Hayy Jameel Façade Commission
Hayy Jameel Façade Commission: The Cell by Zahrah Alghamdi
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The Hayy Jameel Façade Commission held every year allows Saudi and Saudi-based artists to win the opportunity to create public artwork on the 25m front of the Hayy Jameel building. For the latest iteration of the Façade Commission, the jury considered 50+ proposals received via an open call. The Cell, artist Zahrah Alghamdi’s proposal inspired by the history and mythology of such material as clay, was selected for the commission. It will be on display on the Hayy Jameel building’s façade until the 1st of September, 2024.

The Cell is a sculptural artwork which speaks to the common origins and the shared histories of humanity across time. It is a patchwork tapestry comprising multiple draped and layered pieces of earth tones fabric which are moulded with clay. The art piece symbolises both the individual and the collective. It pays tribute to how each person is a crucial part of the collective and calls for a harmonious and diverse congregation of all people who can build a more compassionate world together.

Zahrah Alghamdi, The Cell. Hayy Jameel, Jeddah, 2023-2024.

Speaking about Alghamdi’s proposal, Nora Razian (Deputy Director and Head of Exhibitions at Art Jameel) said: “The […] jury […] selected [it] for [Dr. Zahra’s] ingenuity and the thoughtful integration of locally sourced materials […].” Razian added that the commission aimed to foster ideas rooted in the unique context of Saudi and connect this to a broad public.

It should be mentioned that the jury also decided to award a Jury Special Mention to two of the shortlisted proposals, recognising their originality and bold vision. The first one is Children of the Sea by Basmah Felemban, Abeer Sultan, and Mubarak Mahdi. The second proposal is Manifesting Eve by Sarah Al Abdali.

About the artist

Zahrah Alghamdi (b. 1977, Al Baha, KSA), a contemporary artist, Associate Professor of Visual Art and Design, and a Faculty Member at the University of Jeddah, resides in Jeddah (KSA). She obtained her BA in Islamic Arts from King Abdulaziz University (Jeddah). After that, she pursued her education at Coventry University (UK), from which she graduated with an MA in Contemporary Craft. Alghamdi also earned a PhD in Design and Visual Art from the same university.

Zahrah Alghamdi, What Lies Behind the Walls, 2021. Particles of earth, clay, rocks, leather, and water. Various Sizes.

In her art, Alghamdi focuses on such themes as cultural identity, memory, history, and loss, exploring them through traditional architecture. With the idea of embodied memory being at the centre of her practice, the artist uses different natural materials (soil, clay, pebbles, leather, etc.) and traditional methods to produce site-specific installations which expand across architectural structures and natural landscapes. 

Alghamdi has displayed her artworks in several solo and group exhibitions including In/visible: Objects in the Mirror (Athr, Jeddah, 2023); Coachella Desert X (Coachella, USA, 2021); After Illusion (Venice Biennale, Venezia, Italy, 2019); and others. In 2017, she undertook the Artists in Labs residency in Zurich (Switzerland). Alghamdi’s creations have been featured in such public collections as the Centre Pompidou (Paris, France), the British Museum (London, UK), and the Art Jameel Foundation (Dubai), to name a few.

To get more information about The Cell, please visit the Façade Commission’s official web page.

You might also be interested in looking at Formation III: The Dappled Light of the Sun by Conrad Shawcross.

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