News & Reports

Sculptures Advance Riyadh Art Initiative’s Goal of Making the City ‘a Creative Canvas’

Newly created sculptures have recently appeared across the Saudi capital as part of Riyadh Art, an initiative that aims to turn the whole city into “a creative canvas.”

The sculptures were originally displayed in this year’s Tuwaiq Sculpture, an international symposium now in its fourth year.

Tuwaiq Sculpture brings renowned Saudi and international artists to the Saudi capital “to meet, collaborate, and create large-scale public artworks in a live setting,” says Sarah Alruwayti, the symposium’s director. “It furthers Riyadh as a cultural hub in Saudi Arabia and creates international awareness.”

Thirty artists took part in this year’s symposium, which invited participants to create works from locally sourced Saudi stone around the theme “Energy of Harmony”.

In an interview with Al-Fanar Media, Alruwayti discussed highlights of this year’s symposium and the local and international significance of this ground-breaking initiative. Following is an edited excerpt of that conversation.

What are some of the most prominent sculptures and artworks that came out of this year’s Tuwaiq Sculpture symposium?

While Tuwaiq Sculpture had an overarching theme, “Energy of Harmony”, it was fascinating to see how every sculptor tackled a different topic and proved themselves in a different way. In this year’s edition we had a strong cohort of Saudi Arabian women sculptors, including Noha Al-Sharif, Rajaa AlShafee, Wafa Al-Qunibit and Azhar Saeed.

«الرياض آرت».. مبادرة فنية لتجميل العاصمة السعودية
Sarah Alruwayti, the symposium’s director.

For example, “Vision,” by Noha Al-Sharif explores the female body, taking the form of human and bird combined. The resulting shape is complimented by the smooth material and surface of Saudi granite.

The Spanish artist José Carlos Cabello Millán took a different approach: His sculpture, called “Understanding,” uses 3D-printing technologies. It investigates human relationships and asserts that the understanding between two people is based on a shared language.

How did the artworks of this edition reflect the symposium’s theme “Energy of Harmony”?

The resulting sculptures speak to the local environment whilst channeling a narrative that transcends borders. The works reflect the balance we strive for in our lives, as well as ideas of cohesion and mutual understanding in the midst of great transformative change. Artists responded to the theme by creating narratives but drawing inspiration from their physical location in Riyadh. In the words of the curator of the fourth edition of Tuwaiq Sculpture, Marek Wolynski, “‘Energy of Harmony’ establishes points of connection and focus within the urban environment of Riyadh, giving a heightened awareness of co-existing structures, voices and patterns.”

What is the artistic significance of the use of Saudi stone?

For the first time since the launch of Tuwaiq Sculpture in 2019, the symposium has used stone sourced from quarries in Riyadh, specifically granite and sandstone, also known as Riyadh stone. This choice bears symbolic significance: it is a way to highlight Saudi Arabia’s rich history with the medium, from ancient artifacts to rock carvings and modern-day sculpture. Now these artworks will not only be part of Riyadh, but also part of each artist’s legacy, leaving a momentous mark on the city.

Can you tell us more about the Riyadh Art project?

Art and culture reflect the spirit of a city and so the Riyadh Art initiative has been developed to turn the whole capital into a creative canvas—a gallery without walls—to enrich lives, ignite creative expression and kindle the creative economy.

Riyadh Art is a demonstration of the open, accessible, creative transformation of the capital, where the exchange of ideas through creative expression develops a deeper mutual understanding and respect, whilst instilling a greater sense of civic pride and creating a more beautiful city for everyone to enjoy. It also sparks the development of a new creative economy and helps attract new businesses to invest in the city.

The initiative comprises 10 projects and two festivals, one of which is Tuwaiq Sculpture. Tuwaiq Sculpture is a significant contributor to the Riyadh Art collection and the project’s goal of commissioning 1,000 public artworks to be displayed across the city. After each edition of the symposium, sculptures are permanently installed in key locations across the capital, becoming an integral part of Riyadh’s urban fabric. 

You referred to the role the forum plays in advancing the creative economy of the country. Can you tell us more about that?

Tuwaiq Sculpture encourages creativity through public art and community engagement, effectively fostering and nurturing the creative economy. Not only does it bring together artists who can create works of public art, but also art world professionals who can have public debates about each edition’s theme. The forum enriches the lives of Riyadh’s citizens and visitors through creative joyful experiences in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goal.

Tell us about the community programme accompanying the sculpture symposium.

The community programme invites the public to participate in creative exploration, whether they are sculptors, emerging artists, students, or children. Tuwaiq Sculpture’s team organised educational visits to the forum to inspire the next generation by giving them access to art, its creators, materials, skills, tools and techniques. It also helped start a dialogue with Riyadh’s school officials and teachers, encouraging them to reflect on how contemporary art can be meaningful, enriching and rewarding. Tuwaiq Sculpture also hosted a series of panel talks bringing together international and local artists and administrators to discuss the importance of creativity and the arts.

Do you think beautifying Riyadh with public artworks will increase interest in studying and practicing art in Saudi Arabia?

The open format of the symposium allows the public to observe the creative process, participate in interactive workshops and discuss the history and future of public art. Such exchanges undoubtedly contribute to the enrichment of culture in Saudi Arabia.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button