Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sculpture Mysteries Solved

Art has always been a passion of mine, ever since I could pick up a crayon in my chubby little fingers when I was a toddler and turned a blank piece of white paper into an artistic masterpiece - in my eyes, anyway. I have always drawn, painted and created as long as I can remember. So when we moved to Jeddah in 2007, one of the reasons for my excitement was the wondrous assortment of public art in the form of sculptures adorning the city that I could hardly wait to feast my eyes upon.

"Alterations in Space" sculpture by Dr. François Kovacs - in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
In the five years since I have been here, there are still some sculptures that I have not yet seen or photographed. Even so, I have taken thousands upon thousands of photos of these sculptures and have published many on my blogs and posted others in some online photo albums. One thing that I have found very frustrating, though, was the lack of information about many of the sculptures around the city. The only reliable source of reference has been a book called Jeddah: City of Art by Hani M. S. Farsi, however the book is now over 20 years old and contains only a fraction of Jeddah's amazing sculptures.

"Family" sculpture by Dr. François Kovacs - in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
I wrote an article about the sculptures for Ethiopian Airlines new in-flight magazine "Selamta" earlier this year.  In the article I mentioned  The Jeddah Restoration Project, which has been going on now for almost a year - a process whereby many of the sculptures of Jeddah are being repaired, refurbished, and restored to their original glory. Over the decades many of the sculptures have been vandalized, graffitied, or have suffered the ill effects of Jeddah's heat and harsh climate as well as the elements of the salty sea air and dust in the atmosphere.

"Circle and Square" sculpture by Dr. François Kovacs - in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Through my blog postings, I have been contacted by several relatives of the artists and craftsmen who have had a hand in creating some of Jeddah's sculptures. It has been a thrilling and rewarding aspect of blogging for me.

Dr. François Kovacs during production of his Jeddah sculpture "Circle and Square"
So it is my great pleasure to know that my photo blog was instrumental in solving some of the mysteries surrounding the origins of several of the sculptures of Jeddah. At least five sculptures that were listed as "Artist Unknown" can now be attributed to the work of talented Belgian artist  Dr. François Kovacs. The sculptor's son, Dr. Blaise Kovacs, wrote to me and identified one of my sculpture postings as having been made by his father. He also sent me the link to his father's website. Upon viewing the website, I immediately realized that it was likely that several more pieces of art in Jeddah should be credited to Dr. François Kovacs.

"Heart Cross Section" sculpture by Dr. François Kovacs - in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
François I. KOVACS was born in Hungary in 1915.  At age 16, Kovacs began working as a sculptor of monuments alongside his brother Erno.  This was when he learned all the basics of sculpting.  As a young man he studied art (painting and drawing) as well as medicine, both fields of interest that he was passionate about.  In 1956 with the advent of the Hungarian Revolution, Kovacs fled from his homeland to Belgium, where he practiced medicine and lived out the rest of his life.  He also conducted insightful medical research which garnered him the respect of his peers.  The doctor devoted himself to his art in his spare time and made many trips to Italy so he could work with marble.   He managed to have successful careers in medicine as well as in art.   Kovacs died in Brussels in 2005.

Dr. François Kovacs during production of his sculpture "Heart Cross Section"

Thanks to Dr. Blaise Kovacs for the use of the photos of his father with the sculptures.



24 comments:

  1. Very Awesome. I have that exact book
    "Jeddah :city of art" but also find that I have seen so many sculptures around the city that are in fact missing from that book....

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    1. Hi Renee - Yes, my copy of the book is well worn. You might be interested to know that there is a new book about the sculptures of Jeddah in the works.

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  2. This is wonderful. Hope you find out about more of the unknowns. Blogging brings people together.

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    1. Hey Gaelyn - Blogging has just opened the world up to so many people and really does bring people together. It's an amazing phenomenon.

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  3. Whenever I'm in Jeddah, I enjoy looking at the public art displayed in the centre of the roundabouts/traffic circles. Thank you for giving me new ones to search for next time I'm there :)

    murgatr
    Yanbu Al-Sinaiyah, KSA

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    1. Hi Murgatr - You are most welcome. I would suggest that you drive along the Corniche - there are many sculptures there - as well as visiting the Al Hamra Open Air Museum, where there are also many sculptures in one huge place.

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    2. Thank you Susie - I like spending time along the Corniche, there are lots of interesting things to see there (even during prayer time!). Am sure my kids would like to go to the museum also.

      murgatr

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    3. Me too! I have taken some of my most interesting photos at prayer time along the Corniche. Problem is we don't get down there often enough!

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  4. Kovacs did an amazing job adding art to Jeddah. I used to look at the sculptures with my children when I used to live in Jeddah and wonder who made them. Through his art, he's played a major part in everyone's memories of the cornice. Is he even responsible for the car in cement sculpture?

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    1. No - many artists from around the world contributed in making the sculptures of Jeddah. Some of them are well documented as to who was responsible for their creation. Others are not. The ones that Kovacs made were only credited to a vague group of Belgian artists. The Accident was actually made by the Spanish artist, Julio Lafuente. Here is a post about it: http://susieofarabia.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/accident-sculpture/

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  5. I came across your blog by chance this morning while visiting Skywatch Friday participants and I am so glad I did. Will be following with interest. :)

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    1. Thank you, LindyLou! I love making new blogging friends from around the world!

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  6. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it,
    you will be a great author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back at
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  7. Very interesting post! Thanks for sharing :)

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  8. Long time no see on the cyberworld. I reckon you're back in ME?

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    1. Hi Photo Cache - Yes, I returned to KSA the end of October after spending three months back in the states with my family.

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  9. These are amazing. It must be wonderful to be surrounded by such works.

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    1. Hi Sandy - I know there are a lot more public sculptures in the city that I haven't yet seen. Lucky for me, I have always loved art.

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  10. Wonderful captures! These sculpture photos are fantastic. I like them very much.

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  11. I love the arts/sculptures around Jeddah. My favorites are the 'Sunflowers' at the Corniche, 'The Car on a Flying Carpet' near Red Sea Mall and 'The Giant Bicycle' at the corner of Rawdah street and Siteen street. What's yours? God bless you and your family Susie!

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    1. Hi DonPepe - It's really hard to pick favorites! I'm totally in awe of the really large sculptures like The Bicycle, The Cosmos, and The Illuminated Globe. And I absolutely love the Mameluke Lanterns and The Sunflower Fountain. There are just so many more that are among my favorites - too hard to choose!

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  12. Hi Susie, I'm new to your blog and to Jeddah. Thank you for sharing your insights as an outsider on the inside. I wonder if you could give your take on the fruit-in-a-ship sculpture in my neck of the woods. I call it the "New Money" sculpture, but I'm sure there's a more proper name for it somewhere. A few days ago I saw an Indian man getting his photo taken in front of it, and I wished I had a camera so I could take a picture of the guy getting his picture taken. Do you ever get harassed for pulling out your camera?

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    1. Hi Shannon - Welcome to Jeddah! I actually call that sculpture The Fruit Boat, although I don't know if that's the official name for it. I have gotten many looks while taking pictures, and I have been reprimanded less than a handful of times. But it is legal to take photos here in public - you just have to be careful around government buildings and try to ask first if recognizable people are in your shotm but that's not always possible.

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