Desert X AlUla Returns to The Kingdoms Ancient Landscape for Its Third Edition

Taking place from Feb. 9 to Mar. 23

Amidst the ancient sand dunes of AlUla, contemporary art transforms the open-air canvas once again as Desert X AlUla commences its third edition, kicking off today and running until March 23. The annual exhibition, renowned for its site-responsive artworks, showcases the creative prowess of artists from around the globe against the backdrop of the ancient oasis town’s rich heritage and breathtaking natural scenery.

Curated under the guidance of Maya El Khalil, esteemed for her MENA-focused curation, and Marcello Dantas, celebrated for his interdisciplinary practices, this year’s theme, “In the Presence of Absence,” sets the stage for 15 captivating commissioned artworks.

Inviting artists to explore their craft within the expansive landscape of AlUla, the exhibition challenges viewers to reimagine deserts not as empty spaces but as vibrant, nuanced ecosystems ripe for exploration. Spread across three distinct locations for the first time–  Wadi AlFann, amongst the black lava stone terrain and breathtaking views of Harrat Uwayrid and at the AlManshiyah Plaza, which features the carefully preserved AlUla Railway Station– each site beckons participants to delve deeper into the unseen aspects of AlUla’s storied terrain.

From Sara Alissa and Nojoud Alsudairi’s thought-provoking project, “Invisible Possibilities: When the Earth Began to Look at Itself” to Kimsooja’s mesmerizing cylindrical installation, “To Breathe – AlUla,” visitors are transported into a realm where art intertwines seamlessly with nature. Ayman Yossri Daydban’s enigmatic football pitch, Bosco Sodi’s “When I Saw My Reflection,” and Caline Aoun’s exploration of impermanence in “The Desert Has No Surface” offer poignant reflections on collective memory and the ever-changing desert landscape.

Meanwhile, Rana Haddad and Pascal Hachem’s “Reveries” pays homage to traditional craftsmanship, and Ibrahim Mahama’s terracotta pots symbolize the emergence of new ecosystems from historical relics. Visitors can also immerse themselves in Karola Braga’s olfactory installation, “Sfumato” and Filwa Nazer’s mesmerizing elevated walkway inspired by desert jinn, “Preserving Shadows.”

From cosmic narratives to environmental concerns, Desert X AlUla showcases a diverse array of artistic expressions that challenge perceptions and ignite contemplation. With each artwork, viewers embark on a journey through time and space, where the notion of a desert as an empty space is challenged and the landscape becomes a canvas for infinite possibilities and dialogues.

Discover the full list of exhibiting artists below: 

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

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