AlMashtal, a new Saudi art gallery, opened its doors to the public on Thursday in Riyadh's Diplomatic Quarter. The space has an in-built sound-proof music studio, library and open area that can be used by creatives in the city.
AlMashtal is the brainchild of two Saudi women who aim to support home-grown artists by providing a space they can use to design, explore and "market-test their products".
Noura Al Saud and Alaa Ghanimah come from diverse backgrounds. Al Saud studied art and design in London and went on to do masters in contemporary design, while Ghanimah specialised as a communications strategist in Riyadh.
"Coming back to Saudi, I was very inspired to learn about our country's design and art history and how it developed. We decided to go for the gallery after going out and speaking with creatives in the field of art and design, there aren't enough accessible places to showcase what they're doing. We wanted to provide an accessible platform for them to put up their work," Al Saud tells The National.
"I feel that the Saudi art scene changed so much in the last five years. There was no Ministry of Culture then. Having these emerging initiatives helped create an outlet for a creative community that has been working for so long. There’s a lot more we aren’t seeing, AlMashtal wants to help bring those in the spotlight."
The majority of galleries in the region, co-founder Ghanimah says, only showcase established artists. However, AlMashtal was born from a need to encourage and empower emerging local artists by providing a platform that better represents the kingdom's talent and youth. The selection of artists will depend on the narrative that comes with their works and stories, she explains. "We decided to include the gallery in our space functions to create access," she says.
"We want our gallery to be a story teller," Al Saud says.
For the opening on Thursday, the founders selected Saudi artist Abdulmohsen Al Rowais to exhibit. "We commissioned him to do the Dot exhibit. His work is displayed on wooden canvases to highlight the up-cycled reclaimed wood aesthetic of our physical space," Ghanimah says.
Al Rowais opened the space with a live art performance, painting a mural on the exterior wall of AlMashtal while a band played live music indoors. "This part of the exterior wall is meant to be accessible to every artist that exhibits in the gallery, they can use it as a canvas during their exhibition," Ghanimah explains.
AlMashtal aims to push and diversify the art scene “rather than anchoring it to a canvas on the wall.”