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Jeddah’s Open Art Museum of Sculptures

Art is ever present throughout the world; it’s a flowing mystery that lives through all areas of life. In the city of Jeddah, sculptures scatter the land with creative expression, artistry, and culture. These sites are building community and becoming a gathering places for like-minded individuals. Jeddah is located in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastal plain called Tihamah. There are around 600 sculptures placed throughout the city, including streets, downtown squares, and by the seaside. Some of the pieces have become recognisable landmarks of the region, whereas others are secret treasures to the residents.

The mayor of Jeddah from the 1970s, Dr. Mohamed Farsi, planned the infrastructure of Jeddah around art itself. Today, over 20 of these sculptures reside in the Open-Air Museum along the Jeddah Corniche, also known as the Al Hamraa. One individual that contributed to the museum was the prolific Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely. Known as the ‘grandfather’ of optical illusion art, he created many paintings, sculptures, and designs that ignited a new movement in abstraction.

One of his famous pieces, Balance in the Air, can be found today in Jeddah’s Open-Air Museum. The mayor of Jeddah met Vasarely in 1981 and admired his innovative mind and playful subject matter. Their relationships sparked the multitude of Vasarely pieces that reside in Jeddah today. International artists from all across the world collaborated to create the Jeddah art park, including the Italian sculptor Giò Pomodoro. He contributed the abstract sculpture entitled Antagonistic Contacts and Sun and Beams, chosen explicitly from the abstract series he worked on during the 1960s.

During a period of artistic experimentations, Jeddah Open Art Museum immortalizes this Avante-Garde era of creative expression. Joan Miró’s sculpture called Oiseau, or Bird, is part of the museum and was created by the artist at eighty-seven. Miró wanted his piece to exist in the open air, out in nature, where it can become one with the surrounding environment. Oiseau is large and encompassing, with three giant legs and an abstract horned design at the top. All of the sculptures in Jeddah have similarities in that they are off the beaten path of traditional art.

This outdoor museum has five main themes, including Natural World, Human Form, Geometric, Islamic, and Transport. These categories were meant to represent the environment of Jeddah, the culture of the region, and the history of the residents. The mayor collaborated with Ali Bayou to create the Lanterns and Taps, coined as an ode to Islamic heritage.

One of the most sacred pieces designed by Julio Lafuente celebrates local culture in the sculpture The Shahada al-Tawhid (Unification Fountain). This work showcases a sculpture within a body of water based on the five pillars of Islam. Lafuente was working for the city of Jeddah in the 1970s to bring about beautification. He prioritized commemorating the local culture in the area, which can be seen through many of his pieces.

Many of the artists contributing to Jeddah’s art collection were travelers and admirers of the land. For example, Finnish artist Eila Hiltunen traveled through the Middle East in the 70s. When she met Mayor Farsi in Saudi Arabia, she contributed multiple works, including Flame of Life and Sunflower Field, to the exhibit. The work collected in Jeddah’s Open Art Museum is a timeless example of global, artistic unity.

Talented creatives from different walks of life were passionate about Farsi’s mission and the art culture of Jeddah. People everywhere come together to admire the art, the culture, and the rich history that resides in the streets. The unity created throughout this process is a beautiful thing. Jeddah will forever serve as a landing place for art, inspiration, and creativity in its most authentic form.

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