Abdulnasser Gharem - Artist with his artworks, Image copyright Alex Maguire

Abdulnasser Gharem/ Abdulnasser Gharem

Saudi Arabia 1973

Installation, Conceptual Art

Abdulnasser Gharem
Abdulnasser Gharem
Male
Saudi Arabia
1973

Artist and a soldier at the same time, Abdulnasser Gharem incorporates themes of control and authority in his work, striving to maintain the history upon which traditional art is built. Politically and socially conscious, his work refers to heritage as its basis. Challenging perception of art and visual culture in his native Saudi Arabia, Gharem carefully chooses the works for the exhibitions in his home country. This conceptual artist operates over a multitude of fields, exploiting photography, video, sculpture and performance, provoking the viewer to question the same authorities he upholds in his other job. His performances are held on the streets, aiming of involving the community and initiate a social critique.

Abdulnasser Gharem - Men at Work, 2010, photo via barjeelartfoundation.org
Abdulnasser Gharem – Men at Work, 2010, photo via barjeelartfoundation.org

Education and First Artistic Steps

Gharem was born in Khamis Mushait in 1973. After attending the Lieder Institute in Riyadh, he graduated at the King Abdulaziz Academy and improves his education at the Al-Meftaha Arts Village in Abha. Besides being an artist he is a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Saudi Arabian Armed Forces for more than two decades. In 2004, together with the Al-Meftaha artist, Gharem organized group exhibition Shattah, which challenged existing artistic practice in Saudi Arabia. Since this breakthrough, he has exhibited in numerous shows in the Gulf, Europe and the USA.

The exhibition Shattah challenged existing artistic practice in Saudi Arabia

Abdulnasser Gharem - Flora and Fauna, 2007, photo via lahdgallery.com
Abdulnasser Gharem – Flora and Fauna, 2007, photo via lahdgallery.com

Living in a City Without Art Spaces

Living in the city without museums and gallery spaces, he decided to come out with his idea straight to the street and become a living installation. His first performance, Flora and Fauna, happened in 2007 when he decided to draw the attention to the invasive kind of a tree that his government imported from Australia. He wrapped himself in plastic sheeting along with the tree, fulfilling his goal by engaging the local society in resolving the community problems. One more interesting theme that has emerged in his work is the oversized stamp, as a symbol of bureaucracy that controls every change in life. The stamps are a necessary part of the procedures that complicate and delay things and wasting the time.

Abdulnasser Gharems - Message-Messenger, 2011, Image copyright the artist
Abdulnasser Gharems – Message/Messenger, 2011, Image copyright the artist

Breaking the Records

In 2011, Gharem’s installation Message/Messenger that represents the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was sold for more than 800 000 American dollars, breaking the record price for contemporary Middle Eastern art. He used this money to help foundation of the nonprofit arts organization the Edge of Arabia that promotes art education and encourages Saudi artists. Although odd for a soldier to criticize the establishment whom he somehow belongs, his two careers complement each other making the unbreakable relationship.

Abdulnasser Gharem lives and works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Featured image: Abdulnasser Gharem – Artist beside his artwork, Image copyright Alex Maguire

YearExhibition titleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2013Abdulnasser GharemSide by Side Gallery, BerlinSolo
2013Abdulnasser GharemEdge of Arabia, LondonSolo
2012Arab Express: The Latest Art From the Arab World Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan Group
2012Porta dell'Oriente Roma Contemporary, Italy Group
2012Bending History Katara Galleries, Doha, Qatar Group
2012Hajj, Journey to the Heart of Islam British Museum, London Group
2012Edge of Arabia Al Furusia Marina, Jeddah Group
2012Contemporary Istanbul Turkey Group
2012Light from the Middle East: New Photography Victoria & Albert Museum, London Group
2012La voce delle immagini Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy Group
2011Political Patterns Ifa Galerie, Berlin Group
2011The Future of a Promise: Contemporary Art from the Arab World Magazzini del Sale, 54th Venice Biennale Group
2011The Bravery of Being Out of Range Athr Gallery, Jeddah Group
2011The New Middle East Willem Baars Projects, Amsterdam Group
2011Edge of Arabia Dubai: TERMINAL Building 9, Gate Village, Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Group
2011Uppers & Downers Traffic, Dubai Group
2011Nujoom: Constellations of Arab Art from The Farjam Collection The Farjam Collection, DIFC, Dubai Group
2011I Don’t Need Your Money Honey All I Need is Love Traffic, Dubai Group
2011Venice Biennale Venice, ItalyGroup
2010Edge of Arabia Istanbul: TRANSiTION Sanat Limani, Antrepo 5 Group
2010Opening the Doors: Collecting Middle Eastern ArtAbu Dhabi Art Group
2010CAVE: Contemporary Arab Video Encounter Maraya Arts Centre, Sharjah Group
2010Emerging Asian ArtistsGwangju Biennale Group
2010Edge of Arabia Berlin: Grey Borders, Grey Frontiers Soho House, Berlin Group
2010Fuck Ups, Fables and Fiascos Galerie Caprice Horn, Berlin Group
2010Edge of Arabia World Tour Launch Global Competitiveness Forum, Riyadh Group
2010Taswir: Pictorial Mappings of Islam and Modernity Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin Group
2010Abdulnasser GharemXVA Gallery, Dubai Solo
2009The 28th Annual Exhibition Gulf Fine Arts Society, Sharjah Group
2009Edge of Arabia Venice Palazzo Contarini Polignac, 53rd Venice Biennale Group
2008Edge of Arabia London: Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia SOAS Brunei Gallery, University of London Group
2007Still Life: Art, Ecology and the Politics of Change Sharjah Biennial 8 Group
2006Son of Aseer Al Meftaha Arts Village, Abha Group
2006Abdulnasser Gharem King Fahd Art Village, AbhaSolo
2004Shattah Atelier Gallery, Jeddah Group
2003Abdulnasser GharemAtelier, JeddahSolo