Desert X AlUla brings a cache of site-responsive land art to Saudi Arabia

Spanning three sites and 16 artists, the 2024 edition of Desert X AlUla sees artists ‘attuning to the forces, rhythms and processes’ of the ancient oasis city.

This year’s theme is ‘What cannot be seen?’ It attempts to subvert stereotypes of the desert as empty or static, with artists spending time in AlUla before developing their installations within the Wadi AlFann desert, Harrat Uwayrid and AlManshiyah Railway Station

The artworks span a wide range of styles and reference points, from Filwa Nazer’s Preserving Shadows – a winding steel walkway inspired by the stories of desert jinn – to Kader Attia’s blue glass sculptures, which whistle when struck by the wind.

Natural materials, ancient myth and folk narratives and the fragility of our planet are all recurring themes across the art festival, with Giuseppe Penone incorporating fossilised trees into his installation and Monira al Qadiri creating giant versions of mysterious desert meteorites.

Desert X AlUla is part of the wider AlUla Arts Festival, which is on until 2 March 2024 and includes several contemporary art showcases as well as tours and craft workshops.

Ayman Yossri Daydban, C, Desert X AlUla 2024. Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.

Sara Alissa and Nojoud Alsudairi, Invisible Possibilities: When the Earth Began to Look at Itself, Desert X AlUla 2024. Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.

Giuseppe Penone, The Logic of the Vegetal – Metamorphosis, Desert X AlUla 2024. Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.

Karola Braga, Sfumato, Desert X AlUla 2024. Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla.

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