Globalization and the role of the Sharjah Biennial in the transformation of Saudi contemporary sculpture



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Religion was the primary factor that has shaped Saudi Arabia sculpture since the mid-twentieth century, limiting sculptural expression which, more so than other artistic forms, has traditionally fallen under the influence of religious restrictions. However, it has been observed that the contemporary sculptural works of Saudi sculptors participating in the Sharjah Biennial as of 2003 have followed a different approach that has departed from the traditional. This significant shift in sculptural approach was examined in this study, which takes into account the influence of globalization on artists’ methods of making art and on their participation in the Sharjah Biennial. By concentrating on their sculptural work to contextualize this transformation, I have explored the Sharjah Biennial as a globalized place located geographically in an environment that embraces art, politics, and religion to create an influential global community in which artists, curators, and critics collaborate to produce creative knowledge, whether in the form of art or dialogue, in the Arab Gulf region. In addition, this study discusses the extent to which certain aspects of globalization are reflected in the Sharjah Biennial in its transition to a biennial of the 21st century. These aspects are used as a measure to assess the impact and importance of the Sharjah Biennial. I argue that globalization was the main factor in the transition of Saudi sculpture from modern-traditional to contemporary that was verified by their participation in the Sharjah Biennial, a Biennial that offered Saudi sculptors a space to face cultural challenges and allowed them to expand the concept of sculpture to transcend the range of religious boundaries.

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Globalization, Sharjah Biennial, Saudi contemporary sculpture, Religion, Islamic Awakening, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates