Towards the end of 2019, Saudi Arabia announced that it was welcoming in 2020 Desert X, an international, contemporary art exhibition that focuses attention on and creates conversation about environmental, social, and cultural conditions of the 21st century. This week, Saudis are getting a clearer picture of what to expect with this Coachella Valley-based contemporary art biennial, as the organizers have finally shared the list of artists who will be participating in this one-of-a-kind exhibition:
Manal AlDowayan (Saudi Arabia); Zahrah AlGhamdi (Saudi Arabia); Nasser AlSalem (Saudi Arabia); Muhannad Shono (Saudi Arabia); Rashed AlShashai (Saudi Arabia); Lita Albuquerque (United States); Gisela Colon (Canada); Superflex (Denmark); Sherin Guirguis (Egypt); Wael Shawky (Egypt); Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim (UAE); eL Seed (France); Rayyane Tabet (Lebanon); and Nadim Karam (Lebanon).
Desert X AlUla, which consists of site-specific works by local and international artists staged across Al-Ula, is being co-curated by Desert X’s artistic director Neville Wakefield and two Saudi Arabian art specialists, Raneem Farsi and Aya Alireza. According to the event’s official website, it aims “to create an international dialogue about the desert and shared interests through art works that respond to different desert cultures and environmental conditions, and to the historical context of AlUla.”
In an official statement on the event’s website, Wakefield, expanded on the thematic of the event, saying, “Site-specific exhibitions such as Desert X take their cues from land art of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, when artists consciously gravitated towards the remote as a means of breaking down the walls - physical, experiential and economic - of the institutions to which they felt bound. Since then, globalisation has left us with a radically altered perception of the world. The universe may have contracted but cultural walls remain. Our hope is that in helping bring a site-specific contemporary art exhibition to the desert of AlUla, there will be new conversations, new cultural dialogue between individuals and communities.”
Desert X AlUla is being funded by Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission for Al-Ula and is scheduled to run from January 31 to March 7, coinciding with Al-Ula’s annual Winter at Tantora festival.