Jeddah’s 21, 39 Art Fair Explores the Secrets of the Universe

Where astronomy and reflection meet

This year has been a reflective time for all of us. We have become obsessed with the divine and the mysterious and looked to the wider universe for solace and introspection. And we’re not the only ones. The eighth edition of Jeddah’s 21, 39 art fair explores the fascination with astronomy and cartography.

Entitled ‘Secrets of Alidades’, this year’s exhibition draws inspiration from the alidade, a scientific and astronomical device for determining directions or measuring angles by posting to a star to determine directions.

Artwork by Aisha Islam

“This tool was used in the context of navigation, but here the alidade are the artworks. It means that my approach is allegorical. The subject of the show will be astronomy and cartography, but not necessarily in a literal way,” says the exhibition curator and French academic Dr. Fabien Danesi, a doctor of philosophy in art history and lecturer at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Picardie Jules Verne in France.

“Just as sailors used the stars to navigate the seas, artwork can help us drift in our cultural field with the contrary winds and ocean currents.”

The annual event, helmed by the Saudi Arts Council, is known for putting Jeddah’s contemporary art scene at the forefront and this year it is hoping to take the audience on an introspective mental journey.

Artwork by Alia Ahmad

Taking place at the city’s Gold Moor Mall and other locations, the exhibition’s special map will lead the audience to engage in the discovery of their environment with the help of the stars, the planets, and other ways of tracing trajectories. The program will feature Saudi and international artists through satellite exhibitions, talks,  screenings and workshops.

“For this year’s exhibition, Fabien has drawn on his inspiration, interest and passion for the stars, the planets and everything else that forms part of our great expanse in light of the tragic pandemic that has changed our lives forever,” adds Nada Sheikh, director of the Saudi Arts Council.

Artwork by Bashaer Hawsawi

Amongst participating artists is the Kingdom’s Ayman Zedani, according to Arab News. His artwork ‘Between Two Stars’ highlights the life of a parasitic desert plant called Cynomorium and the lessons that could be learned from it. 

“This type of plant has been relying on other desert plants to survive and continue its existence, and in the process I have been collecting DNA of those plants making it what I am calling an archive of the desert,” Zedani told Arab News.

Other artists include Alia Ahmad, Mohamed Alsanie, Bashaer Alhawsawi and Aisha Islam.


21, 39 Jeddah Arts opens on March 24, 2021

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