On January 23, 2023, the first Biennale of Islamic Arts will open in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, promising to be a historic event for Muslim culture and art. The theme chosen for this inaugural edition is “Awwal Bait,” meaning “First House,” in reference to the Sacred Ka’bah of Mecca.
The biennale, which will be hosted in the iconic Western Hajj Terminal of King Abdulaziz Airport, winner of the Aga Khan award, will feature over 60 established and emerging artists from around the world, with the goal of highlighting the beauty and diversity of the Muslim world. Curated by a diverse and multidisciplinary committee of experts, it will showcase, among other things, a groundbreaking exhibition of finely crafted historical objects, originally located in the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina and at the Sacred Mosque of Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca.
The director of the Biennale, Farida Alhusseini, stated that “for a long time, the world has perceived Islamic arts through a specific lens, which often narrowed or defined its boundaries. With this initiative, we aim to broaden the definition and allow for a deeper and more nuanced exploration,” in line with the crucial moment in Saudi Arabia’s cultural development.
The exhibition will be a unique multisensory experience, with four galleries and two pavilions showcasing carefully curated artworks on daily rituals and the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, that will stimulate individual and collective emotions and evoke suggestions on the spiritual life of Muslims worldwide. The filtered sunlight, the wide panoramas, the views of the sky, and the desert will generate a completely different experience from that offered by the closed spaces of traditional art galleries.
Additionally, over 18 local and international institutions, including the Authority of the Haramain, the Benaki Museum in Athens, and the Louvre in Paris, will publicly present the masterpieces of their collections.
The Jeddah Biennale of Islamic Arts represents a unique opportunity to connect with the past, present, and future of Islamic art and appreciate the richness of this type of art through contemporary works, new works, and artifacts. It will be an opportunity for art enthusiasts and those interested in Muslim culture to discover and appreciate the beauty and diversity of Islamic art.