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Why Wadi AlFann will be the next big thing in AlUla

Set to open by 2024, this epic new destination will welcome art lovers, adventurers, and globetrotters from across the world…

It’s an ambitious project that will continue to push the arts scene in Saudi Arabia to new cultural heights. Undoubtedly, it will be another milestone event for the Kingdom, made possible by the Royal Commission of AlUla (RCU), led by chairman His Royal Highness the Crown Prince.

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Enter Wadi AlFann, a permanent desert art venue scheduled to launch by 2024. The 65-square-kilometres project in AlUla will be dedicated to large-scale installations by renowned pioneers of land art and artists at the forefront of contemporary practice.

Five international and Saudi artists have also been announced as the first artist commissions for Wadi AlFann, which aptly means ‘Valley of the Arts’. US artists James Turrell, Agnes Denes, and Michael Heizer, as well as Saudi creative pioneers Ahmed Mater and Manal Al-Dowayan, have been tapped for the project.

Here are just a few of the wonders that await at Wadi AlFann.

Visual artist Mater’s installation for the valley, “Ashab Al-Lal”, will use a subterranean tunnel and mirrors to give visitors the optical illusion of seeing a mirage, while Al-Dowayan’s “The Oasis of Stories” will be a labyrinthine structure inspired by the mud homes of AlUla’s ancient old town.

Heizer, known for producing large outdoor earthwork sculptures and for his work with rock, concrete, and steel, will create lineal engravings in the sandstone rock pertaining directly to the geology of the area and sundry characteristics of the Quweira sandstone.

Hungarian-born American Denes will exhibit a series of ascending pointed pyramids to explore civilisation, advancement, and achievement.

Meanwhile, visitors can get a sensorial experience of space, colour, and perception through Turrell’s work via a series of tunnels and stairs housed within the canyon floor.

The unveiling of the five artworks will be accompanied by a dynamic, engaging public program that will include performances and tours through the valley.

In addition, a pre-opening program will take off later this year with temporary exhibitions, artist residencies, and public symposia that will bring artists together with architects, environmentalists, archaeologists, and local communities.

The exhibition’s goal is to commission around 20 to 25 permanent artworks over the course of 10 years.

“Wadi AlFann will rekindle the creativity of AlUla and deliver new transformative experiences for locals and visitors alike,” says Nora Aldabal, executive director of arts and creative industries at the Royal Commission for AlUla. “This visionary destination will build a vibrant and prosperous local cultural economy, forging pathways for the people of AlUla to unlock creative potential.”

Renderings: Provided

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