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Curators Jessica Cerasi and Maya El Khalil and assistant curator Shadin AlBulaihed will work with artist Manal AlDowayan on the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia for the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2024

LEFT TO RIGHT: Maya El Khalil, 2023. Photo: Tash Nellist. Courtesy of the curators and the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia. Artist Manal AlDowayan in Venice, 2023. Courtesy of the artist and the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia. Shadin AlBulaihed, 2023. Courtesy of the curator and the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia. Jessica Cerasi, 2023. Photo: Tash Nellist. Courtesy of the curators and the Visual Arts Commission, the Commissioner for the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia.

Jessica Cerasi, Maya El Khalil and Shadin AlBulaihed will curate the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, commissioned by the Visual Arts Commission, one of the Ministry of Culture’s 11 sector-specific commissions. Co-curators Cerasi and El Khalil and assistant curator AlBulaihed will work with artist Manal AlDowayan on her installation for this year’s Biennale Arte 2024, held under the theme Stranieri OvunqueForeigners Everywhere and curated by Adriano Pedrosa. Cerasi, El Khalil and AlBulaihed bring an incredible depth of experience to this year’s national pavilion, drawing upon rich curatorial backgrounds. 

Cerasi worked with AlDowayan in co-curating her participatory artwork From Shattered Ruins, New Life Shall Bloom at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in May 2023. Based in Abu Dhabi, Cerasi has gained extensive experience working with artists from the Arab Gulf region in recent years. She also possesses a breadth of biennial experience, having worked as Assistant Curator for the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2019, and Assistant Curator for the Biennale of Sydney in 2016. With a strong interest in fostering contemporary art appreciation among new audiences, she has authored two books on the subject.

Co-curator El Khalil, an independent curator working internationally, has a longstanding working relationship with AlDowayan. In 2013, she curated AlDowayan’s first solo show in Saudi Arabia, A Journey of Belonging at Jeddah’s Athr Gallery, and collaborated with the artist on the workshops leading up to AlDowayan’s seminal work Esmi – My Name (2012). El Khalil also contributed to the book Manal AlDowayan: Participatory Acts (Rizzoli, 2023) with an essay about AlDowayan’s participatory practice. As 

founding director of Athr Gallery, a contemporary art space in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, she pioneered exhibition approaches at a time when there were few local public art institutions, showcasing works of emerging and established international artists. Her curatorial practice still focuses on building bridges between the Arab Gulf region and the rest of the world.

The Pavilion’s assistant curator AlBulaihed works at Misk Art Institute. Her curatorial practice focuses on exploring local narratives through engaging with local culture, archival materials, and traditions, aligning with AlDowayan’s deeply rooted engagement with Saudi Arabia’s local communities. A Saudi Arabian national, AlBulaihed participated in Saudi Arabia’s first pavilion for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia with Misk Art Institute in 2018. 

Commenting on their participation, the curators say: “We are thrilled to collaborate with Manal AlDowayan to present stories from Saudi Arabia to a global audience. Throughout her career, AlDowayan has brought together communities in participatory, collaborative works that elevate and document their voices. Her profound connection to and her exploration of the changes taking place in Saudi Arabia earns immense respect both locally and globally. We are excited to work with her on this international platform, presenting a practice that brings together transnational perspectives in powerful ways.“

Dina Amin, Chief Executive Officer of the Visual Arts Commission says: “The Visual Arts Commission is delighted to work with talented practitioners such as Jessica Cerasi, Maya El Khalil, and Shadin AlBulaihed. Their combined experience makes them the perfect team to work with Manal AlDowayan for her presentation at the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia at the Biennale Arte, an important international platform for exchange which presents us with a unique opportunity to bring Saudi talent to the forefront of the international stage.”

The concept and curatorial narrative of AlDowayan’s installation will be announced at a later stage. 

The exhibition will be on view from 20 April to 24 November 2024 at the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia’s permanent space at the Arsenale, Sale d’Armi, Venice, Italy. For more information, please visit the Saudi Arabia Pavilion.

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