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8 Amazing Artworks By Arab Artists At DesertXAlUla 2022

We’re making a beeline for the pieces by artists like Shadia Alem and Dana Awartani while wondering amidst the extraordinary desert landscape of the area described as a “living museum of heritage, arts and nature.”

After the success of its inaugural exhibition in 2020, art enthusiasts are getting ready to explore the creative gems at the second edition of Desert X AlUla, taking place from 11 February – 30 March 2022. The recurring, site-responsive, international art exhibition in AlUla, a globally significant ancient desert region in the Arabian Peninsula, will feature newly commissioned visionary and contemporary works by 15 artists. And while the must-visit exhibition will bring a plurality of voices from around the world, getting up close and personal to the pieces by the exciting regional talent always makes the trip that much more special.

Desert X AlUla 2022 site visit

With the curatorial vision of Reem Fadda, Raneem Farsi and Neville Wakefield, Desert X AlUla is being held under the “Sarab” theme this year. It explores ideas of mirage and oasis, both intrinsic to desert history and culture, that have taken on complex worldwide significance over time. Invited to consider these ancient concepts, participating artists have responded with works that address dreams, camouflage, fiction, dis/appearance, extraction, illusion and myth, while also examining the dichotomy between the natural and man-made worlds.

DXA Manal Al Dowayany - Lance Gerber

Here’s a closer look at what the eight exhibiting homegrown artists will be presenting at the free and open to all event, which is set to be a highlight of AlUla Arts Festival.

DXA Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim - Lance Gerber

Shadia Alem, a Saudi-born artist based in Paris, has created a sculptural installation that adapts the art of origami. It applies the basic principles of geometry and beauty to create shapes that make reference to the Arabian desert’s literature, mathematics and mythology. Another interesting piece also comes from a female Saudi, Dana Awartani. For her sculpture, Awartani, who lives in Jeddah, draws inspiration from the vernacular architecture of AlUla. It takes the form of a concave geometric sculpture that references the Nabataean tombs and mimics the shapes of surrounding mountains, gorges, caverns and rock formations.

DXA Rashed Al Shashai - Lance Gerber

Meanwhile, Sultan bin Fahad’s mud structure is shaped like a desert kite, with mirrors on the façade that create the look of a mirage. The work by the Saudi artist, who is based in Los Angeles, houses an urn-like sculpture embossed with four protective symbols traditionally used in Nabatean tombs. Additionally, Zeinab AlHashemi, an Emirati creative has come up with an interactive sculpture using discarded camel skins on an abstract, geometric base, resembling a rock formation in the desert. And just ike a camouflage, the camel hide sculptures by the Dubai resident merge into the mountains.

DXA Zahra Alghamdi - Lance Gerber

Shaikha AlMazrou, another Emirati artist living in Dubai, is presenting lengthy steel-made inflated structures. They are wedged in the voids of rocks, tensely balanced in the landscape, occupying the liminal state between stasis and movement. The structures create a silent, yet imposing composition suspended in inertia. Alternatively, Palestinian Khalil Rabah, who lives in Ramallah, has crafted a mirage of an orchard of olive trees. Standing in the desert as living things displaced from their indigenous land, they are longing to be repatriated, as an exploration of territory, survival and citizenship.

DXA Zahra Alghamdi - Lance Gerber

In addition, there’s Riyadh-based Abdullah AlOthman’s piece, which references theories of light refraction rooting back to the early days of desert civilisation and culture. The Saudi artist has incorporated stainless steel plinths that interact with the light and create a radiant space that seeks to manifest the experience of capturing the mirage for the first time. Ayman Zedani, the second Saudi living in the capital, has fashioned a soundscape installation in a rocky cavern. Comprising horizontal sculptural wires and an audio projection of music, the voices and footsteps create a cacophony of sounds that add to the chimes of nature.

Desert X AlUla, a collaboration between Desert X and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), will take place in a different location this year. It will be situated within a valley that invites visitors to wander through and experience the spectacular landscapes as they weave their journey between the works.

As part of AlUla’s wide-ranging local community engagement and education programme that aims to reinvigorate a vibrant cultural economy, this edition will include art mediator training programmes, family events, workshops for teachers and other networking and programming activities for visitors and communities. This includes site-specific, newly commissioned dance and music performances.

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

About Desert x AlUla
Established to advance new cultural dialogue through art, Desert X AlUla is the first site-responsive exhibition of its kind in Saudi Arabia. It 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.

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