desert X alUla 2024 brings contemporary art to saudi arabia's ancient deserts

desert X alUla 2024 brings contemporary art to saudi arabia's ancient deserts

the third edition of desert x alula arrives

 

Desert X is back for its third edition, transforming the otherworldly landscapes of AlUla, Saudi Arabia, into a canvas for contemporary sculpture and land art. This year’s exhibition, titled ‘In the Presence of Absence,’ challenges visitors to explore the unseen and inexpressible elements within this ancient desert region. For the first time, Desert X AlUla expands across three distinct locations — the vast desert expanse of Wadi AlFann, the dramatic black lava terrain of Harrat Uwayrid, and the historic AlManshiyah Plaza surrounding the AlUla Railway Station. This diversity invites visitors on a journey through various landscapes, each shaping the artistic dialogue. The exhibition will occupy the landscapes of AlUla from February 9th to March 23rd 2024.

desert x alula 2024
Kimsooja, To Breathe — AlUla | all images © Lance Gerber, courtesy The Royal Commission for AlUla

 

 

from vast deserts to Volcanic Craters

 

Curated by Maya El Khalil and Marcello Dantas, with artistic direction from Raneem Farsi and Neville Wakefield, the Desert X AlUla 2024 features fifteen newly commissioned artworks. Each artist, inspired by the theme of ‘In the Presence of Absence,’ explores the desert’s hidden stories, intangible forces, and the whispers of history woven into its fabric. Complementing the artistic installations, the exhibition offers a diverse program of events. Curator and artist talks, educational workshops for children, and music ranging from traditional Saudi dance to ambient compositions create a vibrant atmosphere for both visitors and local communities.

 

Entering the cylindrical form of Kimsooja’s work, To Breathe – AlUla, visitors are drawn between iridescent walls, in and out to the center of a spiral. The chromatic walls distill light that has travelled aeons into prisms that dance across the visitor and the landscape.

desert x alula 2024
Faisal Samra, The Dot

 

 

a future of permanent land art

 

This year’s edition marks a significant chapter in AlUla’s cultural development. Desert X AlUla paves the way for Wadi AlFann, a groundbreaking initiative launching in 2026. This expansive site will become a global hub for monumental, permanent land art, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression and engaging audiences for generations to come. Desert X AlUla spotlights the power of art to unveil the unseen, foster dialogue, and connect us with the unique spirit of place. 

With The Dot, Faisal Samra shows how the Wadi AlFann valley originated from an ancient crack, revealing the small forces that shape grandeur over epochs. The illusion of time is symbolized by a line composed of rock fragments. 

desert x alula 2024
Aseel AlYaqoub, Weird Life_ An ode to desert varnish

 

 

Aseel AlYaqoub’s Weird Life: An ode to desert varnish is inspired by the ‘desert varnish’ that naturally appears in landscapes like AlUla’s, evolving into a luminous veneer with yellow, orange, red and black, and bemusing scientists for centuries.

Rana Haddad and Pascal Hachem’s installation focuses on honoring the traditional crafts of the region, creating a refuge made from rammed earth jars. Dubbed Reveries, each jar in the tower bears geometric cuts, allowing nature and light to shift and cast ever-evolving patterns within.

desert x alula 2024
Rana Haddad and Pascal Hachem, Reveries

desert X alUla 2024 brings contemporary art to saudi arabia's ancient deserts
Ayman Yossri Daydban, A rock garden in the shape of a full-sized soccer field

 

 

Ayman Yossri Daydban draws the contours of a football pitch with white stones and rocks gathered by the AlUla community from across the valley. Placed in a remote, rocky area, the football field is a mysterious and suspicious presence, provoking collective memory and considering the social role of football.

Composed of vessels, Ibrahim Mahama’s terracotta pots are scattered across the landscape, suggesting new ecosystems emerging from the relics of history. Mahama’s works can be viewed from multiple sites across Desert X AlUla.

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Ibrahim Mahama, Gabli Din Pali — A Full Gourd Does Not Rattle_ It Is Only a Partially Filled Gourd Which Rattles

desert X alUla 2024 brings contemporary art to saudi arabia's ancient deserts
Sara Alissa and Nojoud Alsudairi, Invisible Possibilities

 

 

Sara Alissa and Nojoud Alsudairi turn the landscape into a self-reflective arrangement in Invisible Possibilities: When the Earth Began to Look at Itself. Through different viewpoints and approaches, the work aims to reshape viewers’ understanding of the site’s ecological transition and its physical geographies. 

 

For When I saw my reflection, Bosco Sodi gathered volcanic rocks from across the landscape. Wrapped in gold, they have been placed in rock faces that tower above the desert to draw the viewer’s eyes to the beautiful organic formations and accidents that already exist in the rock formations.

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Bosco Sodi, When I saw my reflection

 

1/7
Kader Attia, Whistleblower
Kader Attia, Whistleblower
Caline Aoun, The Desert Has No Surface
Caline Aoun, The Desert Has No Surface
Karola Braga, Sfumato
Karola Braga, Sfumato
Monira Al Qadiri, W.A.B.A.R.
Monira Al Qadiri, W.A.B.A.R.
Rand Abdul Jabbar, Where myths are born of mud and desire
Rand Abdul Jabbar, Where myths are born of mud and desire
Filwa Nazer, Preserving Shadows
Filwa Nazer, Preserving Shadows
Giuseppe Penone, The Logic of the Vegetal -- Metamorphosis
Giuseppe Penone, The Logic of the Vegetal -- Metamorphosis

project info:

 

project title: Desert X AlUla

location: AlUla, Saudi Arabia

on view: February 9th — March 23rd 2024

photography: © Lance Gerber | @lance.gerber

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ART AND ARCHITECTURE IN ALULA (13)

ART AND ARCHITECTURE IN SAUDI ARABIA (84)

DESERT X (12)

KIMSOOJA (6)

LAND ART (35)

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