AlUla Arts Festival: 3 brilliant exhibitions to check out

The latest installment of AlUla moments sees the historical town transformed into a backdrop for artistic celebration from Saudi Arabia and beyond…

As we wave goodbye to Winter at Tantora, we welcome AlUla Arts Festival, the second piece of AlUla’s four-part festival series, AlUla Moments. Bringing to life AlUla’s long-standing legacy of being a cultural crossroads, the festival, running until the end of March is packed with carefully curated contemporary art, gigantic outdoor art installations by local and international artists, performing arts shows, the first outdoor cinema and an array of murals bringing to life AlUla’s historic buildings.

If you’re planning a visit to AlUla Arts Festival, here are 3 must-visit exhibitions.

Desert X

A collaboration between California-born Desert X and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), Desert X AlUla will run until March 30. This year adopting the theme of Sarab, meaning “mirage” in Arabic, the exhibition presents large-scale public artworks exploring the ideas of mirage and oasis, each cleverly curated around the stunning ancient formations in AlUla. A total of 15 regional and international artists have been invited to curate pieces for this year’s Desert X AlUla, bringing their global interpretations of a duo of explorative themes. 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.

Until March 30, free to enter. 

What Lies Within

Shadia Alem, The Black Arch (2011:2022)

Saudi patron and collector Basma AlSulaiman is opening her private collection of artworks for a curated exhibition at dazzling Maraya Hall as part of AlUla Arts Festival. Curated by artist Lulwah AlHomoud, this temporary exhibition brings together works from the past two decades by some of the most significant artists of Saudi Arabia and its diaspora. The artists featured as part of What Lies Within are Manal AlDowayan, Shadia Alem, Adel AlQuraishi, Nasser AlSalem, Dana Awartani, Maha Malluh, Ahmed Mater, and Filwa Nazer, among others. Each artist selected for the exhibition has a unique, holistic approach to exploring the past, present, and future, with a range of themes around heritage, identity, and place.

Maraya Hall, until March 30, free to enter. 

Cortona on the Move

Cortona on the Move has existed as a site-specific exhibition in the Italian town of Cortona since 2011, and expands to its first international exhibition as part of AlUla Arts Festival for 2022. A collection of 18 international artists were handpicked by curators Arianna Rinaldo and the Saudi-based visual artist Kholood Al-Bakr to exhibit, with their works woven around the newly restored AlJaddidah district. Around a theme of ‘Time, Life and Longing’, the works can be enjoyed through guided tours, talks and screenings, plus there’s training opportunities for budding photographers throughout Cortona on the Move.

AlJaddidah, until March 31, free.