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Saudi artist awarded 2023-24 Hayy Jameel Facade Commission

The work of Zahrah Al-Ghamdi (born 1977 in Al Bahah, Saudi Arabia) investigates memory and history through traditional architecture in both medium and assemblage. Her site-specific artwork demonstrates the arduous and exacting method by which she assembles bits of soil, clay, pebbles, leather, and water. The idea of “embodied memory” affects both the medium and the way the artist makes art in order to show and explain issues of cultural identity, memory, and loss. Al-Ghamdi was raised in the southwest of Saudi Arabia. She subsequently traveled to Jeddah, where she graduated from King Abdulaziz University with a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Arts. She has a Master’s in Contemporary Craft from Coventry University, UK , where she also earned her doctorate in Design and Visual Art. Her thesis examines traditional residential architecture in modern contexts in southwest Saudi Arabia. The fact that she grew up in that area and was surrounded by traditional Aseeri architecture had a big impact on her art.

JEDDAH: Saudi contemporary artist Zahrah Al-Ghamdi has been chosen as the winner of the 2023-24 Hayy Jameel Facade Commission, according Arab News. A professor of visual art and design at the University of Jeddah, she was selected by an international jury to create a significant public artwork on a 25-meter canvas located on the front of the Jeddah building. Her proposed work, titled “The Cell,” will showcase her style of integrating art with its surroundings. Al-Ghamdi said: “I feel a mix of different emotions. I am excited, proud, and happy to see others appreciate the idea behind my work. At the same time, I also feel anxious, cautious, and under pressure to meet the expectations of the viewers and maintain the level of creativity expected of me.” She noted that her aim had been to create a universal concept that resonated with people from all walks of life. “Regarding the idea behind the work, I tried to make it a universal concept that touches on the thoughts and feelings of people in general, regardless of their nationality or culture,” she added. In December, Al-Ghamdi’s facade design will be unveiled to the public. Nora Razian, deputy director of arts at Art Jameel, said: “This is the third iteration of the Hayy Jameel Facade Commission, an annual program that connects our beloved creative complex with our neighborhood and the wider city of Jeddah. “Through a competitive open call that received over 50 proposals this year, the esteemed jury, which is an international ensemble of artists, curators, and museum directors, alongside myself, unanimously selected Zahrah Al-Ghamdi’s proposal ‘The Cell’ for its bold vision, material experimentation on a grand scale, and transformative potential for our facade. “With Al-Ghamdi’s work, the Hayy Jameel Facade Commission continues to support the creation of innovative public art and support the creative community, while leaving an indelible mark on the urban experience of Jeddah.” The jury for the Facade Commission this year included Saudi artist Manal Al-Dowayan, Razian, the curator of international art at the Tate Modern, Nabila Abdel Nabi, and chair of modern and contemporary arts at The Met Museum, Sheena Wagstaff. The jury gave a special mention to Basmah Felemban, Abeer Sultan, Mubarak Mahdi, and Sarah Al-Abdali, among the shortlisted proposals, in recognition of their exceptional artistic contributions and innovative approaches to the project. The annual program offers a unique opportunity for a single artist or collective to publicly display a work of art. Previous edition awardee Mohammed Alfaraj’s “The Face of the City” will remain on show until December.



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