Desert X AlUla, a recurring and temporary open-air art exhibition in the globally significant ancient desert region of AlUla in the Arabian Peninsula, returns for its third edition from February 9 to March 23, 2024. This exhibition, part of the AlUla Arts Festival, is a collaboration with Desert X and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), with artistic directors Raneem Farsi and Neville Wakefield leading the event and curators Maya El Khalil and Marcello Dantas overseeing the exhibition.
Themed “In the Presence of Absence,” Desert X AlUla 2024 explores the unseen and the inexpressible in deserts, challenging the perception of these spaces as empty and static. Artists are encouraged to engage with the imperceptible forces and atmospheres of time, wind, light, and history woven into the landscape, presenting visionary contemporary artworks amidst AlUla’s extraordinary desert landscape.
Desert X AlUla serves as a platform for cultural dialogue and exchange, fostering collaboration between artists, curators, and international and local communities. It draws inspiration from the principles of land art, offering a unique opportunity to experience art in harmony with nature. The exhibition has played a pivotal role in paving the way for the development of Wadi AlFann, a monumental site-specific, permanent land art project set to open in AlUla in 2026.
As a historic cultural site and a hub of Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning arts scene, AlUla values arts and creativity as essential components of enrichment. The upcoming edition of Desert X AlUla will be situated in various locations within the Wadi AlFann desert, Harrat Uwayrid, and AlManshiyah Railway Station, inviting visitors to experience landscapes as they navigate between artworks.
Desert X AlUla contributes to the artistic heritage of the local community and region, with works from previous editions acquired by RCU and displayed at various locations in AlUla. As part of the AlUla Arts Festival, Desert X AlUla offers a celebration of contemporary visual and public art, design, curated cinema, art tours, artist residencies, and hands-on workshops. The festival aims to immerse visitors in a diverse range of cultural experiences and promote arts education and enrichment in the community.
About Desert X
Desert X, produced by The Desert Biennial, aims to activate desert locations with recurring international contemporary art exhibitions featuring site-specific installations by renowned artists. Guided by principles of free public access and meaningful engagement with desert environments and indigenous communities, Desert X promotes cultural exchange and education through robust public programming. Since 2017, Desert X has hosted four exhibitions in the Coachella Valley and expanded globally, including Desert X AlUla in Saudi Arabia. Over 80 artists from diverse regions have contributed, exploring ecological, cultural, and spiritual themes, attracting over 1.7 million visitors. Funding comes from the board of directors, individual donors, foundations, and sponsors.
Location: AlUla Desert
Dates: February 9 to March 23, 2024
Caption featured image: Jim Denevan, Angle of Repose, Desert X AlUla 2022, All images courtesy The Royal Commission for AlUla, photo by Lance Gerber