Swiss showcase for Saudi artists

VOLTA Art Fair and ATHR Foundation team up in Basel for groundbreaking collaboration 


Identifying likeminded partners for collaborative projects can be a challenge, but also immensely satisfying when successful, as evidenced by the current project organised by ATHR Foundation together with VOLTA Art Fairs.

The two art pioneers have teamed up to give a platform to 12 talented, unrepresented artists from Saudi Arabia at a 70-square-metre, cultural spotlight pavilion at ELYS, Elsässerstrasse, from June 13-19, in an initiative coinciding with Art Basel.

The first-time collaboration was initiated by vice chairman of the Saudi Art Council and co-founder of ATHR Gallery, Mohammed Hafiz, together with VOLTA fair director Kamiar Maleki. It forms part of the 2022 edition of VOLTA Basel, which is showcasing a diverse range of carefully curated presentations of global contemporary art. 

Sahrish Ali

Maleki explained that the philosophies and aims shared by VOLTA and ATHR Foundation, which is an independent, non-profit, organisation based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, meant there was plenty of scope for a fruitful collaboration. “VOLTA has always been about giving a platform to emerging and underrepresented artists,” he explained. “ATHR’s team has extensive knowledge of the Saudi art scene and is known for supporting independent and unrepresented artists. We were aware of the artistic talent in Saudi Arabia and knew that ATHR’s local expertise and passion for promoting the country’s contemporary talent would enable us to work together and open doors together for these artists.”

The artists whose work is on show at the pavilion are: Aisha Zakiya Islam; Alaa Tarabzouni; Asaad Badawi; Fahad bin Naif; Lujain Faqerah; Nojoud Alsudairi; Obadah Aljefri; Sahrish Ali; Sara Brahim; Zahra Bundakji; Zena Amer; and Rajaa Al Haj and Yasmeen Alsudairy.

Each of the artists explores the notion of intangibility in the works on show, which was the theme chosen for the regional spotlight by the Jeddah-based curator, Jumana Ghouth, resulting in a gloriously diverse range of pieces for audiences to view.

Joumana Ghouth

VOLTA also adopts an inclusive approach towards art enthusiasts at events such as Basel, in line with its philosophy and cornerstones, which are: Discover. Connect. Collect. “VOLTA has always been about giving talented, but lesser-known artists a well-deserved spotlight at high-profile events and aiding their discovery,” Maleki explained. “But by holding counterpoint events coinciding with major fairs, we are also providing opportunities for less-experienced collectors to make connections. Established artists and collectors often know exactly what they want. Our ethos is all about mutual connectivity, enabling emerging artists and collectors, including those just starting out, to meet at international art hubs and promoting exchanges between them.”

VOLTA also extends its philosophy to its own operations, ensuring its team plays a hands-on role at its fairs, by being approachable and available for a chat with visitors. 

The face-to-face interaction is especially welcome as the art world returns to physical fairs after an era marked by online events. VOLTA held its first post-pandemic in-person event in Basel in September 2021, where, Maleki said, the atmosphere was one of pure joy. “There was inevitably still caution, but everyone was incredibly excited and attendance at our events has been great, with the New York fair in May extremely busy,” he said. “I think people are really keen to experience art up close again and I’m sure that will be the case in Basel this week as well.”

VOLTA Basel can be found at ELYS Elsässerstrasse 215A, June 13-19, 2022


A Handshake by Zahra Bundakji

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