• Kennedy Center exhibition and dinner reception includes first D.C. display of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri mural paintings by women artists from southern Saudi Arabia
  • High-level panel to explore the visual narrative of change in Saudi Arabia


The recently-established Misk Art Institute today announced that it is presenting a program of Saudi art, music and discussion in Washington D.C. on the occasion of the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to the United States.

The Institute, part of the Misk Foundation, the non-profit foundation established by H.R.H. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to empower Saudi youth, has organized two events in the city in collaboration with the Middle East Institute’s Arts and Culture program. The first event is a pop-up exhibition and dinner reception on Wednesday 21 March, to be held in the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, featuring major works by 33 artists from across the Kingdom, workshops, live music and remarks by Misk Foundation representatives. The exhibition includes the first showing in Washington D.C. of the specially commissioned Al-Qatt Al-Asiri mural paintings by women artists from southern Saudi Arabia. This specific tradition of collective mural painting was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2017.

On Thursday 22 March, Newseum will be the venue for ‘Saudi Arabia – changing landscapes’ an invitation only panel discussion exploring the narrative of change in Saudi Arabia, through the lens of an artist and photographer from Saudi Arabia and a veteran journalist to provide an American perspective on social change. Kate Seelye, Vice President of the Middle East Institute, will introduce the panel comprising Ahmed Mater, Saudi artist and Misk Art Institute director; Ayesha Malik, a young photographer based between Riyadh and New York; and Deborah Amos, an award-winning journalist who has visited and reported on Saudi Arabia for decades. The event will be moderated by Michelle Kosinski, Senior Diplomatic Correspondent at CNN. Images from MEI’s Colbert Held Collection, a unique collection of over 18,000 color Kodachrome slides of photos of the Middle East donated by Colbert Held in 2014 will also be featured.

Ahmed Mater, Director of the Misk Art Institute, said:

“We are delighted to be bringing some of the best contemporary Saudi art to Washington D.C. during the visit of H.R.H. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It shows both the wealth of artistic talent in Saudi Arabia, and how art, and cultural expression and the creative industries are an integral part of the change that is transforming the Kingdom, helping ensure a vibrant society.

“Misk Art Institute, like the Misk Foundation more generally, works to empower the young Saudi population unleash its talent. We do this at home, but vitally, by encouraging international cultural exchange and diplomacy, also abroad. It is essential at this time that Saudi artists engage with audiences around the world, as they are here in Washington D.C., to help to tell the continuing story of change in Saudi Arabia”.

Saudi artist Ali Moghawi who is in Washington D.C. and who led the Al-Qatt Al-Asiri mural paintings project, said:

“For decades, reviving Al-Qatt Al-Asiri traditional art, was no more than a dream. Now, we now witness the realization of this dream as we are provided with an international platform where we can share it and provide art lovers and enthusiasts with the opportunity to behold the beauty of this ancient art and delve into its shapes, colors and geometric angles. Today we are with Misk, in Washington, the metropolis of art, presenting Asiri art to the world. This is a new testament of our leaderships confidence in this historic art and flexibility to embrace development and present it to the world in the best manner.”

His wife, Fatimah Fayaa, said:

“For many years I have been working on Asiri art in collaboration with many creative artists who are equally committed and passionate about this art. Today, I am very happy with Al-Qatt Al-Asiri traditional art being recognised as an artistic heritage and it will be protected by entities who appreciate its historical cultural and artistic value. I look forward to cooperating with these entities to further preserve and spread this art around the world. This is a great achievement by Misk Institute of Arts and all those who have been dedicated to this spectacular art of Asir.”

Riyadh / New York based Photographer, Ayesha Malik said:

“I remember in college constantly repeating myself, telling those around me that Saudi Arabia was changing in ways that people don’t even realize, at a pace faster than appears. Now, concrete political, cultural, economic, and social reforms are opening the doors to a time of transformative possibility. You have young people who were already taking steps into a future of their own making – engaging them further with the proper tools, there is a hopeful energy that permeates the air.”

Misk Art Institute is also arranging cultural events and meetings as part of the Crown Prince’s visit in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.