An Extraordinary Exhibition Launches In Saudi Arabia’s AlUla Region

BY Ayesha Sohail Shehmir Shaikh / Feb 2 2020 / 10:51 AM

Explore desert culture through the eyes of contemporary artists at Saudi's Desert X AlUla exhibition this month

An Extraordinary Exhibition Launches In Saudi Arabia’s AlUla Region
Courtesy Lance Gerber and Lawrie Shabibi, RCU and Desert X
Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Falling Stones Garden. Installation view at Desert X AlUla

On show now until 7 March 2020 in the extraordinary landscape of AlUla in Saudi Arabia, the Desert X AlUla exhibition, the first major contemporary art exhibition in the area, explores desert culture through cross-cultural dialogue between artists. Participating artists include Riyadh-based Muhannad Shono, Beirut-based Rayyane Tabet and Jeddah-based Rashed AlShashai, to name a few.

The exhibition has been co-curated by Saudi curators Raneem Farsi and Aya Alireza and Desert X’s artistic director Neville Wakefield and has been organised by Desert X and the Royal Commission of AlUla (RCU). “Artists are at the centre of this exhibition conceived to foster artistic exchange and dialogue across continents,” says Farsi.

Rashed AlShashai, A Concise Passage, installation view at Desert X AlUla

“The diversity of backgrounds, concepts, and themes found in this exhibition affirms the power of art in creating cultural exchange beyond geographic boundaries. Alongside international and regional artists, Desert X AlUla gives voice to Saudi Arabia’s dynamic artistic community, cultivating new audiences for contemporary art in the country. Many of the works on view are informed by the multiple layers of history shaping the region and through exhibitions like this, we are working towards a more inclusive future through art.”

Featured at the exhibition are large-scale works including Lita Albuquerque’s star map NAJMA (She Placed One Thousand Suns On The Transparent Overlays Of Space), which depicts a female astronaut whose mission is to spread information and light. Also of note is Muhannad Shono’s The Lost Path, Rayyane Tabet’s Steel Rings, from the series The Shortest Distance Between Two Points and Rashed AlShashai’s A Concise Passage.

eL Seed, Mirage, installation view at Desert X AlUla

Other works include Falling Stones Garden by Emirati artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim which notes inspiration from the flora and fauna of the Arabian desert and Lebanese artist Nadim Karam’s On Parade, which depicts various forms which appear to have sprung out of the desert ground after rain. The works serve to represent the fragility of the desert’s ecosystem.

“The remarkable heritage and enduring traces of culture that have traversed AlUla for millennia are a reminder this ancient crossroads cradled reflection, creativity and ingenuity,” says Nora AlDabal, RCU Arts and Culture Engagement Manager.

Rayyane Tabet, Steel Rings, from the series, The Shortest Distance Between Two Points, installation view at Desert X AlUla

“Desert X AlUla is a continuum of AlUla’s legacy as an oasis for art. By putting the transformative power of art centre stage, we can foster new perspectives and opportunities for transformative conversations that build understanding between people. The exhibition captures the spirit of the Cultural Manifesto of AlUla, as we continue to preserve, enhance and interpret a constellation of natural and historic wonders.”

Muhannad Shono, The Lost Path, installation view at Desert X AlUla

AlUla is home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO world heritage site, Hegra, and dates back thousands of years. Situated 1,100km from Riyadh, in North-West Saudi Arabia, the ancient site features many archaeological marvels by the likes of Ancient Dadan, the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms, as well as thousands of ancient rock art sites, inscriptions and Hijaz Railway stations. The city serves as a crossroads between three continents and a gateway between the East and West.

The Desert X Alula exhibition is on show from 31 January until 7 March 2020 at Alula, Saudi Arabia

All images courtesy of Photo Lance Gerber / Artists/ RCU & Desert X