These are the highlights to look out for at the Diriyah Biennale 2024

From exploring land and ecology to the crises being faced, here’s how works by 100 artists can help us see the world from another perspective…

Now in its second edition, the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale has become a distinctive event in the region’s art calendar, connecting artistic practices from the region with a larger global conversation.

Helmed by globally renowned curator Ute Meta Bauer, along with Wejdan Reda, Rahul Gudipudi, Rose Lejeune, and Anca Rujoiu, the 2024 edition titled ‘After Rain’ opens up a moment of revitalisation and renewal. It introduces the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale as a nurturing entity filled with life while acknowledging the necessity of water for all forms of life that dwell and seek shelter on our planet.

We look at some of this year’s Diriyah Biennale’s highlights. Interested in seeing more? The Biennale runs until Friday, May 24, at the JAX District, overlooking Wadi Hanifah.

The monumental artworks

Visiting the Diriyah Biennale 2024 will take audiences across six airy exhibition halls in the JAX District. This year, the 177 works on show by artists from all over the world address pressing topics, such as water shortage, arid landscapes, and climate migration.

One of the most standout works is Logoligi Logarithm by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui. His maze-like installation at the Biennale, made of hundreds of stitched bottle caps, addresses the themes of colonial imports, consumption, and waste. The work is inspired by the term “logoligi”, which means snake-like in the Ghanaian language of Ga.

Another art display features Palestinian artist and educator Samia Zaru. Equal parts captivating and memorable, Life is a Woven Carpet showcases a ceiling-high, net-like hanging of ropes studded with pieces of clay and glass found in old Palestinian buildings. The piece reflects the artist’s idea of life as a rich fabric of threads with knots, tangles, and empty spaces.

Sara Abdu

One of the artists to be on everyone’s radar is emerging Saudi-based Yemeni artist Sara Abdu. For the Biennale, she has constructed three towers of handcrafted soaps infused with sidr and camphor, with different moulds and titular inscriptions on each soap bar. Her work explores regional cleansing rituals that prepare corpses for burial, grappling with that which is no longer present.

Beyond the four walls, new spatial installations also fill the outdoor spaces of the JAX District. Take, for instance, Bosnian-born Azra Akšamija, who has created a 70-metre-long canopy of recycled felt, inspired by Saudi textiles and traditional Al Sadu weaving techniques.

Public programmes and workshops

Jotun Discover Colour workshop

Art displays aside, there are many learning sessions and activations taking place during the Diriyah Biennale 2024. One of them is Jotun’s colour workshop, ‘Discover Colours: Express, Inspire, Connect’, which will be held on Friday April 26. Led by colour development expert Rahma Al-Korbi, this Arabic workshop will guide you through how we see colours and their importance in art and everyday life, through learning about the science behind colour perception, why certain colours evoke certain moods, and how different cultures use colour to tell stories.

Want to volunteer in cooking and engage in meaningful interactions with Biennale visitors? Under a bamboo structure, Britto Arts Trust will take visitors on an intimate journey through food-making by engaging them in harvesting, cooking, and eating.

There’s also the much-loved Cinema Nights. Starting from Thursday April 25, you can catch ‘After the Long Rains’, which is set in Kenya and follows the story of the dreams of a ten-year-old girl, Aisha, who wants to travel to Europe and become an actress.

Biennale puppetry kids workshop

Another key programme is the kids’ workshop, embodying the Biennale’s commitment to inspiring young, curious minds with art. It aims to explore the many ways children can learn and play while engaging more with the world around them. From car-building activities to storytelling and puppetry, the workshops will inspire visitors of all ages.

Culinary options galore

You can’t look at art all day. Those attending the Diriyah Biennale 2024 have an array of eateries from which to choose. Whether you want to relax over a drink, grab a quick bite, or settle in to dine, the tantalising options vary from A.O.K. Kitchen and Lunchroom to Camel Step for a cup of joe.

Biennale-inspired gifts and merchandise

If you want to see beautiful artworks, you go to the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale 2024. If you want to take beautiful art and design home, you go to the Biennale Design Store.

The Biennale Design Store is much more than a traditional gift shop: it is a platform to spotlight the works of emerging artists, illustrators, and designers, particularly from the Arab world. The store will house a rotating collection of limited-edition series that include apparel, decorative and functional objects, and works of art. So, be sure to pop by and take a piece of the Biennale home with you.

Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale 2024, until May 24, JAX District, Diriyah, Riyadh, Sat to Thurs 11am to 11pm & Fri 3pm to midnight. Free entry but you need to book your ticket here. @biennale_sa

Images: Social