Desert X Al Ula announces participating artists for site-specific exhibition in Saudi Arabia

The first desert biennial in the kingdom will feature 14 large-scale works by various artists

Dadan in Al Ula. Al-Khuraybah (ancient Dadan) was the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms. “Al Khoraiba” included a number of archeological sites, the most important of them is “Lions Graves” (Magaber Al Ausood), “milking she camel” (Mahlab Al Naga). In addition, the site included a number of inscriptions and sculptured rocks, spread of antiquities on site’s surface. The site’s inscriptions document economic, political, religious and social activities of the Lehyanian.  

(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

Powered by automated translation

Desert X Al Ula, Saudi Arabia's iteration of an art biennial originating from California, has announced the participating artists for its coming exhibition, which opens on Friday, January 31.

The exhibition takes place in the kingdom’s ancient oasis in the Al Ula desert, located in the north west of the country. Like the ones in California’s Desert X, the works created for Desert X Al Ula are site-responsive, relating to the natural environment and landscape, as well as exploring desert culture.

It is led by Saudi curators Raneem Farsi and Aya Alireza with Desert X artistic director Neville Wakefield. Together, they have developed a cross-cultural list of artists to take part in the exhibition, which runs until March 7.

The site-specific works to be presented at Desert X Al Ula have been a year in the making, as artists have been visiting the site over the past few months to engage with the environment and understand the region's historical significance.

Highlights include Rayyane Tabet's Steel Rings from his series The Shortest Distance Between Two Points, which references the Trans-Arabian Pipeline. The sculpture comprises 40 rings, with an inscription marking each ring's distance from the pipe's source. Wael Shawky takes on another point in history with his installation Dictums: Manqia II, which conjures the memory of the region's historic town with a video projection on to the rocks.

Emirati artist Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim will present Falling Stones Garden. Made of rocklike forms painted in his signature vibrant colours, the work speaks to the desert ecosystem and its survival. Manal AlDowayan also considers the landscape's fragility, exploring it through an installation of artificial puddles titled Now You See Me, Now You Don't.

The full list of participating artists:

Lita Albuquerque (US)

Manal AlDowayan (Saudi Arabia)

Zahrah Al Ghamdi (Saudi Arabia)

Nasser Al Salem (Saudi Arabia)

Rashed Al Shashai (Saudi Arabia)

Gisela Colon (Canada)

Sherin Guirguis (Egypt)

Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim (UAE)

Nadim Karam (Lebanon)

eL Seed (France)

Wael Shawky (Egypt)

Muhannad Shono (Saudi Arabia)

Superflex (Denmark)

Rayyane Tabet (Lebanon)

Co-curator Raneem Farsi said: "Artists are at the centre of this exhibition conceived to foster artistic exchange and dialogue across continents. The diversity of backgrounds, concepts and themes found in this exhibition affirms the power of art in creating cultural exchange beyond geographic boundaries."

Desert X Al Ula is a collaboration between Desert X and the Royal Commission of Al Ula. The vast oasis valley where the event is set has sandstone mountains and ancient heritage sites. It is also where Saudi Arabia's first Unesco World Heritage site, Hegra – with well-preserved ancient tombs and rock writings – is to be found.

More information can be found on