In 2017, King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture embarked on a program to invite 45 US cultural leaders to Saudi Arabia. The aim of these curated delegations was to encourage peer-to-peer exchange and collaboration between cultural protagonists in both countries, as well as providing direct access and insight into the fast evolving cultural landscape of Saudi Arabia.
"There is something very exciting happening in the art scene there – an art scene that didn’t even exist five years ago. I felt it in the galleries we visited; and most powerfully, I felt it in the studios of artists Ahmed Mater and Ahmad Angawi.” Kate Seelye, Sr. Vice President, Middle East Institute.
Delegates from the US, including from The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Judd Foundation, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Bates College Museum of Art, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, and the de Young Museum, have traveled to Saudi Arabia to visit artist studios, art spaces and cultural institutions in Jeddah, Riyadh, Abha, and Al Khobar. All visits have also included a special preview of the highly anticipated King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, designed by Norwegian architects Snøhetta, and built on the site of the Kingdom's first oil well in Dhahran.
Tour itineraries have included visits to 21,39 Jeddah Arts, a series of exhibitions and events organised by the Saudi Art Council, architect Dr. Sami Angawi’s magnificent residence and studio, Bayt Naseef, a historical house in the Al Balad district of Jeddah, Al Amer Museum, Jeddah Sculpture Park, Shaybah desert in the Empty Quarter, and the King Faisal Foundation, as well as galleries including Athr, Hafez, Desert Designs and L'Art Pur. Visits to artist studios have been at the heart of the program, which included visits to the studios of Abdulnasser Gharem and the Gharem Studio collective, Ahmed Mater & Arwa AlNeami (Pharan Studio), Ayman Yossri Daydban, Ahmad Angawi, Abdullah AlOthman, Sara Alabdali, Nasser Salem and many more.
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.
Devon Akmon, Director, Arab American National Museum, Detroit
Kristian Anderson, Director, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City
Val Antczak, President, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City
Isolde Brielmaier, Executive Director, Arts, Culture & Community, Westfield World Trade Center; Professor of Critical Studies, NYU; Curator at Large, Tang Museum, Skidmore College
Eric Crosby, Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, Carnegie Museum of Art
Jill Dalessandro, Curator of Costume and Textile Arts, Department of Textile Arts, de Young, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Loring Danforth, Professor of Anthropology & Epistemology, Bates College, Lewiston
Jose Diaz, Curator-at-Large, Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh
Clare Davies, Assistant Curator of Middle Eastern, North African, and Turkish Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Daniel Fuller, Curator, Atlanta Contemporary
Charlie Griffin, Founder, Griffin Editions, New York
Kat Herriman, Arts Journalist, New York
Daniel Kany, Arts Journalist, Portland
Marta Kuzma, Dean, Yale School of Art
Eungie Joo, Curator of Contemporary Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Flavin Judd, Co-President & Curator, The JUDD Foundation
Jay Levenson, Director, International Program The Museum of Modern Art
Reina Lewis, Consulting Curator of Costume and Textile Arts, Department of Textile Arts, de Young, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Glenn Lowry, Director, The Museum of Modern Art
Justine Ludwig, Deputy Director, Dallas Contemporary
Hervé Mikaeloff, Chief Advisor, Fondation Louis Vuitton
Dan Mills, Director, Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston
Catherine Morris, Sackler Family Senior Curator for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum
Nazy Nazhand, Founder, Art Middle East
Laura Nelson, Trustee, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art & Director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Department, Salt Lake City
Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director, Brooklyn Museum
Warren Perry, Assistant Director, Art Museum of the University of Memphis
Joshua Poole, Assistant Director, Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston
Cynthia Schneider, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy, Georgetown University
Kate Seelye, Sr Vice President, Middle East Institute, Washington D.C.
Sanjit Sethi, Director, Corcoran School of the Arts & Design
Nicholas Tatone, Photographer & Filmmaker, The New School, New York
Beverly Tsacoyianis, Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Memphis
John Wetenhall, Director, George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum
Sandra Williams, Assistant Curator, Art of the Middle East, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Hanan Sayed Worrell, Senior Representative & Advisor Middle East, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Dustin Yellin, Artist & Founder, Pioneer Works
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