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The Art of Jameel

The Art of Jameel

The Art of Jameel

The Mountains Quiver in Anticipation. Courtesy Art Jameel.

By Ithraeyat Editorial Team
March 20th, 2023
The dynamism, richness, and capacity for collaboration and thirst for knowledge is ever present and growing in the Kingdom…
Sara Al-Omran, Deputy Director, Art Jameel
Sara Al-Omran, Deputy Director of Art Jameel.

Art Jameel is a renowned cultural entity that supports artists and creative communities. Founded and supported by the Jameel family philanthropies, the independent organization is headquartered in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and works globally. Here we meet one of the leaders at Art Jameel, Deputy Director Sara Al-Omran, who oversees their regional and international strategy and is leading their Saudi Arabian initiatives and projects, including the development and launch of Hayy Jameel.

Prior to joining Art Jameel, Sara was a management consultant, advising private and public sector clients, including the not-for-profit, education and culture sectors.
Ithraeyat sits with Al-Omran to understand the great depth and outreach of Art Jameel and its impact.

Q1. What is the motto of Art Jameel?

Art Jameel supports artists and creative communities. Our programs – across exhibitions, commissions, research, learning and community-building – are grounded in a dynamic understanding of the arts as fundamental to life and accessible to all.

Accommodations, 2023, Hayy Jameel, Jeddah, courtesy of Saudi National Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition.

Q2. What makes Art Jameel different from other cultural centers?

Art Jameel’s two institutions – Hayy Jameel, a dedicated complex for the arts and creativity in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Jameel Arts Centre, an innovative contemporary institution in Dubai, UAE – are complemented by digital initiatives plus collaborations with major institutional partners and a network of practitioners across the world.

Art Jameel’s model is collaborative: major institutional partners include Delfina Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Locally, the organization works with individuals and organizations to develop innovative programming that embraces both ancient and new technologies, and encourages entrepreneurship and the development of cultural networks.

Q3. Tell us about yourself and what are some of your upcoming plans/projects with Art Jameel?


I manage the strategic overview of Art Jameel’s centers and global initiatives as well as its financial diversification plan. I also oversee Art Jameel’s Saudi Arabian initiatives and projects, including Hayy Jameel, Jeddah’s first dedicated cultural complex and creative hub. We launched Hayy Jameel in December 2021, and our focus this year is to grow our community and further develop the initiatives and spaces we recently launched such as Hayy Cinema. We are also working on launching new spaces such as Hayy Explorer, which is a space designed for young makers that aims to facilitate experimentation and exploration of materials, concepts and techniques among children.

Hayy Jameel, Jeddah. Building designed by waiwai. Courtesy of Art Jameel. Photography by Mohammed Alaskandrani.

Q4. While difficult to capture the full story of any artistic creative entity, what do you consider some of your milestones?

Our milestones unfold across the years. Art Jameel was established in 2003 as part of Community Jameel, the organization set up to continue the Jameel family’s tradition of supporting the community. This tradition started in the 1940s by the late Abdul Latif Jameel – founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel business – who throughout his life helped tens of thousands of disadvantaged people in the fields of healthcare and education and worked on improving their livelihoods.

In 2003, Art Jameel partnered with the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London to renovate the Islamic gallery, now called the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art. Art Jameel’s work in supporting cultural heritage continued with, in 2009, the launch of the Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Cairo. It’s a major teaching institution that preserves the heritage of traditional arts and crafts, supports young artists to develop contemporary designs from Egyptian traditions, and helps graduates apply their skills in the restoration of monuments or as entrepreneurs.

In 2013, Art Jameel (together with the Jeddah Municipality) completed the construction of an open-air sculpture museum on the Jeddah Corniche, for which it first restored and then relocated 26 modern and contemporary sculptures from across the city.

As well as preserving heritage from the Middle East, a central pillar to Art Jameel’s mission is the support of new, contemporary artists from the region. In 2009, Art Jameel established the Jameel Prize for contemporary art inspired by Islamic tradition, in partnership with the V&A; and in 2010, the annual Art Jameel Photography Award, which has now developed into a year-round educational program.

Art Jameel was a founding member of Edge of Arabia; between 2010 and 2016, the two organizations co-produced major projects together.

In November 2018, Art Jameel launched Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai’s contemporary art center, and staged a number of thought-provoking solo and group exhibitions and programs for all ages. In December 2021, we launched the much anticipated Hayy Jameel in Jeddah, a bespoke home for the arts in the Kingdom, featuring spaces for a wide spectrum of creative endeavors. A year later, in December 2022, we launched Hayy Cinema, the Kingdom’s first independent audiovisual center, dedicated to featuring Saudi and international arthouse films.

Face of the city (2023), Mohammed Alfaraj, The Hayy Jameel Façade Commission.

Q5. Can you share with us some of the Saudi, and regional artists you helped discover?

The Art Jameel’s program aims to document and present important work by local, regional and international artists.

