Art by Ahmed Mater
Vassilis Oikonomopoulos, assistant curator at London’s renowned Tate Modern Museum, has been announced as the curator of Jeddah’s annual 21,39 initiative. This year’s theme, entitled “Refusing to Be Still,” comprises the works of more than 30 Saudi and international artists, and offers an extensive program of events and workshops that allow the public to engage with various art and creative processes.
The fifth edition of 21,39, which is a non-profit contemporary art initiative organized annually by the Saudi Art Council, runs from the 7th of February to the 5th of March. According to 21,39’s website, the exhibition is being held in multiple locations around Jeddah, and is anchored at the Council’s main exhibition space at the Gold Moor Mall.
“Refusing To Be Still” is described on the site as the “production of ideas, concepts and artistic forms is an endless negotiation and a continuous dialogue. Like an evolving reality, artistic practices are constantly transforming, refusing to stand still and become permanent. In a fast-shaping landscape of events, which characterizes the contemporary moment in Saudi Arabia, the 2018 edition of 21,39 investigates the multifaceted practices that emerge in this continuously active domain.”
This annual initiative, which derives its name from the geographical coordinates of the city of Jeddah (21.5433°N, 39.1728°E), is seen as a key event in the Kingdom’s cultural calendar and as integral to Saudi Arabia’s cultural development. This year’s exhibition seeks to explore the different layers and multiple narratives that define creativity in Saudi Arabia today, addressing cultural complexity alongside historical and current narratives.
The exhibition has been made possibly over the last 4 years due to the partnership between UBS and the Saudi Art Council. According to the CIC website, Ali Janoudi, Vice-Chairman of the Board, UBS Saudi Arabia, expressed the need for 21,39.
“We share a passion with our clients and all art enthusiasts to participate in the dynamic world of contemporary art, and to actively support collecting activity […] This year’s theme, ‘Refusing To Be Still,’ is one that particularly resonates with us and our clients as we look for continuous dialogue with the evolving world around us.”