Arts & Culture

How Faisal Alkheriji’s art represents Saudi culture differently

Inside the young artist’s first digital solo gallery, as unveiled by the Khaleeji Art Musuem.


By Sekka Editorial

Saudi artist Faisal Alkheriji. Image: Courtesy of Faisal Alkheriji.

Ever imagined seeing Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in  traditional Khaleeji attire? Now you can.

At 14:00 GMT, the Khaleeji Art Museum will open its second solo gallery of the year. Titled Representing Culture Differently, the digital gallery will showcase 19 paintings by emerging Saudi artist Faisal Alkheriji, that present Saudi culture in a novel manner. 

Amongst the artworks that will be on display in the dedicated gallery are REEMALisa and The Men of Saudi Arabia, which were inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Pablo Picasso’s Women of Algiers, respectively.  REEMALisa depicts a Saudi woman named Reema dressed in traditional Hijazi dress, and The Men of Saudi Arabia depicts Saudi men camping in a tent in the desert, a leisurely practice known in the Kingdom as a kashta

The Men of Saudi Arabia by Faisal Alkheriji. Image: Courtesy of Faisal Alkheriji.

“I get inspired by my culture, patterns related to my culture and I also get inspired a lot by other artists, globally and locally,” explains the 26-year-old artist, who first started painting at the tender age of six, when asked about the inspiration behind his artwork.  “Originally I started when I was young[er] by copying other artists and imitating their artworks. Then, as I grew up, my style started to shift to [creating] culture related paintings.”  

Amongst the artists that Faisal derives inspiration from are art giants Picasso and George Cando.  In his paintings, the young artist blends Picasso’s cubism and Condo’s surrealism with elements from Saudi and Arab culture, including fashion, cultural practices and idioms.  Alaa Rasah Risha, for example, is a literal artistic depiction of the expression that translates to “He has a feather on his head,” and that is widely used in the Gulf region and wider Arab world. It is commonly used to either to mock someone who thinks too highly of themselves, or to point out that a person is guilty of a bad act or crime.

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Speaking of his paintings he says “mostly they are of surreal characters painted in the cubism style, but you will always find something in them or their outfits that represents my culture.” He adds,  “And that’s the point of Representing Culture Differently, which is presenting elements of my culture with a twist and in a different way.” 

REEMALisa by Faisal Alkheriji. Image: Courtesy of Faisal Alkheriji.

In addition to depicting elements of his culture in his works, Faisal also paints portraits of important political and historical figures, such as Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud, the founder of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who reigned from 1964 to 1975. 

Through his artwork, Faisal  “would like to send a message about the beauty of our culture and that we need to embrace it and show it to the world. We have a very rich and historical culture that I don’t feel we do justice, and it is our job to show it to the world and keep our culture alive in any way possible. Art is one of them, and I’m sure that there are amazing artists or designers that will be able to show our culture very beautifully.”

Alaa Rasah Risha by Faisal Alkheriji. Image: Courtesy of Faisal Alkheriji.

Since its launch on in May 2020, the Khaleeji Art Museum, the first digital museum that is dedicated to showcasing and promoting the work of artists and photographers of the Arab Gulf States by holding digital exhibitions and galleries of their work, has held four online art exhibitions, including Khaleejis In The Time of Corona, Ramadan In Isolation, Art For Change and Enough Is Enough. It has also showcased paintings by the late Saudi artist Zakia Abdulaziz Al Dubaikhi and artworks by H.H. Sayyida Meyyan Shihab Al Said of Oman through dedicated digital galleries. 

In February 2021, the museum also teamed up with Dubai Festival City to organize nightly digital art shows that showcase the artworks of regional artists under a variety of themes such as food culture and Ramadan.  During the shows, the artworks are projected on a 36-story high building in Dubai Festival City -the largest permanent outdoor projection in the world- for visitors to see.

All past exhibitions and galleries are available for online viewing on

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