AlUla International Airport unveils sweeping art collection of 64 pieces

The Safar art collection by 24 Saudi and international artists embraces the region's natural and cultural heritage

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A collection of 64 artworks by Saudi, regional and international artists has been unveiled at AlUla International Airport.

Named Safar, which is Arabic for travel, the collection comprises sculptures, photographs, textiles, paintings, and design pieces. It presents work by significant regional and international artists such as Dana Awartani, Shaikha Al Mazrou and Zahrah Al Ghamdi.

The collection also includes works by artisans of AlUla’s Madrasat AdDeera Art and Design Centre, opened by the Royal Commission for AlUla to train and upskill the next generation of creatives.

Conceived by RCU and facilitated by Capsule Arts, the Safar collection aims to exhibit artworks that create a dialogue with AlUla’s physical and cultural landscape.

In a piece titled Our Living Tradition, artisans from Madrasat AdDeera investigate how language is intrinsic to traditional arts and cultures. The paintings mirror an underlying square grid pattern, the basis of textile techniques such as Al Sadu weaving — a new addition to Unesco's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage — but feature different patterns that originate from the varied traditional crafts that span the region.

Two sculptures in a deep brick orange resin by Al Mazrou reference local rock engravings, while two framed diptychs by Awartani continue the heritage narrative through intricate traditional patterns, inspired by aerial views of AlUla’s famous sites.

Farah Behbehani’s embroidered textiles, meanwhile, serve as an ode to the community of AlUla through a local craft, and Ranim Halaky’s Conversations through time is a striking typographic raw steel installation that has been created in collaboration with the community, presenting its many voices in sculptural form.

Alongside this, the work of emerging artists such as Stephanie Neville, Sandra Boutros and Nidanin Studio of woodworking is presented as a contemporary cabinet of curiosities in the library at AlUla airport's Executive Terminal. This includes works inspired by AlUla’s rich heritage of textile and crafts, alongside photography from the Royal Commission's archive, depicting the surrounding landscapes.

“We are delighted to unveil the Safar art collection: a continuation of our ongoing cultural programming, setting the standard for engaging contemporary artists within the kingdom,” said Nora Aldabal, executive director at Royal Commission for AlUla.

“Safar represents the depth and breadth of Arts AlUla’s relationship with the arts: a major new collection that follows recent world-class events such as Desert X AlUla 2022, the Cortona on the Move artists residency, What Lies Within and the launch of Wadi AlFann.

The Safar art collection aims to reflect AlUla’s history as a hub of cultural transfer, by linking narratives of the past through contemporary perspectives.

“Not least because of its airport setting, the Safar art collection reconnects AlUla with local, regional and international visitors in its next chapter as a centre of artistic exploration, expression, and production.

"The arts are a vital contributor to the region’s character and identity, the quality of life for its local community and the region’s economic future. We look forward to sharing it with all who come to AlUla.”

Scroll through images of Desert X AlUla 2022 below

Updated: October 03, 2022, 12:36 PM