Ad-Diriyah Biennale: Saudi Arabia's first art biennale to take place in December

More than 70 international and regional artists will showcase work at the inaugural event

The historic district of At-Turaif in Ad-Diriyah, north-west of Riyadh, where the biennale will take place. Courtesy Saudi Arabia Ministry of Culture
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The inaugural Ad-Diriyah Biennale, set to be Saudi Arabia's first art biennale, is scheduled to begin later this year and with it will bring more than 70 regional and international artists to the Jewel of the Kingdom.

Taking place between December 7 and March 7, 2022, the three-month event will be held under the theme of Feeling the Stones, inspired by the slogan "crossing the river by feeling the stones" coined by Chinese politician Deng Xiaoping during the 1980s as a metaphor for action at a time of social and economic transformation.

"We hope that this exhibition will expose new generations of viewers to global contemporary art, not just as a mode of visual expression but as a space for critical thinking," the biennale's curator Philip Tinari, who is also the director and chief executive of the UCCA Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing, said.

“The art scene in Saudi Arabia finds itself at a crucial juncture, and art has an important role to play in reflecting on key issues of the moment.”

An art installation at Jax creative district in Ad-Diriyah. Courtesy Saudi Arabia Ministry of Culture
An art installation at Jax creative district in Ad-Diriyah. Courtesy Saudi Arabia Ministry of Culture

The biennale will take place in a 27,000-square-metre area located in the recently developed creative district of Jax in Diriyah. The exhibition will feature six sections and will examine themes that include memory and preservation, cultural transmission, social engagement, as well as the Anthropocene and the spiritual.

The event aims to create new connections with the international art landscape, bringing new trends in global contemporary art to Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning cultural scene.

Ad-Diriyah, known as the Jewel of the Kingdom, is the birthplace of the first Saudi Arabian state and home to one of the kingdom's most ambitious heritage developments. It will also be home to two cultural biennales, alternating each year between a focus on contemporary arts and Islamic arts. Both biennales are overseen by the Ad-Diriyah Biennale Foundation in co-operation with the Ministry of Culture in Saudi Arabia.

"Saudi Arabia's first art Biennale is an important milestone and builds on the unprecedented cultural transformation under way in the Kingdom," said Aya Albakree, chief executive of the Ad-Diriyah Biennale Foundation.

“It is part of a wider plan to transform Ad-Diriyah into a global arts destination and encourage dialogue between artists from around the world in a dedicated environment that supports creative expression.”