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ALM Feature

First-ever Islamic Arts Biennale held in Saudi Arabia's Jeddah

The landmark event aimed to celebrate Islamic culture amid the kingdom’s cultural expansion.
Islamic Arts Biennale display at King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia made history last month with the staging of the first-ever Islamic Arts Biennale. Prominent artists, collectors and art specialists from the Middle East and international art scenes gathered under the expansive, tent-like canopies of the iconic Western Hajj Terminal at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah for the inauguration — the same place that pilgrims from around the world gather to attend hajj, their pilgrimage to Mecca

The exhibition (January 23-April 23), displays over 280 works of Islamic historical objects — including 239 from Saudi Arabia and 15 that have never been exhibited before — within an 80,000-square-meter space alongside 60 new commissioned works of contemporary art by 42 international artists and collectives, among which 18 are from Saudi Arabia. The exhibition brings Islamic art home to the birthplace of Islam. Its staging in Jeddah, close to Mecca, is also synonymous with its theme, “Awwal Bait," which means “first house” in Arabic. The theme evokes the symbolic unity of the Holy Kaaba, the building at the center of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Islam’s most important mosque.  

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