Mu­nira Musalli: The mod­ern artist’s artist

She is con­sid­ered one of the most im­por­tant cre­ative minds in Saudi his­tory

Arab News - - News Saudi Arabia - Noor Nu­gali Riyadh Man­ager of Desert De­signs

A Saudi art gallery will be re­named in honor of the late mod­ern artist Mu­nira Musalli, Prince Badr bin Ab­dul­lah bin Farhan, the min­is­ter of cul­ture, has an­nounced.

Musalli, a pi­o­neer of art in Saudi Ara­bia, passed away on Fri­day at the age of 64, after a long strug­gle with kid­ney dis­ease.

The Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs was among those to pay trib­ute, prais­ing the artist’s work on Twit­ter for its rich­ness in cul­ture, hu­man­ity, and Ara­bic themes.

Dr. Ahmed Mater, di­rec­tor of the Misk Art In­sti­tute, was a close friend of Musalli. “She was one of the bravest artists I ever met. We had a friend­ship. I met her in Jed­dah and she vis­ited us here, in Riyadh. Misk hon­ored her work and achieve­ments.”

Mater was keen to high­light how Musalli never let her gen­der pre­vent her tak­ing on chal­lenges. “She was a pi­o­neer. A brave mod­ern artist dur­ing that time. Her work doc­u­mented her dif­fi­cul­ties, but her art was ex­em­plary. A mod­ern artist ahead of her time, and a trailblazer for women in art,” he said.

Ra­neen Bukhari, the man­ager of Desert De­signs, has fond mem­o­ries of Musalli. “Mu­nira was there when Desert De­signs started ex­hibit­ing,” Bukhari told Arab News. “She sup­ported us, brought all her friends, and oc­cu­pied the space as if it was hers. Her valu­able in­sight and ad­vice was in­te­gral dur­ing our hum­ble be­gin­ning, and she was al­ways a great friend.

“Her in­ter­est in Saudi and Ara­bian her­itage blended with ours, and we cre­ated won­der­ful work to­gether. She re­ally was a pi­o­neer in ev­ery­thing that she did. She was an in­spi­ra­tion to me.

“Her unashamed way of be­ing her­self, and speak­ing her mind, struck a chord with many women who met her.” Musalli was one of the most im­por­tant mod­ern artists in Saudi his­tory. She con­trib­uted to the de­vel­op­ment of the artis­tic move­ment, es­pe­cially among women, and held dozens of ex­hi­bi­tions, start­ing with a show at the School of Mod­ern Ed­u­ca­tion in Jed­dah, in 1968.

She also col­lab­o­rated with artists such as Yousef Ahmed and Ah­mad Bahrani in ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tions across the re­gion.

She es­tab­lished an art fes­ti­val in Alkho­bar in 2007, and won dozens of awards dur­ing her life, from Saudi Ara­bia, Bahrain, Dubai and else­where.

Be­fore her death, Musalli had been pre­par­ing a new ex­hi­bi­tion of her work in Mad­i­nah. Born in 1954 in Makkah, Musalli stud­ied at the Fac­ulty of Fine Arts in Cairo.

She re­ceived a diploma in de­sign in the US in 1979, and worked for a time at Saudi Aramco as di­rec­tor of pub­li­ca­tions be­fore turn­ing full­time to art.

Ra­neen Bukhari

Musalli’s in­ter­est in Saudi and Ara­bian her­itage blended with ours, and we cre­ated won­der­ful work to­gether. She re­ally was a pi­o­neer in ev­ery­thing that she did. She was an in­spi­ra­tion to me.Musalli was as a mod­ern artist ahead of her time, and a trailblazer for women in art.Her work doc­u­mented her dif­fi­cul­ties, but her art was ex­em­plary.

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