Taking place from February 11 to March 30, the site-specific contemporary art exhibition explores ideas of mirage and oasis…

After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the international art event Desert X AlUla is back.

Art lovers and desert nomads, it’s time to venture out to the Kingdom’s majestic region with the contemporary art exhibition. Here’s what you need to know about the second edition of Desert X AlUla.

Desert X AlUla Rashed Al Shashai

What is Desert X AlUla?

If you happened to miss the social media buzz about the inaugural exhibition in 2020, we got you. This year’s event, which will take place from February 11 and runs through to March 30, takes the theme of Sarab, meaning “mirage” in Arabic.

A collaboration between Desert X and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), the exhibition presents large-scale public artworks exploring the ideas of mirage and oasis dotted around the stunning ancient formations in AlUla.

Desert X AlUla Muhannad Shono

The first site-responsive exhibition of its kind in Saudi Arabia, it fosters dialogue and exchange between artists, curators and international and local communities, shaped by a curatorial vision that takes the desert as its inspiration.

Building on the legacy of Desert X, which takes place in California’s Coachella Valley, Desert X AlUla draws on principles of land art, offering a profound opportunity to experience art on a monumental scale in dialogue with nature.

Desert X AlUla 2022 site

The upcoming exhibition will be in a different location in AlUla compared to the first edition. Situated within a valley, Desert X AlUla invites visitors to wander through and experience spectacular landscapes as they weave their journey between the works.

Plus, it is free and open to the public.

What to expect?

Desert X AlUla provides an excellent opportunity to see various international artists and one-of-a-kind installations in a natural setting. It’s one of the most unique living art exhibits you’ve been to – and it’s designed that way for a reason.

This year’s exhibition features artists from Saudi Arabia and across the world – all of whom have spent time in the AlUla region. Their creative works address profound issues, with topics ranging from dreams, camouflage, fiction, and dis/appearance to extraction, illusion, and myth. They also examine the dichotomy between the natural and man-made worlds.

Desert X AlUla Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim

Reem Fadda, the curatorial advisor to Desert X AlUla 2022, says, “The desert concepts of mirage and oasis have long been tied to ideas of survival, perseverance, desire and wealth. The oasis pertains to ideas of finding prosperity or heaven, while the mirage is a universal symbol of the mysteries of imagination and reality.”

“They also connote the incomprehensible beauty and abundance of nature in its most bereft state – the desert – and humans’ obsessive desire to capture and control it.”

Desert X AlUla Manal AlDowayan

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As a highlight of the AlUla Arts Festival, Desert X AlUla will include art mediator training programmes, family events, workshops for teachers and other networking and programming activities for visitors and communities.

Desert X AlUla aims to contribute to and continue the artistic heritage of the local community and region. Works from the 2020 edition by Lita Albuquerque, Manal AlDowayan, Sherin Guirguis, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Nadim Karam and Superflex are still on show. Additionally, Rashed AlShashai and Muhannad Shono are working as part of AlUla’s first art residency programme, an 11-week programme, until January 14.

Desert X AlUla Zahra Alghamdi

Likewise, the ongoing collaboration provides an international platform for Saudi artists. Zahrah Alghamdi, whose work “Glimpses of the Past” was presented in the inaugural Desert X AlUla, exhibited “What Lies Behind the Walls” to critical acclaim at Desert X 2021 in California.

Artists participating in Desert X AlUla 2022 will be announced soon.

Images: Provided