Watch out for Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Biennale art exhibition

A new significant arts event has been added to the regional calendar…

‘Feeling the Stones’ – that’s the theme for Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Biennale art exhibition, according to the Ad-Diriyah Biennale Foundation in a press statement by Saudi Press Agency. It refers to the metaphor of “crossing the river by feeling the stones”, a slogan that emerged at a time of social and economic transformation in the 1980s.

The Ad-Diriyah Biennale will take place from December 7, 2021, to March 7, 2022, in a 27,000-square-meters facility located in the recently developed creative district of JAX in Diriyah.

The exhibition will include six sections examining themes that include memory and preservation, cultural transmission, social engagement, the Anthropocene, and the spiritual. It aims to create new connections between the Saudi and international art worlds, bringing new trends in global contemporary art to Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning cultural scene.

More than 70 international and local artists are expected to exhibit their work.


Philip Tinari, director and chief executive of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing and curator of the Biennale, said, “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 exhibition, overseen by the Ad-Diriyah Biennale Foundation, is initiated by the Ministry of Culture as part of its efforts to support the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 strategic framework and Quality of Life Program. Saudi Arabia will host two biennales alternating each year: contemporary art in 2021 and Islamic arts next year.

Aya Albakree, CEO of Ad-Diriyah Biennale Foundation, commented, “Saudi Arabia’s first art Biennale is an important milestone and builds on the unprecedented cultural transformation underway in the Kingdom.”

“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.”

Diriyah is considered one of the Kingdom’s most important historical sites and the first Saudi state’s capital. It is also home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif, a mud-brick city that stands as the first Saudi state’s birthplace.

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