a gallery without walls
A garden city in the desert, Saudi Arabiathe capital Riyadh celebrates its fourth edition of the Tuwaiq Sculpture festival and symposium. The annual exhibition was first launched in 2019, and this year it brought together thirty artists from both Saudi Arabia and around the world for twenty-six days of live sculpture along the northern edge of the city in Durrat Al Riyadh. With the event open to the public, visitors were offered a close-up view of the creative process in action to witness the transformation of raw Riyadh stone into works of art.
After the nearly month-long period of live sculpture that began on January 8, 2023, the newly completed artworks were displayed as part of an exhibition that marked the festival, which ran from February 5 to 10. In addition, interactive workshops and activities were held that guided visitors in a first-hand exploration of their own artistic processes.
Tuwaiq Sculpture 2023, Exhibition View | image © designboom
thirty artists from twenty countries
Many of the artists at Tuwaiq Sculpture 2023 are academics in sculpture and have exhibited works internationally. While over six hundred applicants responded to the call, only thirty artists were selected to participate. This year’s group of sculptors represent twenty different countries, including Austria, China, France, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and Switzerland, along with a strong showing of artists representing Saudi Arabia. After the exhibition’s conclusion, the thirty sculptural works will be spread across Riyadh to be displayed as permanent public artworks, transforming the capital into a “gallery without walls.”
“I am beginning to see the light,” Stefan Esterbauer, Austria | image © Tuwaiq Sculpture 2023, a Riyadh Art program
learn from the desert landscape of riyadh
As part of Tuwaiq Sculpture 2023, a Riyadh Art program, artwork is carved exclusively from Saudi Arabia’s granite and Riyadh stone, also known as sandstone. The use of this local material serves to symbolize the theme of this year’s symposium, ‘Energy of Harmony’, as artists from twenty countries work side by side to learn from the unique geology of Saudi Arabia, interpreting the materiality of its desert landscape. through his own artistic lens.
‘For the first time since the launch of Tuwaiq Sculpture in 2019, the symposium has used stone sourced from quarries in Riyadh, specifically granite and sandstone, also known as Riyadh Stone,‘ explains Sarah AlRuwayti, Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium Director. ‘This choice has symbolic meaning; it’s a way to highlight Saudi Arabia’s rich history with the medium, from ancient artifacts to petroglyphs and modern sculptures. Now these works of art will not only be part of Riyadh, but also part of each artist’s legacy, leaving an important mark on the city.’
“Harmony in Diversity,” Qian Sihua, China | image © Tuwaiq Sculpture 2023, a Riyadh Art program
carving out a space for women artists in Saudi Arabia
Tuwaiq Sculpture 2023 is helping to create a route for women in the region to enter the largely male-dominated sculpture trade, as many of the artists participating this year are women – including Saudi sculptor Noha Al-Sharif, who is known for her expertise in Islamic art and her use of porcelain and textiles. Her work entitled ‘Vision’ explores the female body and hybridises elements from both humans and birds. Another female sculptor representing Saudi Arabia at this year’s exhibition is Wafa Alqunibit. Her piece, “Harmony” shows the use of Arabic calligraphy to render the Islamic religion’s ninety-nine names of God.
artistic process | image © Tuwaiq Sculpture 2023, a Riyadh Art program
Tuwaiq Sculpture is part of the wider Riyadh Art program for the Royal Commission Riyadh City (RCRC). The group will eventually transform Riyadh into a “gallery without walls”, with over a thousand public artworks on display across the city. Since its launch in 2019, the symposium has engaged with ninety renowned local and international artists and thousands of visitors.