Six international artists have been chosen for the Royal Commission for AlUla's new artist residency programme, which runs until December, with the aim of nurturing creativity, engaging communities and shining a light on the natural beauty of AlUla.
The group was whittled down from an original list of 35, then a shortlist of 16, to include three men and three women from across the world, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, France, Morocco, the Philippines and the US.
The selection criteria was a mix of experience and technical ability, alongside initial research projects, alignment with the Royal Commission for AlUla's objectives and their ability to work in an unusual environment.
Applications were evaluated by a panel of judges that included Nora Aldabal, executive director of arts and creative industries at Royal Commission for AlUla; Ali Alghazzawi, its creative opportunities lead; Sumantro Ghose, its artistic programming director; Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, founder of Barjeel Art Foundation; Iwona Blazwick, chairwoman of the public art expert panel at Royal Commission for AlUla; and Arnaud Morand, head of innovation and creation at Afalula, the French agency for Alula development.
"The artist residency programme will give these six artists the most precious commodity of all, which is time," said Blazwick. "It’s an opportunity to leave everything they are familiar with behind, and in turn negotiate a place and community that is completely new. The ambition is two-fold — to create dialogue that transcends geopolitics and cultural differences, and to see what happens when you invite someone from outside into this rich environment."
These artists will engage with AlUla's environment and local heritage and undertake on-site work with archaeologists, botanists, water specialists, craftsmen, oasian agro-system specialists and perfume scientists. All of this expert knowledge aims to give the artists an insight into the workings of the land.
They will employ a range of media and practices, including visual arts, mixed media, installations, poetry, performance and documentary photography, taking part in workshops and public talks throughout the programme.
The group will also explore ancient skills and traditions from past civilisations in the area, such as the Dadanites and the Nabataeans, at Mabiti AlUla, which is a palm grove and guesthouse.
The ongoing research will be showcased in an Open Studio in December, "proposing a fresh look on how to give a new lease of life to the land and to make sure it is connected to its fabled history", according to the announcement.
"The local community of AlUla and the artists will both play fundamental roles in combining the essence of place, local histories and artistic skill," said Aldabal. "Additionally, whatever their angle of approach or their preferred technique, this research residency will offer these six artists an exceptional and inimitable field of investigation."