Monday, November 13, 2017
4:30pm – 6:00pm
Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute
Presented by Alia Al-Senussi '03 AM '4
PhD candidate, Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London
Abstract: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s emergence on the contemporary art scene began with ground roots efforts by artists, art collectives and curators in Abha, far away from the traditional centers of commerce and politics. However, in a short period of ten years these movements and actors have been subsumed into organizations run by the commercial and political elite and non-profit organizations under the patronage of senior members of the Al Saud family in Saudi Arabia and other ruling families throughout the GCC. Artists however have continued to voice criticism and frustration with the current condition of civic society, yet do so with a keen understanding of what they believe they can and cannot say and also with a pronounced sense of patriotism imbued in their work ethic. Artists often describe their feeling of self-censorship given their close personal and professional relationships with those in power, a phenomena not just in Saudi Arabia but across the GCC. The effects of cultural patronage on the activities and works of artists, non-profit art organization and artist collectives will be discussed through the examination of historical cultural patronage in absolute monarchies and family-run political systems. A modern understanding of patronage in the GCC will be elucidated to accurately illustrate the tensions that exist between patron and artist and the power and influence held by the royal patron in an absolute monarchy. It will be examined how different agents can work together in the future, building sustainable models of cooperation. In particular, the importance of the role of culture in strengthening institutions of power and capacity building in society will be investigated.