Saudi Arabia to host Ad Diriyah Biennale Foundation for Contemporary Art in 2021

The inaugural event will be dedicated to contemporary art

Silhouette of Salwa Palace in At-Turaif in Ad Diriyah captured from a distance. Photo by THAMER AL AHMADI
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A major new arts event has been added to the regional calendar.

Ad Diriyah Biennale Foundation for Contemporary Art, to be held in Saudi Arabia from 2021, will operate with interchangeable themes.

The inaugural event will be dedicated to contemporary art, while Islamic art will be highlighted in 2022.

The news was announced by the kingdom's Minister of Culture, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan, who also leads the board of directors of the recently established Thunaiyat Ad Diriyah Biennale Foundation.

Through the biennale and other planned initiatives, the organisation aims to evolve Saudi Arabia's contemporary arts scene and position Ad Diriyah as a regional and international hub for culture.

The biennale was announced via Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Media twitter account.

Where is Ad Diriyah?

Home to Unesco-listed 15th-century site of At-Turaif, Ad Diriyah is regarded as the "pearl of Saudi Arabia" and is the centrepiece of the kingdom's tourism strategy. Located on the outskirts of the capital, Riyadh, the town holds particular significance to the kingdom as it is the site of the first Saudi state and the original seat of Saudi Arabia's Al Saud family.

Traditional Saudi Ardah dance in front of Salwa Palace in At-Turaif in Ad Diriyah. Photo by THAMER AL AHMADI
A Traditional Saudi Ardah dance in front of Salwa Palace in At-Turaif in Ad Diriyah. Courtesy Meshari Almuhanna / DGDA

Through a $17 billion (Dh62.43bn) development, the city will host luxury resorts and more than 100 dining and entertainment options. The first hotel is due to open late in 2021.

The location has already hosted a number of high-profile events, including the Formula E Diriyah E-Prix race in addition to the Ad Diriyah Season of concerts, which last year hosted the likes of hip-hop stars Lil Wayne and Future in addition to singers Pitbull, Shaggy, Don Omar and American rockers Imagine Dragons.

More art from Saudi Arabia

The announcement of Ad Diriyah Biennale should be welcomed by the kingdom's arts community, which saw a number of planned events and exhibitions cancelled amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In order to keep the scene active, the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture recently launched the Ithra Connect Season. The online initiative features more than 30 arts programmes, activities, courses and podcasts.

In an interview with Arab News, Rania Biltagi, a spokeswoman for the season, said the initiative aims to keep artists and audience engaged while remaining indoors.

"With the public indoors amid a time of global closures and social distancing, Ithra Connect was designed to bridge the physical distance between our audiences and offerings – ensuring constant access to new and engaging programming and content.”