Old Jeddah should all be on your wish list. You will often find artists hanging out, as well as friendly curators who would be happy to give exhibition tours and make introductions.

Among the Jeddah-based artists you should check out are: Zahrah AlGhamdi, Nasser AlSalem, Filwa Nazer, Dana Awartani, Basmah Felemban, and Ahad Alamoudi. Lastly, the Jeddah Sculpture Museum on the Corniche is sure to impress.

Want more on cultural hubs you need to explore? Then see 10 marvellous museums you need to visit here.