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7 incredible exhibitions you must check out at the AlUla Arts Festival

Highlights include the return of Desert X AlUla and Manal AlDowayan’s exhibitions in AlJadidah…

The AlUla Arts Festival, under its new banner of Art Unframed, makes its highly anticipated return for its third edition. Running until Saturday March 2, cutting-edge exhibitions, art in AlUla’s beautiful landscapes, creative workshops, and live performances make for a lively line-up.

Here are seven incredible exhibitions you must check out at the AlUla Arts Festival.

Desert X AlUla 2024

Locations: Wadi AlFann, Harrat Uwayrid, and AlManshiyah Plaza

Desert X AlUla 2024

The international open-air art exhibition Desert X AlUla returns for its third edition. It runs until Saturday March 23, placing visionary contemporary artworks by Saudi and international artists amidst the extraordinary desert landscape of AlUla. This year’s exhibition features 15 newly commissioned artworks under the ‘In the Presence of Absence’ theme. Often dismissed as spaces of emptiness, deserts are rendered mute and static, but there is much more than meets the eye. Through the artwork, the artists of Desert X AlUla ask, “What cannot be seen?” and invite spectators to explore the stories that lurk within the dunes of AlUla.

Desert X AlUla 2024, until Mar 23, 10.30am to 6.30pm. Free entry, but you need to book your day pass here.

Wadi AlFann presents Manal AlDowayan

Location: AlJadidah Arts District

Manal AlDowayan

Immerse yourself in Manal AlDowayan’s ‘Oasis of Stories’ and her exhibition presented in collaboration with Sabrina Amrani Gallery. Manal is one of the first five artists commissioned to exhibit at/in Wadi AlFann, a new cultural destination for contemporary art set to open in 2026. This is the first time the drawings gathered from her participatory workshops are being exhibited to the public, a crucial milestone in the trajectory and development of her work ‘Oasis of Stories’ and Wadi AlFann.

The first exhibition marks a milestone in the development of ‘Oasis of Stories’: on display are hundreds of drawings gathered from the artist’s participatory workshops with communities across AlUla. These drawings and stories will eventually be inscribed into the walls of the ‘Oasis of Stories’, enabling AlUla’s residents to leave their permanent trace in Wadi AlFann.

A parallel exhibition presented in collaboration with Sabrina Amrani Gallery, titled ‘Their Love Is Like All Loves, Their Death Is Like All Deaths’, delves further into Manal’s practice, with works including tussar silk sculptures, AlUla-inspired drawings, engraved clay works, and Sadu weaving, mirroring Saudi traditions.

Wadi AlFann presents Manal AlDowayan, Sun to Thurs 4pm to 10pm, Fri & Sat noon to 10pm. Free entry.

More than Meets the Eye

Location: Maraya

Maraya

View an exhibition of artworks crafted over the past 25 years from private Saudi Arabian collections. Showcasing paintings, sculptures, photography, installations and videos, this free exhibition is an ode to the diversity and creativity of local modern and contemporary artists, with many works coming into the public eye for the first time. It includes works by pioneering Saudi artists, such as Abdulhalim Radwi, Mohammed Alsaleem and Mounirah Mously, alongside leading contemporary Saudi artists, such as Ahmed Mater, Muhannad Shono and Dana Awartani, and explores connections, influences and shared stories from across generations of Saudi artists.

More than Meets the Eye Exhibition, until Apr 27, Sun to Thurs 2pm to 10pm & Fri 2pm to midnight. Free entry, but booking is required here.  

Ithra Art Prize ‘Palms in Eternal Embrace’

Location: The Cultural Oasis

Ithra Art Prize 'Palms in Eternal Embrace'

The winner of the largest art prize in the Middle East and North Africa, Obaid Alsafi, unveils his winning artwork, ‘Palms in Eternal Embrace’. The 6th edition of the annual prize run by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is the first in collaboration with Arts AlUla as part of a wider partnership between both organisations to combine their respective efforts to support creativity in Saudi Arabia and the wider region. This year’s theme, ‘Art in the Landscape’, called for submissions of public artwork proposals that are site-specific to AlUla and emphasise its unique landscapes and natural heritage. Open for all to view, Obaid’s artwork uniquely addresses the landscape’s beauty and the urgency of climate change.

Ithra Art Prize ‘Palms in Eternal Embrace’ by Obaid Alsafi, until Mar 23, daily 10am to 6pm.

AlUla Artist Residency        

Locations: Mabiti in The Palm Grove and Madrasat Addeera

 

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Arts AlUla presents two Artist Residency exhibitions: the Visual Art Residency exhibition, ‘The Shadow Over Everything’, and the Design Residency exhibition, ‘Unguessed Kinships’, which run until Tuesday April 30, emphasising AlUla’s emerging role as a focal point for cultural exchange and artistic innovation in the region. The exhibitions showcase pieces created by international artists and designers invited to participate in the AlUla Artist Residency Programme, founded in partnership with the French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula).

AlUla Artist Residency, until Apr 30, Sun to Wed 10am to 2pm & 4pm to 11pm, Thurs to Sat 10am to 11pm.

Hassan Hajjaj Exhibition

Location: AlJadidah Arts District

Hassan Hajjaj Exhibition

Get an inspiring glimpse of AlUla’s community through the lens of renowned Moroccan photographer Hassan Hajjaj. This outdoor photographic exhibition showcases captivating portraits of local people and residents, including farmers, sports teams, merchants, craftspeople and the creative community.

Hassan Hajjaj Exhibition, until Apr 27, daily 10am to midnight.

Design Space AlUla

Location: AlJadidah Arts District

Design Space AlUla

February 2024 marks the opening of Design Space AlUla, a focal point for showcasing AlUla’s wide-ranging design initiatives that contribute to the vision for AlUla. The space provides exhibition, workshop and archive space and is designed to foster collaboration among design professionals, students, and design enthusiasts. The inaugural exhibition, ‘Mawrid: Celebrating Inspired Design’, curated by Sara Ghani, will introduce the design thinking process behind 10 recent AlUla-inspired designs across design, architecture and urban planning. The launch programme, taking place between Thursday February 15 and Saturday February 17 will include keynote presentations, masterclasses, workshops, panel discussions and design tours.

@artsalula

Images: Instagram

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