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the Bicycle. At an astonishing 15-meters high, it also has the distinction of being the world’s largest bike. Fashioned of rusty scrap metals by Spanish artist Julio Lafuente, the Bicycle occupies one of Jeddah’s busiest intersections and is accompanied by a spare wheel. Another favorite is Lafuente's Illuminated Globe. With a surface area of 600 square meters, the globe’s specially constructed steel frame had to allow for heat expansion in Jeddah’s blistering summer temperatures. Unfortunately, years of neglect, graffiti, indifference and vandalism have all taken their toll. Compounded by exposure to Jeddah’s intolerable heat, stinging winds, inescapable sandstorms and salty sea air, more than 125 of the original 526 sculptures have been lost to the elements. Well-meaning attempts to fix some of the broken or damaged works were crude patchwork at best. The Jeddah Restoration Project is now
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historical, whimsical, geometrical, science and so on. The sculptures are fashioned out of everything from bronze and steel, to marble, concrete and local stone, and even scrap iron and recycled machinery. Many of the municipality’s estimated 350 sculptures are easily accessible, whether they stand in center islands dividing the roadways, in the middle of huge traffic circles, or in the world’s largest public open-air art museum, Al Hamra. While driving on Corniche Road, along the Red Sea coastline, visitors to Jeddah may chuckle upon seeing The Accident: five automobiles that appear to have randomly crashed into an enormous chunk of concrete. Just down the road in a lagoon appears the graceful, 3.6-metertall Sunflower Fountain by Finnish artist Eila Hiltunen — one of only two women commissioned for the Jeddah Beautification Project. Among the best-known sculptures is
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Fisherman's Net II
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Jeddah is home to 350 pieces of public art as well as beautiful mosques, including Ar-Rahmah Mosque (opposite page), also known as "the floating mosque" for how it seemingly hovers over the Red Sea.
underway to restore, repair and reposition many of these marvelous but weatherbeaten masterpieces. Restoration funds are being raised through private donations and corporate sponsors. “We were obliged to ship three of the sculptures to the United Kingdom because of the extensive damage they sustained over the years,” says the Jeddah businessman heading up the project, Mr. Fady Jameel, whose family has been a generous arts supporter for decades. Jeddah’s public art is finally receiving a much-needed facelift, sure to provide its residents with many more years of enjoyment, cultural enlightenment and art appreciation that is unique to this oncesleepy fishing village on the Red Sea. Susie Khalil is an American artist and writer who lives in Jeddah with her Saudi husband. When she’s not out trying to get just one more photo of the Illuminated Globe, she can be found snorkeling in the Red Sea. september / october 2012
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