Epicenter X, a timely exhibition of Saudi Contemporary Art in Dearborn, Michigan opened at the Arab American National Museum (AANM) on 8 July 2017, and ran until 1 October 2017.
Both Dearborn, Michigan, and Saudi Arabia serve as iconic social and cultural epicenters. Dearborn lays claim to the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the U.S. (and in any major city outside of the Middle East and North Africa), and has been the final destination for immigrants from the Arab World for nearly a century. Saudi Arabia is home to the two holiest sites of Islam and functions at a crossroads of culture, most notably during the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, known as Hajj.
Epicenter X explored contemporary Saudi culture by promoting meaningful dialogue between Saudi artists and U.S. audiences. Cutting through the political discourse of media outlets and government officials, the artworks featured in this exhibition opened doors to the lives of the Saudi people. In doing so, this presentation challenged common views and stereotypes of Arab culture by lending a voice to artists exploring poignant ideas centered on urbanization, globalization, religion and the impact of American popular culture in Saudi society.
“Despite its position as an ally of the U.S., little is known about Saudi culture and its citizens for many in our nation,” said AANM Director and curator of Epicenter X, Devon Akmon. Ithra Director, Tareq Alghamdi, continued: “We are pleased to provide an opportunity for Saudi artists to showcase their work in the Arab American National Museum. This exhibition fosters cross cultural dialogue, and offers the chance for a wider audience to engage with the diversity within Saudi art.”
A variety of works in diverse mediums by both established and emerging artists was featured in the exhibition. Highlights included photographs by current AANM resident artist, Ayman Yossri Daydban; Qamar Abdulmalik’s Asylum of Dreams installation; Marwah Al Mugait’s latest video installation We Were; Abdullah Al Othman’s multi-channel video installation The Experiment, from the No-touch Torture Series; and design by Yusef Alahmad. Also featured in Epicenter X were two large scale contemporary Qut murals (first shown in the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 2015) created in the age-old traditional style of house-painting by skilled female artisans from Southwestern Saudi Arabia.
King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, known as ithra, is a one-of-a-kind institution that brings together multiple offerings under one roof. From arts and culture to science and innovation, this bold initiative by Saudi Aramco promises a continuous journey of enrichment designed to energize the next knowledge economy of Saudi Arabia.
ithra aims to make a positive and tangible impact on the cultural scene by focusing on building local talents in the knowledge and creative industries. Blending iconic architectural design with advanced technology, and unique learning methods with enriching programs, ithra is an infinitely inspiring platform for explorers, learners, creators, and leaders–a thriving hub of knowledge, creativity and cross-cultural engagement.
As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia strives to achieve its ambitious national development goals to transition to a knowledge-based economy, ithra acts as a bridge connecting cultures and cultivating a creative and innovative community.
Since opening its doors in 2005, the Arab American National Museum (AANM) has remained the nation’s only cultural institution to document, preserve and present the history, culture and contributions of Arab Americans. Located in Dearborn, Michigan, amid the largest concentrations of Arab Americans in the United States, AANM presents exhibitions and a wide range of public programs in Michigan and in major cities across the country. By bringing the voices and faces of Arab Americans to mainstream audiences, AANM continues its commitment to dispelling misconceptions about Arab Americans and other minorities, as well as shedding light on the shared experiences of immigrants and ethnic groups, paying tribute to the diversity of our nation.
AANM is one of just four Michigan Affiliates of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
AANM is a founding member of Detroit–area arts collective CultureSource as well as the Immigration and Civil Rights Network of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.
Most recently, AANM was selected to join the National Performance Network. AANM is an institution of ACCESS, the Dearborn, Michigan– based human service agency founded in 1971.
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