All you need to know about the return of Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale in 2024

The 2024 edition unveils its participating artists, title, and curatorial vision…

Art lovers, rejoice. If you’ve been looking forward to the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale 2024, here’s all you need to know when it returns next year from February 20 to May 24.

Taking place in the JAX District in Diriyah, Riyadh, the 2024 edition reveals a stellar line-up of participating artists and introduces its curatorial framework, titled “After Rain.”

Unfolding across seven halls, courtyards, and terraces along Wadi Hanifa, “After Rain” symbolises renewal and revitalisation, with the title drawing inspiration from the earthy scent that follows rainfall.

JAX Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale

The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale 2024 delves into the role of a contemporary art biennial in a nation undergoing rapid social transformation, featuring 92 artists from 43 countries, including 30 artists from the wider Gulf region. The list of participating artists includes renowned names, such as Hamra Abbas, El Anatsui, Joan Jonas, and many more, representing diverse creative voices.

Notable collaborations and artworks

“After Rain” brings together artists exploring the complex history of the region, the human-nature continuum, the built environment, and the surrounding landscapes. Visitors can look forward to a significant number of newly commissioned works that engage with the current moment of societal transformation.

One of the highlights is the documentation of Saudi futurism since the 1940s by Saudi artist Ahmed Mater and Berlin-based photographer/filmmaker Armin Linke.

Emerging Saudi-based Yemeni artist Sara Abdu creates a multisensory experience with towers constructed from artisanally produced bars of soap, exploring cleansing rituals. Meanwhile, Saudi artist Mohammad AlFaraj presents a new work incorporating palm trees and sound, reflecting on the landscape of Al Ahsa, one of the world’s largest oases.

Outdoor spaces in the JAX District will host new spatial installations, including a 70-meter-long canopy by Azra Akšamija and a shading structure made of recycled sheet glass by Anne Holtrop.

During the holy month of Ramadan (March to April 2024), the Biennale emphasises communal gatherings around sharing food. Britto Arts Trust invites the audience to harvest, cook, and eat in a bamboo architectural structure.

NJOKOBOK operates a juice and tea bar, while Lucy + Jorge Orta invite the public to participate in a meal in the JAX District’s alleyways.

There’s also the Biennale Encounters series. Launched in April 2023, it features performances, concerts, and poetry readings, creating an ongoing conversation with new audiences. This edition is informed by research trips to regions across Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries undertaken by the curatorial team, local artists, and international visitors.

Ute Meta Bauer Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale

The curatorial team of the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale 2024 is led by globally renowned curator Ute Meta Bauer as Artistic Director and comprised of DBF curator Wejdan Reda (SA) and curators Rahul Gudipudi (IN), Rose Lejeune (UK), and Anca Rujoiu (RO). Together, they bring experiences and insights from diverse geographic backgrounds, extending the Biennale exhibition with artistic formats such as performance, sound, research-based practices, and digital forms.

Bauer commented, “This multifaceted and multi-format Biennale can be seen as a journey, becoming a place for both interaction and contemplation. It brings together artists from different parts of the world with artists from Saudi Arabia and the wider region, engaged in shared issues around land, water, food, and healing practices.”

The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is a significant initiative by the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, contributing to the cultural transformation in Saudi Arabia.

Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale 2024, Feb 20 to May 24, JAX District, Diriyah, Riyadh. @biennale_sa

Images: Social