Art Jameel was established in 2003 as part of Community Jameel, the organisation set up to continue the Jameel family’s tradition of supporting the community — a tradition started in the 1930s by the late Abdul Latif Jameel, founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel business, who throughout his life helped tens of thousands of disadvantaged people in the fields of healthcare, education and improving livelihoods. Today, Community Jameel is dedicated to supporting social and economic sustainability, across the Middle East and beyond, through a range of initiatives.
Art Jameel is a complementary, independent organisation that fosters and promotes contemporary art, cultural heritage protection, and creative entrepreneurship across the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and beyond.
In 2003, Art Jameel partnered with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to renovate the Islamic gallery, now called the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art. Art Jameel’s work in supporting cultural heritage continued with, in 2009, the launch of the Jameel House of Traditional Arts / Cairo, a major teaching institution that preserves the heritage of traditional arts and crafts; supports young artists to develop contemporary designs from Egyptian traditions; and helps graduates apply their skills in the restoration of monuments or as entrepreneurs. In Jeddah, in 2013, Art Jameel (together with the Jeddah Municipality) completed the construction of an open-air sculpture museum on the Corniche, for which it first restored and then re-located 26 modern and contemporary sculptures from across the city.
As well as preserving heritage from the Middle East, a central pillar to Art Jameel’s mission is the support of new, contemporary artists from the region. In 2009, Art Jameel established the biennial Jameel Prize for contemporary art inspired by Islamic tradition, in partnership with the V&A, and in 2010, the annual Art Jameel Photography Award, which has now developed into a year-round educational programme.
Art Jameel was a founding member of Edge of Arabia; between 2010 and 2016, the two organisations co-produced major projects together, including ‘Our Mother’s House’ at the United Nations Head Quarters, New York; ‘Symbolic Cities – The Work of Ahmed Mater’ at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.; ‘Rhizoma’ at the Venice Biennale; and ‘#COMETOGETHER’, London. Art Jameel has also collaborated with CULTURUNNERS, an independent organisation supporting artists across borders. CULTURUNNERS is currently a mobile artist studio and broadcast vehicle, traveling across the US, launched in September 2014 at the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas.
Art Jameel also collaborated with the Crossway Foundation to organise journeys for young artists and creative professionals from the Gulf to explore other countries, visit arts spaces, attend workshops, meet local artists and produce new works. Among other initiatives, Journeys to Spain, Japan and the USA, have helped nurture more than 100 alumni over the past decade, many of whom have gone on to participate in Art Jameel’s wider programming.
In 2013, Art Jameel established Jeddah Art Week as a lively program of exhibitions, street performances and international symposia to support the contemporary arts, and became a founder partner of Arabian Wings, a non-profit organisation developing the appreciation of contemporary Arab art and culture with a particular focus on Saudi Arabia.
In other fields, Art Jameel has supported the literary arts through First Edition, supporting the debut publications of young Saudi writers, in collaboration with the Jeddah Literary Cultural Club.
The Art Jameel Education Programme was organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia and included workshops for art teachers to improve their teaching techniques, plus a yearly contest for students and exhibitions.
Connected – Art in Airports was launched with the aim of expanding audiences and awareness for Saudi art; in collaboration with the General Authority of Civil Aviation and the Saudi Art Association in Jeddah, art exhibitions have taken place to date in Hail, at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport and in Dammam.
Since 2015, Art Jameel has reinvigorated its support for cultural heritage, opening the Jameel House of Traditional Arts / Jeddah in the Old Town (Al-Balad) of Jeddah, and supporting the establishment of the Jameel House of Traditional Arts / Scotland on the estate of Dumfries House. Both institutions, like the Jameel House of Traditional Arts / Cairo, preserve traditional arts and crafts through education and help graduates apply those skills to heritage restoration or as entrepreneurs.