The monumental public sculpture one finds throughout Jeddah, mostly along the corniche, is one of the city’s most remarkable features. Featuring works by Henri Moore, Jean Arp, Joan Miró and Jacques Lipchitz, among others, the collection was established by the former mayor of Jeddah, Dr. Mohamed Said Farsi, in the 1970s and early 1980s. It was part of a beautification (tajmil) project the mayor launched, not only to improve the city’s aesthetics but also to acquaint the inhabitants with contemporary art and give the city an international look.
Many of the sculptures suffered over the years from the harsh climate and neglect, and also through inconsiderate treatment by the public, often not aware of the artistic value of the sculptures. One Saudi artist says he grew up among the sculptures but had no idea they were art, seeing them rather as fun things to climb on. A local collector regrets that there was no information about the artworks or the artist, not so much as a name plate.
Although many of the larger sculptures are scattered throughout the city’s roundabouts, the smaller and more valuable works were brought together in an open air museum alongside the seashore in Al Hamra. This collection is currently being restored, and might be relocated to a nearby public venue. As to the rest of the public artworks, they are best seen driving around the city – which is the inhabitants’ favorite pastime. The entire collection and how it came into being is documented in Mr. Hani Farsi’s book: “Jeddah, City of Art”, a coffee table book that is now out of print.