British Museum creating two more shows for Saudi Arabia

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Cultural centre honouring King Abdulaziz already working with the Pompidou Centre, Paris

By Javier Pes. Web only
Published online: 19 March 2014

How the centre designed by Snøhetta could look

The British Museum is organising two exhibitions for the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Saudi Arabia, having formally started working on the project at the end of 2013, we can reveal. The vast complex that includes a museum is already working with the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Originally scheduled to open in 2013, the centre in the eastern city of Dharhan is now due to be unveiled in 2015.

A project curator is needed to advise “an external organisation” to develop two exhibitions on calligraphy and Saudi Arabian culture, according to a job advertised on the British Museum website (closing date 2 April). A museum spokeswoman confirms the organisation is the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture.

The cultural centre is being built by the state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco and will be near its oil museum as well as the Prosperity Well, a national landmark that commemorates where oil was first discovered in the kingdom in commercial quantities. The cultural centre designed by the Norwegian architects Snøhetta will include a world-class library and archives, host touring exhibitions as well house a museum that will have four main galleries.

Meanwhile, in Medina the British Museum helped organise “Words and Illuminations” an exhibition in the Saudi Arabian city that opened in February (until 9 May).

The British Museum is also active elsewhere in the Gulf. It is providing wide-ranging advice to the Zayed National Museum named after another Arab head of state, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who founded the United Arab Emirates.

Besides the kudos of cultural diplomacy fostered by such international partnerships, they help the British Museum and Centre Pompidou raise significant income at a time when state funding is being cut in the UK and France.

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