Basma Al-Suleiman, is the Saudi woman who established a virtual museum in 2011, and called it “Basmooka,” which includes artworks by contemporary international artists from all over the world, such as the US, China, Europe and the Arab world. “My hobby from childhood was to collect artworks and collectibles.”
Basma said about the museum in an interview with “Sky News Arabia,” that it holds contemporary art, and displays its works and contents via the Internet using the technology of three-dimensional virtual worlds to the public, and another technology called “Plus Gaming”.
The Beginning of the Idea
She talked about the idea of the museum, saying: “The museum’s beginnings were for my hobby to collect artworks and collectibles in a personal way after my studies at King Abdulaziz University in the Department of English Literature. I tried to cultivate my hobby and love for art with culture, knowledge and information, in 2001, which increased my knowledge of the art that I was witnessing, and became a more deliberate selection of it than before.
Al-Suleiman said “I wanted to display an art collection in a place where everyone can visit, and by virtue of my presence abroad, I got acquainted with the new technology that allows a person to form a place in the virtual world that an individual can visit and see his products at any time and from anywhere in the world, hence the idea of Basmoka Museum.
She added it’s a virtual museum on the Internet with three dimensions that everyone from all parts of the world can visit and meet in it for dialogue and discussion. It is a museum that does not seek financial return but aims to spread cultural awareness in general among societies.
According to Basma, the Basmoka museum is keen on making exhibitions of contemporary artists, and building a bridge between Western and Arab civilizations, especially civilization and Saudi art.
The Museum Foundation noted that “its greatest focus is on introducing and disseminating Saudi culture and art in order to reach the largest segment of foreign societies, and the museum will be a gateway to learn about Saudi art, its pioneers and its contemporary culture, while providing the visitor with the opportunity for dialogue and to discuss these works and art groups with the artist.”
Regarding the museum’s technologies, Basma, who was chosen in 2014 as one of the most influential figures in the artistic life, said that the museum “allows visitors to download the application for roaming in the museum and log in to its website and then design their own personalities to use for roaming, socializing and communicating with others.
It also works on constantly diversifying the performances, such as presenting intercultural communication, a presentation on Saudi art and comparing it with the art of other countries in terms of similarities and differences, in addition to presenting exhibitions focusing on a well-known and world-famous artist such as Picasso, Van Gogh, and others.
“We live in the era of modern technology, especially the young generation who spends most of their time on computers and smartphones, and technology has become a natural part of their daily life at the same time,” she said.
On the other hand, museums, especially private ones, suffer from a lack of visitors for several reasons, including that visitors became less willing to move outside the boundaries of their surroundings and the usual range to them, especially during the spread of the Corona pandemic, which forced many to stay in homes or undergo quarantine, and so the idea of the museum was embodied in reaching and presenting artworks to the viewer at home.
Difficulties and Challenges
Regarding the difficulties that the museum faces in spreading its ideas, Basma says, “We seek to attract Western societies and introduce them to Saudi heritage; art and culture, but there are false external beliefs. We, like any other people, have hopes and aspirations and we have our own peculiarities that we respect. This does not hinder us from progressing and showing what we have. The evidence is that museum with its holdings of Saudi art, which was able to prove itself. Also, Saudi artists have proven their worth and ability to emulate any other artist through their ideas and the manner of implementation and the forms in which they show Saudi art, which despite it taking its first steps, is firm and based on solid foundations, and it is receiving a lot of encouragement from the government.”