The Sultanate of Oman will participate in the 59th Venice Biennale, making it the first country to debut a national pavilion at the prestigious exhibition since Ghana in 2019. The exhibition had been postponed a year due to the pandemic and is now scheduled to run from April into November 2022.
Oman’s inaugural presentation will be curated by Aisha Stoby, an art historian specializing in art from Oman and the Arab world. Five artists will be on display: the pioneering painter Anwar Sonya, often considered the “godfather” of contemporary Omani art; Hassan Meer, the founder of The Circle, a platform for experimental art in the Sultanate, as well as the influential Stal Gallery in Muscat; photographer and installation artist Budoor Al Riyami, winner of Grand Prize at the 13th Asian Art Biennale in 2008; and Radhika Khimji, whose feminist practice employs painting, collage, sculpture, and textile work. Additionally, the late sound and installation artist Raiya Al Rawahi, who died in 2017 from cancer at age 30, will have her final works shown.
The pavilion is being funded by Oman’s ministry of culture, which is helmed by the Crown Prince of Oman Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham Al Said. The ministry will also stage a series of cultural programming to coincide with the exhibition focused on youth engagement with the country’s burgeoning contemporary arts scene.
The 59th Venice Biennale is titled “The Milk of Dreams,” after a children’s book by the Mexican Surrealist Leonora Carrington. According to artistic director and curator, Cecilia Alemani, the exhibition focuses on three themes: “the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses; the relationship between individuals and technologies; the connection between bodies and the Earth.”