Madinah Art Center: Leading a Cultural Renaissance

Madinah Art Center: Leading a Cultural Renaissance

How the Madinah Art Centre is shaping the province’s art and creative landscape
21 June 23
Madinah Art Center

While Madinah is widely known as a major pilgrimage site and home to AlMasjid an-Nabawi (Prophet’s Mosque), it is also one of Saudi’s richest cities in terms of history, arts, and culture.

This could not be more evident than with the Madinah Art Center, located in King Fahd Park, on the south west side of Quba Mosque.

Established in 2018 to further nurture contemporary art in the Kingdom, it was built under the patronage of HH Prince Faisal bin Salman, governor of the Madinah Province and steadfast supporter of the region’s economic development in creative fields.

Its first exhibition was a captivating display of some of Saudi’s leading artists. Filwa Nazer, Dr Zahrah Al-Gamdi, Muhannad Shono, Nasser Al Salem, Marwah AlMugait, Ahmed Mater, and Khalid Zahid, among others, took part in the event titled Contemporary 014, after the city’s code.

A lack of similar showcases in the past made this one, which was curated and directed by Moath Alofi, groundbreaking. The Saudi artist and researcher now sits on the art centre’s board, while artist Rashed AlShashai is its director.

The Vision

“The centre’s vision is to offer Madinah’s residents and visitors alike a high-quality, internationally competitive art centre that exposes everyone to various forms of art,” AlShashai said. “We also want to broaden the Madinah community’s knowledge of art and culture.”

The space reflects Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the nation’s economy through growing parallel sectors in the realms of art, technology, culture, tourism, and more. Consequently, part of Madinah Art Center’s aim has become to attract more visitors to one of the Kingdom’s most crucial tourist destinations, rich with Islamic and historical sites.

"Our goal is to not only introduce and nourish people with art, but to inspire them."

Mohammed Fawzan Alhejaili, Manager of Madinah Art Center

The Building

An architectural landmark, the centre’s physical space, which is part of the Madinah Region Development Authority, boasts a contemporary Islamic style. It is designed by Abdul Qader Hafez, a local who employed a style reflective of the area’s subdued natural landscape. It comprises a main hall with designated training centres, a modern library, an expansive outdoor seating area, two main galleries, and three smaller galleries.

Additionally, there’s Art 365, an experimental space dedicated to exhibiting contemporary art on a weekly basis throughout the year. It receives and accommodates artists from various backgrounds and ages, and provides them with the opportunity to exhibit their artistic projects for the week, regardless of the materials used, concept, or production process. Art 365 prides itself as a unique platform in the Kingdom dedicated to artistic experimentation.

Clubs and Programmes

Saudi’s Cultural Development Fund has footed a large portion of the funds to support the Madinah Art Center and its various programmes, which include the 15 workshops and 200 gatherings it holds for its nine clubs each year. The clubs are for fine art, photography, Arabic font, and digital art. There’s also Fasylah (for children over five), clubs for volunteers and friends, one for architects, and Thalothya, which is a club that meets the last Tuesday of each month to discuss a specific art topic. Each club, AlShashai explained, meets once a week to discuss artistic skills and workshop ideas.

A focal point for the centre is to promote creativity through modern art and a rich educational programme. Each month, it holds around 8 to 15 art workshops on various topics relevant to all ages, some of which take place in Art 365. An artist’s residency, in its last stages of implementation, is also underway. The centre “is a space that is working to offer those familiar and unfamiliar with art a creative and educational experience,” according to manager Mohammed Fawzan Alhejaili. “Our goal is to not only introduce and nourish people with art, but to inspire them,” he added.

Events to Attend

According to Alhejaili, the centre will be hosting its first symposium this July. The event will cover three subjects: fine art, photography, and Arabic fonts, with the participation of approximately 60 artists.

Twenty of the creatives are international, another 20 from Arab countries, and the rest from the Madinah region. The symposium will be held at specific locations throughout the city. Dreams Exhibition - from JAX to Al-Madinah, which showcases the drawings and visual artwork of 23 artists, professionals, and amateurs from across the Kingdom, is currently running at the centre until 10 June.

Some of the artists include Bdoor AlSudairi, Hmoud Al Attawi, Kholoud AlBogami, Rashed AlSubaie, Saad Al Howede, and Meshal Alzeer. Curated by Omnia Abdelkader, the show is meant as an artistic incubator, offering a platform for young artists and creators in the Kingdom to exchange ideas and their artistic practices.

Staged under the supervision of the Namaa Al Munawara Foundation, with support from the Saudi Cultural Fund, it is the first exhibition bringing together artworks made by artists in the Jax District of Diriyah, Riyadh. On view are works in a variety of media that delve into the mysterious nature of dreams, their infinite depth, range of possibilities, and ability to challenge our sensory perception.

Visitors can take in the edgy black and white photographs of Khaled Al Marzouki – titled Unstable Moments – that appear as warped visions of our everyday life, as well as Fahad Alneama’s untiled abstract expressionist paintings laden with interlocking black and white lines.

Plus, there’s Arif Alnomay’s mixed media works of high-rises with their variously shaded purple-hued backdrops titled Uncertain Memories, as well as screenshots from Sarah Abu Abdallah’s The Salad Zone. Additionally, Hadeel AlHussain’s untitled abstract figurative paintings feature what appear to be melancholic figures moving around inanimate objects. Exploring the fascinating yet unknown realm of our dreams, the works underline their potential for hope, change, and new artistic horizons, just like the Madinah Art Center.