“Returning to a Present” at Athr Gallery Al-Ula

“Returning to a Present” curated by Pharah Al-Ghalib, is a group exhibition that showcases the diverse works of Saudi artists hailing from various regions of the kingdom. The exhibition title draws inspiration from Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s idea that being contemporary involves returning to a present that has never been experienced before. Against the backdrop of AlUla’s historical setting, the exhibition juxtaposes the historical and the contemporary, inviting viewers to contemplate the intersection of art, culture, and their transformative potential within this remarkable context.

Sarah Abu Abdallah, Multitude, 2022, Mixed media on canvas, 500 x 170 cm

The exhibition features artists such as Sarah Abu Abdullah, Ahaad Alamoudi, Ayman Yossri Daydban, Sultan bin Fahad, Ibrahim Romman, and Muhannad Shono. Through video, photography, painting, and installation, these artists respond to the dynamic social and aesthetic environments that shape contemporary Saudi Arabia. Their artworks collectively celebrate the nuanced perspectives and rich artistic expressions within the local community.

Returning to a Present, Athr Gallery

By presenting artists from diverse local backgrounds, Returning to a Present encourages dialogue and fosters a critical examination of the current moment in the intersection of contemporary art and society. One central theme explored in the exhibition is the interplay between tradition and transformation, collective and individual experiences, and the relationship between local and imported influences. The showcased artists navigate these complexities, offering glimpses into the evolving cultural and local identities in Saudi Arabia.

“Returning to a Present” invites viewers to delve into the multifaceted narratives woven by contemporary Saudi artists. It challenges preconceptions, provokes introspection, and underscores the transformative power of art in shaping societies.

Sarah Abu Abdallah, THE SALAD ZONE, 2019, Video installation, 19:38 minutes

About Athr Gallery

Established in Jeddah in 2009, Athr Gallery has been instrumental in shaping the contemporary art landscape in Saudi Arabia. The gallery is committed to fostering experimentation, exploring new ideas, and recognizing the transformative power of artists in society. Athr Gallery serves as a steadfast supporter of both emerging and established artists from Saudi Arabia and the wider Arab region. It provides numerous opportunities for artists to expand their knowledge and experience through its multidisciplinary space in Jeddah and beyond. These opportunities include international residencies, special commissions, participation in international group exhibitions, symposia, funding, and more.


Location: ATHR Gallery – Al Jadida, Al-Ula

Date: July 13 – September 30, 2023



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