The Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium in the Saudi capital Riyadh is unique in the world in many ways

Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium 2024.

From January 14 to February 08, 2024, a total of 30 participants from all over the world created their monumental works

Here a list of the artists and photos of their works:

The Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium in Saudi Arabia took place for the 5th time in 2024. It is both the beginning and the highlight of the symposium year: from January 14 to February 08, a total of 30 participants from all over the world created their works at Roshn Front, a public site in Riyadh. As usual, the hosts provided more than ample facilities: the capital of the largest state in the Gulf region poured a cornucopia of fees, support, and amenities over the event participants.

No other of the 50 or so symposia held around the world each year even comes close to these conditions.

There are several good reasons for this, the most important of which can be seen from the theme of the event: “Dimensions of Movement“ in 2024. In other words, the event is part of the transformation of the kingdom into a modern state. “Vision 2030“ is the name of the concept proclaimed by Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman in April 2016.

Cultural policy plays a special role in this, along with the creation of a diverse economy in a diverse state. We will soon shed more light on this in a separate article.

The name Tuwaiq, pronounced with “ei,” not “ai,” refers to the mountains near Riyadh. These are spectacular steep slopes 600 meters high on the edge of the Najd Plateau.

There were around 700 applications from 84 countries for this year’s symposium. You have to imagine that in practical terms: if the selection jury spends just one minute per application, i.e. less than skimming through each submission, they are already busy for almost 12 hours.

But, as said, the Tuwaiq Symposium is on a scale of its own.

Sculptor Antonio Vigo at work. Assistant Mahmoud Abdullah (Egypt) and sculptor Antonio Vigo (Spain), right. Photo: Antonio Vigo

This also includes the fact that 60 experienced stonemasons from Aswan in Egypt were flown in as assistants. They gave the artists a helping hand. This is because monumental works are created at Tuwaiq, this time in granite, which is known for its brutal hardness.

20 of the artists came from abroad, ten from Saudi Arabia. In total, a third of them were women.

This kind of public appearance by women is something special for Saudi Arabia. It was impressive when, over the course of the three weeks, the whole families, from grandparents to children and siblings, came by to admire the work of the older daughter and sister.

Only granite from Saudi Arabia in various colors was used: Royal Rose, Green Raniya, Royal Gold. 2023, Saudi natural stone was also used exclusively, but granite and sandstone together. They came from the area around the capital and are marketed under the title Riyadh Stone.

Golden yellow limestone is the predominant material in the residential and medium-sized commercial buildings in Riyadh. However, granite can be found in numerous special buildings, such as the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, the King Fahd Causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia or the Great Mosque in Mecca (Masjid al-Haram), to name but a few.

Foreign marbles or even exotic varieties are often used in prestigious interiors or by wealthy people.

The appreciation that the organizer Riad Art has for the artists of the symposium can also be seen in what is to happen to the finished works: The aim is to beautify the city and bring art into the everyday lives of its citizens. Here, too, the aim is to make a big splash: “We want to distribute 1,000 works of art from past and upcoming symposia throughout the city,“ says Sarah Fahad Alruwayti, director of the symposium and member of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City.

Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium 2024.

This is not the case at every symposium, even if it is promised everywhere in the announcements. Often, when the artists leave, the works are just left standing around somewhere.

At Tuwaiq, this should not be the case, says chief curator Marek Wolynski in conversation: “We want to coordinate with the artists where their works will be placed.“ Experienced with the counter-natures in the art world, however, he adds that the realization of artists’ wishes “will only be possible to a limited extent.” Wolynski is the chief curator of the event for the second time. He comes from Poland, is now based in London, and is internationally active in major cultural projects.

And, last but not least: the works of art should not simply be dumped on the citizens of Riyadh, says director Sarah Fahad Alzuwayti: “It shouldn’t be the case that people come back from work in the evening and suddenly something is on their doorstep.“

Citizen participation is the keyword.

Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium 2024.

For this reason, there was a supporting program around the symposium, for example with visits from schoolchildren.

Finally, all the finished works remained at the symposium venue in an exhibition until February 24, 2024. Discussions were held there on several evenings, and at one of these events, a suggestion came from the audience that the director liked very much: “You could also hold a symposium like this in other cities in Saudi Arabia,“ someone said.

The call for proposals for the next symposium is expected to be published at the end of July 2024 and will be announced in good time in our symposia calendar (see link below).

And: It is also remarkable that Riyadh is well on the way to becoming the world capital of stone sculpting with this symposium. Especially as the jury selected some works that go beyond classic stone art.

The jury for the selection of participants consisted of
* Dr Khulod Albugami, a sculptor and Assistant Professor at College of Art and Design at Princess Nourah University;
* Nojoud Alsudairi, Co-founder of Syn Architects, an artist and architect whose practice focuses on identities rooted in urban contemporary Saudi culture;
* Dr. Fahad Al-Jebreen, a sculptor and Assistant Professor at King Saud University, Associate Curator of Tuwaiq Sculpture 2024;
* Sebastiano Barassi, a curator and art historian, who has held curatorial positions at the Courtauld Gallery, the University of Cambridge, and the Henry Moore Foundation in the UK.

Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium

Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium

Riyadh Art

Calendar of (Sculpture)Symposia

Photos: Riyadh Art

Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium 2024.Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium 2024.

See also:

(04.03.2024, USA: 03.04.2024)