Mona Saudi, a Jordanian artist whose modern sandstone sculptures were seen worldwide, has died at 76. The news was shared by her daughter, the artist Dia Batal, who wrote in a statement, “With the heaviest heart, I share that my beautiful mama, sweetest grandmother and extraordinary artist, Mona Saudi, has left us last night in her beloved city Beirut. Words fail me beyond this.”
As a sculptor, Saudi fused modern signatures—elegant lines, clean surfaces—with motifs borrowed from ancient Levantine civilizations. Starting with simple shapes like squares, rectangles, and cylinders, she teased organic forms from blocks of jade, Jordanian marble, and limestone. Many were monumental in scale, like Géométrie de l’esprit (1987), which is installed outside the Insitut du Monde Arabe in Paris. Pale and vast, the sculpture evokes an alien artifact. Other sculptures were more grounded: in Mother/Earth, from 1969, a gentle figure cradles the sky.
Saudi was born in Amman, Jordan, in 1945. She left for Beirut in the 1970s to join the growing artistic milieu in the Lebanese capital. An active member of the scene, she grew close to Arab luminaries like the Syrian writer Adonis, Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, and Lebanese painter Paul Guiragossian. Darwish, in particular, inspired many of her drawings in which figures, some of them embracing or looking heavenward, are framed by cascading Arabic verse.
In an interview with the National in 2018, Saudi explained her decision to leave Jordan, saying, “This was how I planned my life. I wanted to do an exhibition and then go to Paris. Nobody supported me. I just decided to make my life by myself, so I abolished all kinds of obstacles: family, society, etc.”
She enrolled at the École Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, paying for her tuition with money earned from selling drawings in Beirut. Saudi returned to Beirut after graduation and remained there—throughout the Civil War and economic crisis—until her death.
Her first major retrospective was held in 1995 at Darat al Funun in Amman, followed by a solo exhibition at the Mosaic Rooms in London in 2018 and a survey at the Sharjah Art Foundation. Among other institutions, several of her works are owned by the British Museum. They will go on view in the forthcoming exhibition “Feminine Power.”
Admirers from around the world have shared their condolences on social media. William Lawrie, cofounder of the Dubai gallery Lawrie Shabibi, wrote on Instagram, “Very sad that Mona Saudi, the great Jordanian sculptor, left us tonight…we had our ups and downs, successes and disagreements, but really we shared many good times.”
The Mosaic Rooms shared a quote by Saudi: “I am still the child who started dreaming of living a creative life all those years ago, free and solid as a tree.”