EOA Lecture: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

29 Mar 2014 -
Museum of Fine Arts Houston - Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet Street, Houston, TX 77006

From the Grassroots to the World Stage:

On 29 March 2014, Edge of Arabia hosted a lively roundtable discussion at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, as part of a larger program of lectures and roundtable discussions organized by the FotoFest Biennial. 

The one-day conference on Visual Art in the Arab World - Program of Lectures, Visual Presentations and Round-Tables, presented an overview of the history of Arab art and culture, with a special focus on the history of visual, photographic, and media art. The program included talks and presentations by Arab artists, scholars, arts professionals, and participants from the commercial and non-profit art worlds.

As part of the conference, Edge of Arabia was invited to present a roundtable on contemporary photography from Saudi Arabia. Moderated by Stephen Stapleton, the discussion began by addressing the journeys made by Saudi artists “from the edge to the center” of the international art scene. Mona Khazindar (Director of the Institut du Monde Arabe) then gave a detailed historical perspective on Saudi photography and Hamza Serafi (Athr Gallery) gave an overview of emerging and established arts institutions in the country, addressing the role of art and society. Finally, Huda Beydoun recounted her experience as a young artist, living and working in Saudi Arabia and how this informed her series “Documenting the Undocumented”.


  • The panel discussion was attended by approximately 200 people, including Gary Tinterow, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Carol Huh of the Smithsonian Museum of Art, Huda Lutfi, Wendy Watriss, Fred Baldwin, among others.
  • At the roundtable discussion at the MFA, the audience challenged some of the panelists, including Hamza and Mona, on issues of censorship and the duality of presenting contemporary art by Saudi artists in Saudi Arabia vs. internationally.
  • The audience was curious to also know about arts education and infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and how that supports or impedes the development of artists and their practice.

Featured Artists


Stephen Stapleton is an artist, traveler and cultural producer. After an artist's journey across the Middle East in 2003, he founded Edge of Arabia and the Crossway Foundation as platforms for creative collaboration and cultural activism between the Middle East, Europe and the US. Since 2008, he has produced a number of landmark international exhibitions including Never Never Land, EOA London Gallery (2014), Rhizoma, 55th Venice Biennale (2013); #COMETOGETHER, East London (2012); We Need to Talk, Jeddah (2012); The Future of a Promise, 54th Venice Biennale (2011); Terminal, Dubai (2011); and Edge of Arabia, University of London (2008). He has also published several artists' books including "Offscreen: Four Young Artists in the Middle East" (Booth-Clibborn Editions, 2004) and "Edge of Arabia" (Booth-Clibborn Editions, 2010). He has a degree in Fine Art and Philosophy from the University of Brighton, a PGCE in Art Education from the University of London. As an artist, he has exhibited in Tehran, Amman, London, Oslo and New York.


Huda Beydoun: Following her degree in Special Education, Huda Beydoun studied painting, digital media, and photography at Dar Al Hekma College, Jeddah. Previous exhibitions include Rhizoma, 55th Venice Biennale (2013); Edition #1, EOA London Gallery (2014); and group shows at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai and Athr Gallery, Jeddah. Beydoun’s series Documenting the Undocumented (2013) explores the lives of immigrant laborers working in Jeddah. Her photographs feature service workers in their ordinary working environment, however, their identities are masked with opaque Mickey Mouse features and their costumes decorated with polka dots. These satirical works comment on the Gulf's precarious relationship between guest workers and their employers.

Mona Khazindar was the first woman and first Saudi to be appointed Director General of the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris. She is also vice-president and founding member of “Al-Mansouria Foundation for Culture and Creativity”, a Saudi non-profit cultural foundation that aims to promote Saudi and Arab contemporary art. A specialist in contemporary plastic art, she has been with the IMA since 1986. Before becoming Director General she was curator of contemporary art and photography at the Institute, responsible for the IMA’s permanent art collection. She is the curator of many exhibitions and has contributed to numerous catalogues and publications. She was the Co-curator of the first Saudi pavilion in the 54th edition of the Venice Biennale.

Hamza Serafi is the Co-founder of Saudi Arabia's leading contemporary art gallery, Athr, and a self-taught conceptual artist who explores his surroundings from his own perspective. His work ventures into the socio-political realm, unveiling underlying humanitarian issues.

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