Desert X AlUla

The third edition of Desert X AlUla, an international sculptural art exhibition, unfolds from February 9 to March 23, 2024, showcasing 15 newly commissioned artworks that delve into the theme ‘In the Presence of Absence’. Located in AlUla, a historically rich desert region in the Arabian Peninsula, this open-air exhibition welcomes all visitors to engage with contemporary art amidst the desert landscape. Curated by Maya El Khalil and Marcello Dantas, with artistic direction from Raneem Farsi and Neville Wakefield, Desert X AlUla aims to position AlUla as a global hub for monumental site-responsive art.

Ibrahim Mahama, Hanging Garden, Desert X AlUla 2024, photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.

Building on its previous editions, this year’s exhibition invites Saudi and international artists to explore the unseen and inexpressible aspects of deserts, challenging the notion of emptiness often associated with these landscapes. Through a dialogue with the landscape, nature, and heritage of AlUla, artists create works that emerge from the local context yet resonate globally.

Spanning three locations for the first time, Desert X AlUla allows visitors to traverse varied landscapes, experiencing artworks amidst the desert terrain, black lava stones, and preserved historical sites like the AlUla Railway Station. Artists spend time in AlUla, drawing inspiration from its landscape, which informs their proposals and artworks developed for the exhibition.

The full list of exhibiting artists are:

  • Aseel AlYaqoub, b. 1986, Kuwaiti
  • Ayman Yossri Daydban, b. 1966, Saudi-Palestinian
  • Bosco Sodi, b. 1970, Mexican
  • Caline Aoun, b. 1983, Lebanese
  • Faisal Samra, b. 1955, Saudi Arabian
  • Filwa Nazer, b. 1972, Saudi Arabian
  • Giuseppe Penone, b. 1947, Italian
  • Ibrahim Mahama, b. 1987, Ghanaian
  • Kader Attia, b. 1970, Algerian-French
  • Karola Braga, b. 1988, Brazilian
  • Kimsooja, b. 1957, South Korean
  • Monira Al Qadiri, b. 1983, Kuwaiti
  • Nojoud Alsudairi, b. 1994, Saudi Arabian
  • Pascal Hachem, b. 1979, Lebanese
  • Rana Haddad, b. 1970, Lebanese
  • Rand Abdul Jabbar, b. 1990, Iraqi
  • Sara Alissa, b. 1990, Saudi Arabian
Caline Aoun, The Desert Has No Surface, Desert X AlUla 2024, photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.

From immersive installations like Kimsooja’s spiraling chromatic walls to Ayman Yossri Daydban’s mysterious football pitch outlined with white stones, each artwork offers a unique perspective on the desert’s hidden narratives. Other notable works include the installation by Rana Haddad and Pascal Hachem which pays homage to the traditional crafts of the area by constructing a sanctuary using rammed earth jars,  Caline Aoun’s shimmering stones reflecting the impermanence of the desert, and Ibrahim Mahama’s scattered terracotta pots suggesting new ecosystems emerging from historical relics.

Accompanying the exhibition are a series of events including curator and artist talks, art workshops, and music performances, enriching the visitor experience. Additionally, a special commission by Tino Sehgal explores the interaction between natural elements and human intervention in the desert environment.

Desert X AlUla underscores the importance of art in cultural exchange and dialogue, fostering collaboration between artists, curators, and local communities. It contributes to AlUla’s burgeoning arts scene while celebrating the region’s heritage and natural beauty. As part of the AlUla Arts Festival, Desert X AlUla offers a vibrant celebration of contemporary art, further enriching the cultural landscape of AlUla and its role in shaping the future of art history.

Ayman Yossri Daydban, A rock garden in the shape of a full-sized soccer field, Desert X AlUla 2024, photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.

Location: AlUla Desert, KSA

Date: February 9 to March 23, 2024

Caption featured image: Rana Haddad and Pascal Hachem, Reveries, Desert X AlUla 2024, photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.



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