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!
“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…
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?