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It’s All Go For Desert X AlUla 2022

The first site-responsive exhibition of its kind in Saudi Arabia is set to take place again in the region that’s described as a living museum of heritage, arts and nature.

Neville Wakefield & Raneem Farsi, co-curators of Desert X AlUla, onsite, photo by Noon Art, image courtesy RCU

We’re more than ready for the second edition of Desert X AlUla, which is taking place from 11 February – 30 March 2022. The recurring, site-responsive, international art exhibition in AlUla, Saudi Arabia’s globally significant ancient desert region, features visionary contemporary artworks by Saudi and international artists amidst the extraordinary desert landscape the north-western region boasts. This year’s new venue is situated within a valley that invites visitors to wander through and experience spectacular landscapes as they weave their journey between the works. 

Desert X AlUla 2022 site visit

The theme for the exhibition, which is under the curatorial vision of Reem Fadda, Raneem Farsi and Neville Wakefield, is “Sarab.” It explores ideas of mirage and oasis, both intrinsic to desert history and culture, that have taken on complex worldwide sigficance over time. After they were invited to consider these ancient concepts, the participating artists, who will be announced in January, have responded with new works that address dreams, camouflage, fiction, dis/appearance, extraction, illusion and myth. The creatives also examine the dichotomy between the natural and man-made worlds. 

“The desert concepts of mirage and oasis have long been tied to ideas of survival, perseverance, desire and wealth. The oasis pertains to ideas of finding prosperity or heaven, while the mirage is a universal symbol of the mysteries of imagination and reality,” curatorial advisor Fadda says. “They also connote the incomprehensible beauty and abundance of nature in its most bereft state – the desert – and humans’ obsessive desire to capture and control it. Under the theme of ‘Sarab,’ the artists presented in the exhibition – all of whom have spent time in the AlUla region – have developed ambitious and strikingly innovative, site-specific responses, all of which address profound issues, that emerge from the local context but also resonate with audiences the world-over."

Desert X AlUla landscape, photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy RCU and Desert X

Taking place as a highlight of AlUla Arts Festival, Desert X AlUla will include art mediator training programmes, family events, workshops for teachers and other networking and programming activities for visitors and communities.

DXA Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim 9 Lance Gerber

The upcoming exhibition is a collaboration between Desert X and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), established to advance new cultural dialogue through art. Desert X AlUla fosters dialogue and exchange between artists, curators and international and local communities, shaped by a curatorial vision that takes the desert as its inspiration. Building on the legacy of Desert X, which takes place in California’s Coachella Valley, Desert X AlUla draws on principles of land art, offering a profound opportunity to experience art on a monumental scale in dialogue with nature. 

Media release, Desert X AlUla, 11 February - 30 March

Desert X AlUla aims to contribute to and continue the artistic heritage of the local community and region. Works from the 2020 edition by Lita Albuquerque, Manal AlDowayan, Sherin Guirguis, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Nadim Karam and Superflex are still on show. Additionally, Rashed AlShashai and Muhannad Shono are working as part of AlUla’s first art residency programme, an 11-week programme, until 14 January 2022.

Likewise, the ongoing collaboration provides an international platform for Saudi artists: Zahrah Alghamdi, whose work “Glimpses of the Past” was presented in the inaugural Desert X AlUla, went on to exhibit her work “What Lies Behind the Walls” to critical acclaim at Desert X 2021 in California. 

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