The only museum of contemporary Saudi Arabian art in the world is in… Amsterdam. Established in 2008 by the Dutch lawyer Aarnout Helb, the Greenbox was set up as a cabinet museum. Its 70 square meters are located on the 5th floor of a building just off the Leidseplein, one of Amsterdam’s most popular areas.
The collection encompasses works of Abdulnasser Gharem, Ahmed Mater, Maha Mullah, Reem Al Faisal and Ayman Yossri Daydban, among others. It is complemented by a library about Saudi Arabian art and the many anecdotes and backgrounds Aarnout Helb can give you about the works.
Curiously Helb has never visited Saudi Arabia; his passion for Saudi art was contracted online and through exposure to Saudi art shown abroad, and reinforced by an interest in his own far-away Islamic cultural roots. The Greenbox is entirely the result of Helb’s personal efforts, as he has never sought or received funding from Dutch, Saudi or other sources. He regularly changes the exhibition in the museum and has loaned works for exhibitions in the Netherlands and abroad.
The museum lives especially online. Its facebook page surpassed 1 million likes in 2012, and the museum’s website hosts a dictionary of all Saudi artists Aarnout found some information about – some 200, and counting! Visits are according to opening hours or by appointment; in any case it is advisable to always call in advance.