Exploring the Saudi Center for Fine Arts

Day two of our art gallery tour series found us on the doorstep of The Saudi Center for Fine Arts. Where Arbab al Heraf had been an amorphous concept, leaving us with little knowledge what to expect and then surprising us with hospitality, inclusiveness and an indiscriminate love for the artistic, SCFA was quite a bit more disciplined and exclusive. There, I made it sound horrible didn’t I? Well what can I say, it was a tad bit disappointing in a few ways.

The art gallery section of it was glorious. Glass walls, two floors, literally papered with gorgeous abstracts by two Arab artists namely, Surur Alwani and Ziyad Mashra (don’t know if I have the English spellings right). Just have a look:

Gorgeous stuff right? I just couldn’t take my eyes off all the vibrant streaks of orange blended so obsessively into his work, from the tawny eyes of his portraits to the fiery abstract forests. Ziyad’s work was more abstract but no less pleasing, yet Surur’s was definitely more eye catching.

Anyway, on to the disappointing bits! Despite the beauty of the gallery and its decor, it was a blow to hear that they charge an outrageous sum right off the bat if an artist wants to display work there. And then they take 30% of sales too. And all of that would have been fine had I seen a single painting sold, or people flooding into the silent gallery. As it was, it was just me and my poor compatriots there to admire the art. So what does that say about their marketing efficiency and payback for the artist? :/ Sink. Sink. Sink.

Then we went into the workshop area. The lady who managed the whole area was super welcoming and nice about describing every detail of the courses they offered (we wrote it all down to share with people who reside in Jeddah, cuz I mean Jeddah NEEDS to hear about art classes) but she was a bit exclusive when we offered to host a workshop there. Here’s how the conversation went, sort of:

Alicia: So, do the classes take place in Arabic?

LM(Lady Manager): Yes they do.

Alicia: What if there are students who don’t understand Arabic?

LM: Art is a universal language. I have students who are deaf-mute and even they manage to learn. Art transcends language.

Alicia: Great! So K and I would love to organize a workshop for you guys…

LM (shifty): Well… do you guys know fluent Arabic?

Alicia: No.

LM(polite laugh): Well once you learn you guys can come back *big fake smile*

So that was that. Walked outta there with our heads held high and our hearts in our stomachs. It’s okay, it happens. Onto the next place till we find artists’ nirvana in Jeddah!

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