O ne of the reasons that I was excited at the prospect of moving to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in the first place was because it is a city filled with art, mostly in the form of sculptures, everywhere.
A number of the sculptures are made of recycled aircraft, boats, and machinery. Many invite interaction with humans, others are stunning to behold, and some are just plain wierd. Reknowned artists from all over the world have contributed works to Jeddah's amazing display of art - like Miro, Moore, Lafuente, Cesar, Hollman, and Vasarely, as well as many talented Saudi artists.
During the second half of the 20th Century, Jeddah's growth exploded in an unprecedented spectacular fashion. Transformed from a totally walled-in seaport with its gates closed and boarded up every evening to keep its citizens safe, Jeddah's population burst from a paltry 25,000 to present day estimates of about 4 million residents. The oil boom brought Jeddah's walls crashing down and frenzied development ensued. In fifty years, Jeddah grew in both population and in land area more than 100 times.
Turning Jeddah into the world's largest open air free art museum was the vision of architect Mohamed Said Farsi. In 1972, Farsi was named its Mayor, which allowed him to develop the city's ambitious master plan while preserving its history and heritage, with art and culture playing a major role in the beautification of Jeddah. Mayor Farsi and his team tackled the project in an unconventional manner, forgoing the usual public art forums of museums and galleries and instead opting to take art out into the streets and merging it into the daily lives and business of all its residents.
Setting up the permanent placement for many of the larger sculptures turned many projects into engineering feats, with some taking as many as seven or more years from start to finish. Some of the works of art were created in other countries, shipped to Jeddah, and due to the sheer size, weight, and bulk of some of the pieces, took several days of logistical juggling just to get the components from the port to their designated sites. Another remarkable and noteworthy tidbit of information is the fact that the initial $150 million (US) spent on the art and landscaping was paid for by corporations and private donors, not out of the city's or the kingdom's budget, thanks to Farsi's impressive fundraising skills. I also thought it was interesting when I learned that the heart-themed sculptures around the city were in fact a result of Farsi's own open heart surgery, due in part to his grueling work schedule as Jeddah's Mayor.
As we have driven around the city, I have tried to take photos of as many of these sculptures as I can. It's not easy when one is whizzing by in a car, with other vehicles and signs in the way. Many of the sculptures are in the center of busy intersections. Many more decorate the Corniche, the boardwalk which stretches for miles along the Red Sea. There have been a few occasions when my hubby has taken me out to specifically photograph more of the sculptures of Jeddah. To date, I have photographed over one hundred fifty of them ... I still have a ways to go.
To see more of my photos of the city's famous open air art museum, visit my photo gallery of Jeddah's Sculptures.