The Sultanate of Oman will take part in the 59th Venice Biennale 2022, becoming the first country to debut a national pavilion at the prestigious art exhibition since Ghana did so in 2019.

Omani artist Radhika Khimji. Image courtesy of the National Pavilion of the Sultanate of Oman
Omani artist Radhika Khimji

Under the patronage of His Highness Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham Al Said, Minister of Culture, Sport and Youth, the pavilion, located in Venice’s Arsenale, will introduce the cultural history and traditions of the visual arts of Oman to the international public.

The multimedia exhibition will display the work of five prominent artists spanning three generations whose works have shaped and influenced the country’s contemporary art scene for the last fifty years. 

The exposition will introduce the artworks of painter Anwar Sonya, known as the “godfather” of Oman’s contemporary art scene; photographer and abstract artist Hassan Meer, renowned for his video installations and photographs inspired by the rich history, culture and spirituality of the country; photographer and videographer Budoor Al Riyami, winner of the Grand Prize at the 13th Asian Art Biennale in 2008 and the sculptor and textile artist Radhika Khimji.

Aisha Stoby, curator of the exhibition. Image courtesy of the National Pavilion of the Sultanate of Oman.
Aisha Stoby, curator of the exhibition

In addition, the final works of the late sound installation artist Raiya Al Rawahi, who died in 2017 from cancer aged just 30, will also be exhibited.

The show will be curated by Aisha Stoby, an art historian who focuses on Modern art of the Middle East. Stoby explained that “each of the five artists selected to represent Oman at the Biennale has made a significant contribution to their community by promoting contemporary art in the country in the last fifty years, also representing a source of inspiration for new generations“.

The participation of the Sultanate, also reinforcing the concept of Vision 2040, represents a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the country’s rich contemporary art scene and also helps to strengthen cultural dialogue with other countries and to build partnerships with international institutions, reflecting the strategy of strengthening the international presence put in place by the Sultanate.

Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham Al Said, Oman's Minister of Culture
Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham Al Said, Oman’s Minister of Culture

The Ministry of Culture also organized several cultural activities and events in Oman that will coincide with the exhibition, including internships, mentorships, and a lecture series, all aimed at fostering youth participation in the arts and at elevating the country’s contemporary art scene.

“The 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia represents a global platform unique in its kind, that will allow Oman to present its contemporary visual artists and to start a worldwide dialogue with the other pavilions through a showcase of Omani excellence. This epochal participation demonstrates the importance that the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Youth attaches to the visual arts. From the beginning, this initiative benefited from the support of His Majesty Sultan Haithum Al Said and his wise leadership”, commented Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham Al Said, Oman’s Minister of Culture.