Phantom Punch: Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia, presented New England’s first exhibition of contemporary art from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at The Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, Maine.
Bates College Museum Director, Dan Mills, comments, “In America, very little is known about contemporary Saudi art and artists. Media accounts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are frighteningly predictable. With this exhibition, we have a rare opportunity to gain critical new perspectives on Saudi society and culture from a group of perceptive young artists who are challenging conventions and exploring the limits of what is possible in Saudi culture.”
The artists featured in Phantom Punch create smart, topical, funny, culturally resonant, and technically savvy work. Like Muhammad Ali’s surprising and lightning-fast 1965 knockout of Sonny Liston in Lewiston, experiencing this exhibition and related programing is a cultural “Phantom Punch”, a complete surprise that American, Maine, and even Lewiston audiences didn’t see coming.
The artists featured in Phantom Punch use an exciting variety of media — calligraphy, painting, sculpture, photography, video, performance, animation, and comedy — to explore topics and issues that shape the lives of Saudis throughout the Kingdom. These include the role of women and the place of foreign workers in Saudi society, the impact of oil on the Saudi economy, the relationship between American popular culture and traditional Saudi values, and the effect of urbanization, globalization, and commercialization on Saudi cities.
Phantom Punch marked the fourth stop on a multi-city Saudi artist’s tour of the United States, and was supported by King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (iThra). The tour, which launched in summer 2016 at the Station Museum in Houston, Texas before traveling to Aspen, Colorado and San Francisco, California, aims to generate people-to-people dialogue and better understanding between nations. Following a run at the Bates College Museum of Art, the tour will continue to other major cities across the country.
Phantom Punch was produced by CULTURUNNERS.
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.
As a teaching museum at a liberal arts college, the Museum of Art and its exhibitions, collections, stewardship, and interpretation bring a world of ideas to campus that enhance the vitality of the intellectual and cultural life of Bates, the surrounding communities, and beyond. The museum serves as a laboratory for the development and presentation of thought-provoking exhibitions; acquires and stewards artworks that strengthen the collection in ways that support the liberal arts curriculum; develops a wide variety of education programs that are integral to Bates and the broader community, especially K-12 students; supports creative, rigorous, and original scholarship; and provides professional training opportunities through internships. The Bates Museum of Art is recognized for presenting ambitious and adventuresome thematic exhibitions of regional, national, and international artists, and for integrating them into the academic and cultural life of campus, the surrounding communities, and the state of Maine.
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