- Kingdom’s third showing at the world’s most prestigious art event
- Art undergoing a contemporary rebirth ‘as we collectively step back into the sunlight’
Updated 28 March 2022
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: The grand conceptual mixed media and thought-provoking work of Saudi’s Riyadh-based artist Muhannad Shono will take center stage at the Kingdom’s pavilion for the 59th edition of the Venice Biennale.
“It has been emotional and surreal; I never imagined I would find myself standing in this moment,” Shono told Arab News. “I don’t think of my showing in Venice as a personal achievement, I’m carrying with me a brave and irrepressible creative spirit from across Saudi Arabia.”
“The whole creative community in the Kingdom, not just in the visual or conceptual space but in terms of all kinds of forms of creative expression, is being reborn,” he said.
The pavilion, which constitutes Saudi Arabia’s third participation at the Venice Biennale, has been commissioned by the Ministry of Culture’s Visual Arts Commission.
The Kingdom last participated in 2019 with the work of Zahra Alghamdi and then in 2011 with the art of Shadia and Raja Alem.
This year’s pavilion is jointly curated by Reem Fadda and assistant curator Rotana Shaker.
Known for his conceptual mixed media and digital work, Shono has long been inspired by his childhood memories growing up in Saudi Arabia as well as his family’s long history of migration — both aspects that have strongly affected his work.
The artist finds his freedom of thought and expression using various materials, including intimate drawings, robotic and technological pieces, and large-scale sculptural works; as well as concepts and artistic techniques that allow him to transcend and explore contemporary and historical constructs, to present new forms of meaning and ways of seeing the world.
The artist’s participation in Venice comes after several intense years of ongoing social and economic change in the Kingdom as a result of Vision 2030. The Gulf nation’s participation in Venice mirrors its growing presence in the international cultural sphere as well as the development of its own artistic scene at home.
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Culture, the creative industries in Saudi Arabia are expected to provide an estimated 3 percent of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2030 and create over 100,000 jobs. “All forms of creative expression in Saudi are undergoing a contemporary re-emerging, as we collectively step back into the sunlight,” he said.
The 59th International Art Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia will be held between 23 April and 27 November 2022, curated by Cecilia Alemani under the theme, “The Milk of Dreams.” The inspiration for the theme stems from a 1950s children’s book by Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. The curator has conversed with artists about what constitutes life, humans’ responsibilities for the planet, and how a world without people is imagined.