DUBAI: After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the international art exhibition Desert X AlUla will return to Saudi Arabia’s dreamy ancient region for its second showing.
Staged from Feb. 11 until March 30, 2022, the exhibition is a collaboration between Desert X and the Royal Commission for AlUla and takes the theme of Sarab, which means “mirage” in Arabic. It presents artworks exploring the ideas of mirage and oasis through large-scale public artworks positioned amid the enchanting ancient formations found in the Kingdom’s desert region of AlUla in the northwest of the country.
Free and open to the public, the exhibition takes place according to the curatorial vision of Desert X that was first established in California’s Coachella Valley and aims to foster a dialogue through art with nature and the surrounding desert landscape — reflecting back on the principles of the Land Art movement. The exhibition will feature works by artists from Saudi Arabia and across the world.
“The upcoming exhibition is a continuation of what we started in 2020 and it is a dialogue that connects desert to desert, and we have always used this platform to bring local and international artists into dialogue,” Nora Aldabal, arts and creative planning director at the Royal Commission for AlUla, told Arab News.
For the 2022 event, Aldabal said that the location had been moved to a larger valley. “It also allows guests to take journeys and create their own path through the artworks,” Aldabal said. “It is a continuation and progress to Desert X AlUla’s vision of land artworks within the natural environment.”
The 2022 exhibition is staged under the curatorial vision of Reem Fadda, Raneem Farsi and Neville Wakefield.
“AlUla has always been at the crossroads of trade and culture,” said Neville Wakefield, co-artistic director of Desert X AlUla and artistic director of Desert X Coachella in California. “Its landscape and history have drawn, and continue to draw, people from across the globe.”
The 2022 Desert X AlUla builds on the legacy established in its 2020 show. Works from the 2020 show by Lita Albuquerque, Manal Al-Dowayan, Sherin Guirguis, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Nadim Karam and Superflex are still in place in AlUla for public viewing, while Rashed Al-Shashai and Muhannad Shono are currently working as artists-in-residence in AlUla.
The exhibition also provides an international platform and opportunity for local artists: Saudi artist Zahrah Alghamdi, who participated in the first edition with “Glimpses of the Past,” then exhibited her work “What Lies Behind the Walls” at Desert X 2021 in California.
“The first edition of Desert X AlUla in 2020 proved how much there is for artists and audiences from different parts of the world to learn from one another,” Wakefield said. “Artists are often leaders in these conversations and so it is particularly exciting for Desert X AlUla to have such a significant role in the region’s many programs of cultural transformation.”
Desert X AlUla is one of two highlights of the AlUla Arts Festival. The second highlight is the exhibition “What Lies Within: Works from the Basma Al-Sulaiman Collection,” an exhibition at Maraya of seminal works by contemporary Saudi artists, exhibited for the first time in the Kingdom by the eminent Saudi female collector. The show will be curated by Saudi female artist Lulwah Al-Homoud.
The festival also extends to Al-Jaddidah, an area near AlUla Old Town, transforming it into a bustling place for performances and gatherings, including the outdoor Cinema El-Housh presenting Saudi arthouse filmmakers.
Local community enhancement through education and economic growth is pivotal to the Royal Commission of AlUla’s vision, so Desert X AlUla 2022 will include art mediator training programs, workshops for teachers and visitors, and family events.