This week, it has been reported that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has entered talks with Sotheby’s, the United States’ largest auction house, to develop a contemporary art program in one of the Kingdom’s renowned regions. According to Bloomberg, the site of the one-of-a-kind cultural center will be in the northwestern region of Al Ula, an approximately five-thousand-year-old site renowned for its unique terrain and archaeological remnants, some over 2,000 years old.
Prince Mohammed Bin Salman
According to the news site, it is still unclear if the project will proceed as planned. However, Allan Schwartzman, the co-chairman of the fine art division of Sotheby’s, is already working with the Kingdom as it focuses on developing its arts and cultural offerings. Schwartzman currently serves on the advisory board of the Royal Commission for Al Ula, which is an entity supervising the region’s development, and he also leads Art Agency Partners, the art advisory arm of Sotheby’s, “which submitted a plan for a sprawling contemporary art initiative on the site.”
The report states that Sotheby’s has invited more than a dozen artists to submit proposals, and from late October to date, five artists have already visited the site. In addition, Sotheby’s explains in its proposal that artists “will be asked to dream their biggest dream and envisage a project which may or may not be realized, but will represent the ultimate expression of them as an artist.”
Al Ula is a site that has been the focus of a significant part of Saudi Arabia’s development efforts due to its history, terrain, and appeal. It is an ancient city that was strategically located along the incense route, making it a key stop on the road between the Mediterranean and the Arab world, and far beyond to Asia and Africa. Saudi Arabia plans to open Al Ula’s centuries of rich history and potential hiking trails to the world in the next three to five years.