A great pathway to working with artists from Saudi is through our Hayy Learning program. The first edition of the program, titled ‘Navigating the contemporary art scene in KSA’, took place in 2019 and included a series of intensive seminars, lectures, sessions and one-on-one mentorship sessions over four months. Artists that have participated in the program include Bashaer Hawsawi, who, after the program went on to exhibit works at the 21,39 Jeddah arts exhibit in 2021 and now has a work exhibited at ‘The Mountains Quiver in Anticipation’ exhibition curated by Rotana Shaker.

The annual Hayy Jameel Facade Commission activates Hayy Jameel’s front-facing facade as the main gateway connecting the public to the vibrant community within Jeddah’s home for the arts. The Commission is a major opportunity for Saudi and Saudi-based artists to propose, and then create, a monumental public artwork.

The current edition features Al Hasa-based artist Mohammad Alfaraj in a work titled The Face of the City. Alfaraj’s proposal posits the façade as a site of expression, inspired by and paralleling the ways in which the walls of the city simultaneously act as unofficial records of its history and a site for its residents’ expression.

The first edition of the commission was awarded to Riyadh-based painter and sculptor Nasser Almulhim and architect and artist Tamara Kalo and their intricate design titled Contours on Collective Consciousness.

Additionally, the Art Jameel Collection is considered as a site of research, exploring the nature and responsibility of museum collections. Together with the artists in our collection, we aim to question the very act and purpose of collecting. Guided by radical thematic frameworks, the Art Jameel Collection informs Art Jameel’s wider exhibition programming across its two sites – Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai and Hayy Jameel, Jeddah.

Paused Mirror, the Saudi Artists by Osama Esid.

Q6. What is your hope that readers understand about Saudi’s art scene? Past and present?


The dynamism, richness, and capacity for collaboration and thirst for knowledge is ever present and growing in the Kingdom. A feature very unique to this moment of reinvigorated appreciation for arts and culture.

The Distance from Here, installation view at Hayy Jameel, Jeddah. Courtesy of Art Jameel. Photography by Mohamed Alaskandrani.

Q7. What do you anticipate will be the next big thing in art in Saudi Arabia and the bigger region?

I am excited by the range of research-based practices that are emerging in Saudi and in the region. Whether first hand research through community engagement, engaging with personal and institutional archives, or drawing from ancestral knowledge. It is an opportunity to present historic narratives that have bearing and impact on many contemporary issues we are grappling with.

Q8. What artists/creatives do you like and how have they influenced you?

We had a fantastic cohort of artists and curators come through our Hayy Learning programs and fellowships and I have been inspired by how they formed a community that supports each other even well after the programs’ conclusion.

The Distance from Here, installation view at Hayy Jameel, Jeddah. Courtesy of Art Jameel. Photography by Mohamed Alaskandrani.

Q9. Our theme is ‘Sound’. Can you share with us art pieces you have featured that capture this theme? The artists behind them?


Sound, music and the aural dimensions of art and culture are of great interest to Art Jameel. Not only by presenting audio-visual works but through holding community events that explore the many facets and experimentations with sound as a material. Hayy Jameel’s inaugural program featured a collaboration with Goethe Institute, Saudi Arabia through a workshop titled ‘The Hospital Ear’, led by researcher and artist Julia Tieke and working with urban strategist Zainab Ali Reza. It explored questions in the local context of Jeddah – through exercises, walks, exchange, and production. Who speaks in Jeddah? Whose voice would we like to amplify, zoom into with our ears? What are the different rhythms of the neighborhoods? How do spaces receive us, and how do we receive them?

Additionally, Saha, the community courtyard which sits at the heart of Hayy Jameel, has been the gathering space of many music-based events – from jamming sessions, to live opera recitals and down to DJ sessions and a music symposium.

The Mountains Quiver in Anticipation, exhibition view at Hayy Jameel, Jeddah. Courtesy of Art Jameel. Photography by Mohamed Alaskandrani.
The Mountains Quiver in Anticipation, exhibition view at Hayy Jameel, Jeddah. Courtesy of Art Jameel. Photography by Mohamed Alaskandrani.

Q10. Your latest residency projects, tell us about them and their importance.


Art Jameel, Goethe-Institut Saudi Arabia and Berlin-based art collective Slavs and Tatars selected Saudi video artist Anhar Salem for the inaugural Berlin/Jeddah In-Practice Residency. The residency included a two-month immersion in Slavs and Tatars’ experimental Berlin studio, during which Salem was embedded as part of the collective, integrating her practice with theirs, and will be followed by a public program at Hayy Jameel, conceived and run by Salem.

Artist Filwa Nazer is in-residence at Hayy Studios, which started as part of the second exhibition at Hayy Arts ‘The Distance From Here’, showcasing works drawn largely from the Art Jameel Collection.

Hayy Jameel, Jeddah. Building designed by waiwai. Courtesy of Art Jameel. Photography by Mohammed Alaskandrani.
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