Manal AlDowayan to be featured at the Saudi Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia in 2024

Manal AlDowayan, known as one of Saudi Arabia’s most influential contemporary artists, will be representing the country at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2024. Her global recognition stems from a diverse body of work that spans participatory practice, photography, sound, and sculpture. The Ministry of Culture’s Visual Arts Commission has commissioned the Saudi Pavilion, marking the nation’s fourth participation in the Biennale Arte and the third National Pavilion to feature women artists.

AlDowayan’s artistic exploration delves into traditions, collective memories, and the nuanced status and representation of women. Functioning as a critical observer of the cultural and social transformations in Saudi Arabia, her art navigates the intersection of the personal and societal realms. Themes of invisibility, active forgetting, and collective memory characterise her decades-long practice, resonating globally and fostering connection and engagement.

Manal al-Dowayan, (1973 Saudi Arabia), Suspended Together, 2011, 123 fiberglass doves, dimensions variable

Particularly renowned for participatory installations like “Suspended Together” and “Esmi- My Name,” AlDowayan provides platforms for women in Saudi Arabia to reflect on social customs related to their position. Her recent performance, “From Shattered Ruins, New Life Shall Bloom,” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York showcased a landscape of totems symbolising narratives that have historically constrained women. In a collective act of protest, participants destroyed scrolls, stripping words and images of their historical power and advocating solidarity.

Expressing her anticipation for the Biennale Arte 2024, AlDowayan emphasised the rare opportunity it offers to position her practice within the context of her community, country, and the world. Dina Amin, CEO of the Visual Arts Commission, underscored the commission’s commitment to showcasing and celebrating national talent on international stages.

The Saudi Pavilion’s upcoming installation will reflect on the Biennale Arte’s overarching theme, “Foreigners Everywhere,” curated by Adriano Pedrosa. Scheduled from April 20 to November 24, 2024, at the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia’s permanent space at the Arsenale, Sale d’Armi in Venice, Italy, this exhibition promises to contribute to the global dialogue on identity, nationality, race, and gender disparities.

Middle Eastern Circle Presents: Manal AlDowayan: From Shattered Ruins, New Life Shall Bloom; For her one-night-only presentation at the Guggenheim, artist Manal AlDowayan invites visitors to participate in a site-specific installation in the museum’s rotunda. From Shattered Ruins, New Life Shall Bloom (2023) comprises hundreds of porcelain scrolls printed with excerpts from everyday books and magazines, culturally significant literature, and the Guggenheim’s archives. These texts illustrate narratives that have for generations upheld structures oppressing women and girls. In a participatory action, attendees are encouraged to examine and destroy the scrolls and their messages, buttressing women’s agency with a physical gesture of protest against a history of control. Artist Manal AlDowayan’s mediums includes black and white photography, sculpture, video, sound, neon, and large-scale participatory installations. Her artistic practice addresses themes of invisibility, active forgetting, archives, and collective memory, with a large focus on the status of women and their representation.

About Manal AlDowayan

Internationally acclaimed, Manal AlDowayan stands as one of Saudi Arabia’s foremost contemporary artists. Spanning photography, sound, sculpture, and participatory practice, her work critically examines traditions, collective memories, and the status of women. AlDowayan’s art has graced prestigious institutions globally, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Her pieces adorn collections at the British Museum, Centre Pompidou, and Solomon R. Guggenheim. Holding an MA from the Royal College of Art, AlDowayan has participated in esteemed programs like the Robert Rauschenberg Residency and the Delfina Foundation’s artist-in-residence. Born in Dhahran in 1973, she currently resides between London, Dhahran, and Dubai.

Location: La Biennale di Venezia, Saudi Pavillion

Dates: April 20 to November 24, 2024



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