Philip Tinari announced as curator for Saudi Arabia's first Ad Diriyah Biennale

The country's inaugural biennial will take place in 2021 and feature 70 artists

Further details on the new Saudi biennial, which will take place at the ancestral palace of Ad Diriyah, have been announced.

Philip Tinari, the director of the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, will serve as curator. The team will also include Wejdan Reda, who runs the online cultural platform Sahaba.
The Ad Diriyah Biennale will take place in 2021, although the exact dates have not been confirmed, and will feature more than 70 artists. It is an initiative by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, and will alternate annually between the Ad Diriyah Biennale, devoted to contemporary art, and the Islamic Biennale, devoted to Islamic art.

Traditional Saudi Ardah dance in front of Salwa Palace in At-Turaif in Ad Diriyah. Photo by THAMER AL AHMADI

“The Ad-Diriyah Biennale will offer a new platform for exchange between the Saudi and international art worlds, as well as an unprecedented chance for broad audiences in the kingdom to encounter global contemporary art,” Tinari said in a statement.

Born in the US, Tinari has lived in China since 2001. He joined the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in 2011 and is now its chief curator and director. The organisation, set up by the Belgian collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens, has since expanded into a location in the northeastern coastal town of Beidahe and in 2021 will open an outpost in Shanghai.

Ad Diriyah, on the outskirts of Riyadh, was the home of the Al Saud family in the 18th century. The vast Salwa Palace, built in the traditional style of the area, was the capital of the first Saudi state from 1744 until 1818, when it was destroyed by Ottoman invaders. It also bears particular significance as it was at Ad Diriyah that the ruler Muhammed Ibn Al Saud hosted the religious scholar Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, and brokered the power-sharing agreement between the two families. The site now consists of the ruins of Salwa Palace, as well as a number of museums about Saudi history and life.

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