Major exhibition of Andy Warhol works to take place in AlUla

The show, opening on February 17, is a highlight on the ancient Saudi city's calendar

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A new exhibition of some of Andy Warhol's most famous artworks is being curated for AlUla's Maraya, the mirror-clad arts and cultural venue in the ancient desert city in Saudi Arabia.

Fame: Andy Warhol in AlUla, a collaboration between Arts AlUla and the Andy Warhol Museum, will be a major highlight on the AlUla Moments calendar, opening on February 17 and running until May 16.

It aims to focus on fame as a way of understanding Warhol in terms of his personality and career, which had a significant impact on the 1960s pop culture movement.

“In homage to a heritage built by diverse cultural perspectives, Arts AlUla will present Fame: Andy Warhol in AlUla as part of a long-term vision of spectacular and multicultural arts initiatives," said Nora Aldabal, executive director of arts and creative industries for Arts AlUla, a festival that launched last year and will run again from February 16 to 28.

This picture taken on January 5, 2019 shows a view of the new purpose-built Maraya (Arabic for "Mirror") concert hall hosting the first "Winter at Tantora" music carnival in the ruins of Al-Ula, a UNESCO World Heritage site in northwestern Saudi Arabia. - Bathed in light, musicians belt out melodies among pre-Islamic desert ruins in northwestern Saudi Arabia, a heritage trove at the centre of efforts to put the kingdom on the tourism map. Hosted by the Al-Ula governorate -- where Nabatean tombs and rock art are chiseled into caramel-hued cliffs -- "Winter at Tantora" is the latest music carnival in the Islamic kingdom, where such events were unheard of just two years ago. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP)

"We aim to drive a new era of cultural exchange, including exhibitions that feature the most important regional and international artists from the mid-20th century to the present day.”

Patrick Moore, the director of the Andy Warhol Museum, has curated the exhibition. "Fame is intended to be an introduction to the aspect of Warhol that I believe is most fascinating to many young people, including Saudi youth, as Andy Warhol’s journey, which started as a child staring at the movie screen and collecting publicity stills, is becoming more common through the rise of social media," said Moore. "Fame is an opportunity to further extend Warhol’s legacy by reaching new audiences."

The exhibition will feature Warhol's paintings and prints of Hollywood stars, sporting greats and notable musicians. This includes his famous works of Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali and Dolly Parton, alongside filmed portraits described as "screen tests" of 1960s counterculture figures.

Wallpaper designed by the renowned Pop Art artist and his groundbreaking work, Silver Clouds (1966), which consists of a room full of floating metallic balloons, will also be on show. As will rarely seen archival photographs, including Hollywood publicity shots and Polaroid portraits made in his studio and later used as source material for his work.

A public programme of talks and a series of workshops will run in tandem with the exhibition. Masterclasses in screen-printing and design will also be on offer.

AlUla drives arts agenda in Saudi Arabia

The region of AlUla is more than 1,000 kilometres from Riyadh. Historically, it lay on the incense trade route, a land and sea network spanning the Mediterranean, north-eastern Africa, Arabia and India.

The region surrounding the walled city of AlUla, established in about the sixth century BC, hosts remnants of civilisations dating back more than 7,000 years.

The city of Hegra, the second-biggest Nabatean city after Petra, is in AlUla and marks the first Unesco World Heritage Site in Saudi Arabia. Dating back to the first century BC, it served as the southern capital of the Nabatean kingdom, believed to have stretched from Yemen to Damascus and western Iraq to the Sinai Desert.

Today, AlUla is at the forefront of a cultural evolution in Saudi Arabia, with myriad festivals and arts initiatives.

This includes AlUla Moments, an annual initiative transforming the ancient desert city with art, music, food and wellness. A recent addition to the slate of festivals that fall under its banner is the Ancient Kingdoms Festival, running until November 27, which focuses on three interconnected, historic oases — namely AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma. The event explores the history of these cities, showing how they served as crossroads for explorers, artisans and intellectuals for millennia.

After the Ancient Kingdoms Festival, Winter at Tantora will be returning from December 21 to February 12, with intimate performances by internationally acclaimed musicians, as well as a series of events in theatre, fashion and arts.

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Updated: November 15, 2022, 8:01 AM