This Artwork Is Illegal to Be Displayed in The Kingdom Due to Obvious Religious & Cultural Reasons

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The Middle East art community was shocked two days ago with what Ayyam Gallery faced in Young Collectors Auction (YCA) at their newly opened space in Jeddah; 23 artworks by Saudi, Syrian, Egyptian, Yemeni,  and Iranian artists were banned by authorities!
The auction was held yesterday with only 15 lots… allowed according to the authorities; and if you think that is it, you are wrong!
All 38 artworks were shown at YCA catalogue – released on October 27, 2013 – which means they were approved and legally shipped to Jeddah, so what happened?! A friend of mine attended the auction and shared with me the most outrage and disturbing story I’ve ever heared since Shurooq Amin exhibition shutdown!

The Story…

Manal Al Dowayan (KSA) "I am... a Scuba Dive" Banned by Saudi Authority
Manal Al Dowayan (KSA) “I am… a Scuba Dive” Banned by Saudi Authority
“23 of the 38 works were censored from being displayed by Society of Saudi and Arab for Culture & Art, a Saudi committee that decides if artworks can be displayed even if approved by Ministry of Culture & Information. I went to the gallery around 6:30 to see the allowed artworks before the auction start at 8, after a short while 2 members of the committee Rayan Theqa & Ehsan Bourhan, came in with two policemen showed up to inspect and make sure the banned lots are not displayed and told the gallery they are not allowed to even sell them or talk about them in the auction!
The were talking in a clear voice – as if they wanted everyone to listen! – and claimed these are “orders of the Ruler of Jeddah” which I think it is ridiculous because things don’t go like this here and I am sure the Ruler is not even aware of what such committee are doing!
So at 8 the auction started on the 15 approved lots that were displayed.  The room was packed with around 200 people.  80% of the lots sold to the room that was enthusiastic and disappointed at the shorter than expected auction (20 minutes).
After the auction was over I went outside to smoke a cigarette only to find the 2 committee members with the 2 policemen laughing at their what they assume is victory.  They attended the whole auction and then came back after the auction and their cigarette break to stay there and make sure no one was shown the banned works.”
My friend saw Founder of Ayyam Gallery, Khaled Samawi after the auction and asked him how it went and Samawi said…
“The positive thing that happened is that the whole Jeddah art crowd came to support this initiative.  We are looking forward with great enthusiasm for the next edition that we hope will be sooner than later.”

End of story…

Rashed Al Shashai (KSA) "Arabian Windows 1" Banned by Saudi Authority
Rashed Al Shashai (KSA) “Arabian Windows 1” Banned by Saudi Authority
What is going wrong? I look up at Jeddah as a promising cultural hub not only in GCC or the region but in a country known for its strictness, showing and reflecting another side the entire world is not aware of, the face of younger generation who are challenging all circumstances and producing art as a voice, a message not just for display.
The problem is when you have the wrong people in the wrong places, especially in culture, I mean why would they ban a photo of muslims praying in Mecca? What is inappropriate about it? Why would they ban a painting of Al Aqsa Mosque? Why would they ban a portrait of a woman in her scuba-diving outfit and only her face is showing – no seductive hair! – Why would they ban a sculpture of tank?

I’ll leave you answer that…

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Abdalla says:

    Maybe they hate starbucks coffee, who knows! But they will always have excuses without that proper justification. Like I tend to think, they will question and critique Picasso’s art work as if they themselves understood art!

    1. Mashaael Basheer says:

      i can’t agree less with you… but as long as this kind of censorship no change is going to happen … wish it was a starbucks issue

  2. They are banning the concept of critical thinking. It is not the artwork itself that scares them, but the message behind it and the potential power of its artist: the power of change.

    1. Mashaael Basheer says:

      indeed change they fear i just mentioned that in my previous comment, this is their only way to stand against the booming art scene and creative thinkers in Jeddah then spread all over the kingdom, GCC …

    2. I agree that they’re scared. They wouldn’t want their religion to be affiliated with something as open to free thinking as fine art, because of the possibilities of interpretation. Here again we witness the Arab world’s fear of pluralism.

  3. Abdulrahman M says:

    I’m Saudi and honestly I can’t find any possible explanation for what happened, but let me say this.
    Some people here believe in “fighting such things to prevent bigger things from happening” that’s what they strongly believe in, closing the doors in what could bring something bigger.

    Another possible explanation is, if those banned works could be sold later on, I think a big whatever business man who could have some high authorities would banned them for his own favor later on. It’s easy in here.

    All what I can say is, don’t ask why! because you will never get an answer.

    Thanks for sharing this article.

  4. Hass says:

    What is wrong with this? why ban?

    1. Mashaael Basheer says:

      You tell me 🙂 the authority later on released a statement saying the censorship is for confidential reasons

  5. sarahelwe says:

    When I read the title I thought the artworks were offensive or maybe showing a woman’s body, etc… Did they even explain the reason behind banning each work of art?

  6. this is the attitude of the weak and scared,

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