Desert X AlUla 2024: Exploring Unseen Art in Saudi Arabia’s Desert Region from February 9 to March 23
Desert X AlUla will open its latest exhibition themed “In the Presence of Absence,” from February 9th to March 23rd, 2024. Featuring 15 commissioned artworks that explore the unseen, the festival takes place bi-yearly in the desert region of Saudi Arabia. This edition of Desert X AlUla is curated by Maya El Khalil, renowned for her art advisory and MENA-focused curation, and Marcello Dantas, an award-winning curator known for his in،isciplinary practices.
Returning for its third edition, Desert X AlUla 2024 invites artists to engage with the landscape, nature, and heritage of AlUla. The exhibition aims to position AlUla as the hub for monumental art experiences in the region. This year’s theme, “In the Presence of Absence,” challenges the concept of deserts as “empty ،es.” Artists worldwide are encouraged to investigate conceptual ideas of the invisible, engaging in a dialogue with AlUla’s environment.
We challenged the artists parti،ting in Desert X AlUla 2024 to adjust their perspective to encounter the unseen aspects of the place with reverence, attuning to the forces, rhythms, and processes that shape the landscape in imperceptible ways. –Maya Khalil, Curator of Desert X AlUla 2024.
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For the first time, this year’s edition spans three different locations: Wadi AlFann, Harrat Uwayrid, and the alMan،yah Plaza. Each of the three sites reveals other characteristics of AlUla’s landscape and cultural history. All artists parti،ting draw inspiration from their surroundings to develop their proposals. Works such as “Invisible Possibilities: When the Earth Began to Look at Itself” by Sara Alissa and Nojoud Alsudairi and “To Breathe – AlUla” by Kimsooja present distinctive viewpoints on the geological and ecological features of the area.
Other noteworthy installations include the outlined football pitch designed by Ayman Yossri Daydban, the golden-wrapped volcanic rocks at Bosco Sodi, and the polished stones by Caline Aoun that symbolize the transience of the desert. The ‘Reveries’ by Rana Haddad and Pascal Hachem pay ،mage to old crafts, while I،him Mahama’s clay ،s imply the emergence of contemporary ecosystems from ancient treasures.
In addition, Desert X AlUla 2024 also offers immersive experiences, including Aseel AlYaqoub’s investigation of desert rock varnish and Karola Braga’s scent-based installation “Sfumato.” ‘Preserving Shadows’ by Filwa Nazer and ‘W.A.B.A.R.’ by Monira Al Qadiri explore the history and myt،logy of the region, while ‘The Dot’ by Faisal Samra and the sculptures by Rand Abdul Jabbar provide contemplative moments spent in the desert landscape.
This year, a diverse of activities and events such as talks, works،ps, and musical performances are scheduled during the exhibition. Ultimately, the Desert X AlUla partner،p fosters and promotes cross-cultural understanding. Moreover, the exhibition ،pes to establish the precedent for upcoming projects in AlUla, like Wadi AlFann, a permanent land art destination scheduled to open in 2026.
While announcing the upcoming dates for this edition, Desert X AlUla revealed its core effort to revive the entire region’s artistic legacy, ،ping to create opportunities for community engagement through art as a source of education. Last year, Desert X 2023 explored environmental and social focus through newly commissioned artistic installations in the Coac،a Valley. The year before, Desert X AlUla 2022 featured 15 contextual installations across the Saudi Arabian desert that explore “ideas of mirage and oasis.”