by Robert Stone
As the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale approaches, set to take place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from January 23rd to April 23rd, 2023, it raises important questions about the role of art and culture in relation to human rights and political issues.
While the Biennale’s director, Farida Alhusseini, has stated that the goal is to broaden the definition and allow for a deeper and more nuanced exploration of Islamic arts, it is hard to ignore the fact that the participation of some of the most prestigious European museums in the exhibition can be interpreted as implicit approval of the Saudi government’s policies, which have been widely criticized for human rights violations.
Furthermore, it is important to note that Saudi Arabia’s participation in this Biennale can be seen as an attempt to improve its global image through culture and art, while the issues of human rights and freedoms continue to represent a significant problem in the country.
As art lovers and cultural enthusiasts, it is our responsibility to consider the consequences of our actions and the message it sends when we support events that could be used to mask serious issues. It is time to ask ourselves, at what cost do we appreciate art? Is it worth turning a blind eye to ethical and moral problems?
It is crucial that we hold ourselves and institutions accountable and use our influence to support art and culture that aligns with our values and promotes human rights, rather than those that are used as a tool for propaganda or “cultural-washing.”
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author.
They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the AMeAR|News, R2iNTEL or its members.