Named for the geographic coordinates of the Saudi city, the annual 21,39 Jeddah Arts program nurtures the burgeoning contemporary art scene and promotes the Kingdom’s unique culture in various locations across the city.
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The artistic landscape in Saudi Arabia has seen a phenomenal development over the last few years, credit due for the ongoing efforts of the Saudi Art Council, which was formed to provide an institutional platform for creative thinking and experimentation where the general public can experience thought-provoking exhibitions and an extensive programme of talks and workshops.
For seven years, there have been moves to build a community of artists in Saudi Arabia, beginning in the more liberal port city of Jeddah. Every February it holds an independent arts festival called 21,39 (the city’s co-ordinates on a map). It’s funded by local families, artists and galleries and is independent of the government.
With 21,39 Jeddah Arts, a Saudi city opens up to modernity
The 7th Edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts contends with the global climate emergency by considering the challenges of communication – a very “meta” pursuit that it manages to effectively engage with through the specificity of a local context, and in a series of highly personal artistic explorations.
"World leaders gather to address the deteriorating state of the earth and what to do next, artists are similarly taking an activist stance in speaking up about the present global climate emergency. This couldn’t be more apparent than in the recent edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts, presented by the Saudi Arts Council and on view until April 18."
There is a moment in I Love You, Urgently, the main show at 21,39 Jeddah Arts, curated by Maya El Khalil, when exhibition design comes into its own, and the show’s blueprint forces a beautiful interlude between the examinations of present and future in the Gulf.” [...] The show – rather remarkably – manages to frame the climate crisis as an - opportunity for change for the better.
The combined momentum of the Kingdom’s new phalanx of cultural projects across the Kingdom clearly indicates the state is currently serious about supporting artistic activity from the grassroots upwards. This is mirrored by the quality of work on show at 21,39.