colossal installations at AlUla’s arts valley: from ahmed mater to james turrell + michael heizer

colossal installations at AlUla’s arts valley: from ahmed mater to james turrell + michael heizer



Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission for AlUla has revealed five initial permanent installations that will be completed by 2024 for AlUla’s ‘Wadi AlFann’ —or ‘Valley of the Arts’. Spanning approximately 65 sq km across its untamed landscape, the spectacular desert valley will host large-scale site-specific artworks by American artists James Turrell, Agnes Denes, and Michael Heizer, as well as Saudi names Ahmed Mater and Manal AlDowayan. These five outstanding pieces will mark the start of a continued program of commissions, with more artists and activities to be announced.


Juxtaposed with the exceptional geography steeped in thousands of years of natural, historical, and cultural heritage, the contemporary artworks will create a dialogue with nature, honoring the human creativity that links different cultures and communities across the world.colossal installations at AlUla’s arts valley: from ahmed mater to james turrell + michael heizer

renders of Ashab Al-Lal by Ahmed Mater at Wadi AlFann. Visualization by Atelier Monolit. ©ATHR Gallery



Ashab Al-Lal by Ahmed Mater coexists in harmony with nature


Wadi AlFann’s epic scale commissions by pioneer Land Art artists James Turrell (see more here), Agnes Denes (more here), Michael Heizer, Ahmed Mater (here), and Manal AlDowayan (here) will be materialized in harmony with the Royal Commission for AlUla’s commitment to the natural heritage and biodiversity of this millennia-old location.


For AlUla’s Wadi AlFann, Ahmed Mater, one of Saudi Arabia’s most influential contemporary artists, introduces his colossal ‘Ashab Al-Lal’, which will explore the mythic space through subterranean elements and mirrors. The physician-turned-artist challenges the idea of the landmark as a symbol of status and authority, viewing it instead as a place for the transmission of knowledge. Creating a spiritual, transcendental experience for the viewer, Mater has drawn from great scientific and philosophical thinkers of the Islamic Golden Age.


Set against the breathtaking sandstone cliffs and canyons of the vast terrain, the pieces celebrate the landscape of AlUla and respect the archaeological relics and colossal history. Drawing from its scenic topography, undulating panoramas, and distinctive geological structures, the schemes present an oasis of narratives inviting local communities, art lovers, adventurers, and globetrotters to explore and discover. The site’s pavilions, walkways, and belvederes will use locally sourced materials and be positioned to facilitate the free movement of camel herds and other native species. 

colossal installations at AlUla’s arts valley: from ahmed mater to james turrell + michael heizer 


Five era-defining artworks across the valley


Known for his site-specific oeuvres, utilizing land and light as the main mediums, James Turrell will create a sensorial experience of light, color, and perception, generating a sequence of spaces within the canyon floor. Wandering through these stunning passages, the viewers will experience the nature of light and seeing, as well as elements of sky and terrain. For AlUla’s Wadi AlFann,  Agnes Denes will continue her ongoing series of monumental pyramids. Her new oeuvre will awaken the silent canyons they sit within, depicting the past, present, and future of humankind. This artwork examines civilization, progress, and achievement, proposing a breathtaking environment.


‘Wadi AlFann is unprecedented in its ambition, a world-leading platform enabling remarkable artists to create the most significant works of their lifetimes. It will set a new global example for experiencing art in dialogue with nature, celebrating the human creativity that unites communities across the world and inspiring current and future generations of artists. A display of such epic scale, set in a terrain as monumental as the AlUla desert, has the potential to shape the course of art history in real time,’ mentioned Iwona Blazwick, Chair of Royal Commission for AlUla’s Public Art Expert Panel.

colossal installations at AlUla’s arts valley: from ahmed mater to james turrell + michael heizer



Known for his large outdoor earthwork sculptures that use rock, concrete, and steel as a medium, Michael Heizer

introduces new incised engravings in the sandstone rock. Through tunnels and stairs, the American artist seeks a profound connection with the topography while accentuating the intricate beauty of the Quweira rock. Viewable from a far distance, most of these large-size works will change in appearance as viewers move around the area. Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan’s oeuvre brings themes of invisibility, collective memory, and the status and representation of women to the fore. Dubbed ‘The Oasis of Stories’, her labyrinthine installation draws from the mud walls of AlUla’s Old Town, inviting viewers to meander through the maze-like passages and get lost in an architectonic sculpture that imitates the ancient spaces of Arabic settlements. 


‘Wadi AlFann will rekindle the creativity of AlUla and deliver new transformative experiences for locals and visitors alike. As custodians of this land, a crossroad between East and West marked by 200,000 years of natural, human and cultural history, we must continue to harness the unique legacy of AlUla to build its future. It is an honour to be working with such esteemed and celebrated artists to aide our ambitions to further establish AlUla as a world-leading centre for art and culture. This visionary destination will build a vibrant and prosperous local cultural economy, forging pathways for the people of AlUla to unlock creative potential and be architects of the region’s future,’ said Nora Aldabal, Executive Director of Arts and Creative Industries, Royal Commission for




Wadi AlFann is one of the various new creative landmarks planned for AlUla as part of its Journey Through Time masterplan, along with the Perspectives Galleries, the Arts District, and the Water Pavilions. The Journey Through Time masterplan, unveiled by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, will see 15 new destinations for culture, heritage, and creativity open by 2035.

colossal installations at AlUla’s arts valley: from ahmed mater to james turrell + michael heizer


This is not the first time the deer of AlUla has seen artistic interventions. For the past years, the Desert X AlUla exhibition has been taking place there. Its first edition (read more on designboom here) welcomed 9,000 visitors, while the second one (read more on designboom here) grew to 24,000 visitors.

colossal installations at AlUla’s arts valley: from ahmed mater to james turrell + michael heizer

sketches for The Oasis of Stories by Manal AlDowayan, for Wadi AlFann



project info:


name: Wadi AlFann

artists: Manal AlDowayan, Agnes Denes, Michael Heizer, Ahmed Mater and James Turrell

location: AlUla desert, Saudi Arabia 

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