Tuwaiq Sculpture: 30 more public art installations for Riyadh’s ambitions

The fourth edition of Tuwaiq Sculpture began at the start of this week, featuring 30 artists from around the world producing large-scale sculptures that will become permanent public art installations in Riyadh’s urban landscape.

Themed ‘Energy of Harmony’, this edition of Saudi’s annual sculpture symposium runs to 10 February. The theme, which was developed by curator Marek Wolynski, invites artists to reimagine sculptural possibilities of introducing, witnessing, and experiencing change.

The public programme of Tuwaiq Sculpture – more than 65 activities – includes panel discussions and interactive workshops as well as the live on-site sculpting. Participating artists will also contribute to a community engagement program, notably school and university visits.

The sculptors are working on the stones in public on a dedicated site in Durrat Al Riyadh, in the north of the city. Once the works have been completed, they’ll be shown in an exhibition that runs 5-10 February before being resited to locations around Riyadh.

It’s all an impressive commitment to contemporary art, alongside equally dramatic initiatives like the Noor Riyadh light-plus-art festival and Desert X AlUla. The motives are obviously bound up with image-making for the state and the drive for more tourists, but the results in artistic terms are undeniable.

Tuwaiq Sculpture, for instance, is a significant contributor to the Riyadh Art project {“developed to turn the whole capital into a creative canvas – a gallery without walls – to enrich lives, ignite creative expression and kindle the creative economy … Riyadh is on a ten-year mission to become one of the world’s most liveable and competitive cities, a global city which is open for business and that welcomes the world”). Riyadh Art’s goal is to commission a thousand public artworks to be displayed across the city, a timeframe that demonstrates just how serious the project is.

The 30 participating artists for Tuwaiq Sculpture 2023 were selected by jury from 650 applications received via open call from 20 countries around the world. For the first time they’ll be using stone sourced from Saudi Arabia. As Sarah AlRuwayti, Tuwaiq Sculpture project manager, explained, this has considerable symbolic significance – “to highlight Saudi Arabia’s rich history with the medium, from ancient artefacts to rock carvings and modern-day sculpture” – while connecting directly to the country’s environment.

Curator Marek Wolynski also chaired the selection jury panel, long with Alaa Tarabzouni, co-founder of Very Public and an architect, artist, and curator, whose practice focuses on urbanism and the built environment; Ali Al-Tokhais, a sculptor with a practice spanning 40 years and an expert in Saudi Arabian stone; Dr Effat Fadag, an academic whose work revolves around the arts, culture, and heritage of Saudi Arabia; and Johannes von Stumm, sculptor, President of the Oxford Art Society and past president of the UK’s Royal Society of Sculptors.

The artists:

  • Stefan Esterbauer Austria
  • Sylvain Patte Belgium
  • Agnessa Petrova Bulgaria
  • Liliya Pobornikova Bulgaria
  • Qian Sihua China
  • Mohamed Elsayad Egypt
  • Yannick Robert France
  • Aleksandre Phophkhadze Georgia
  • Javier Alvarez Germany
  • Roland Hoeft Germany
  • Marino Di Prospero Italy
  • Tatsumi Sakai Japan
  • Ikram Kabbaj Morocco
  • Sasho Sazdovski North Macedonia
  • Ana Maria Negară Romania
  • Vasilisa Chugunova Russia
  • Azhar Madlouh Saudi Arabia
  • Fahad Aljebreen Saudi Arabia
  • Mohammad Al-Faris Saudi Arabia
  • Mohammed Al Thagafi Saudi Arabia
  • Noha Alsharif Saudi Arabia
  • Rajaa Alshafae Saudi Arabia
  • Talal Altukhaes Saudi Arabia
  • Wafa Alqunibit Saudi Arabia
  • Damjan Komel Slovenia
  • José Millán Spain
  • Bertha Shortiss Switzerland
  • Nilhan Sesalan Turkiye
  • Lyudmyla Mysko Ukraine
  • Rob Good United Kingdom

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