7 unmissable exhibitions at AlUla Arts Festival

7 unmissable exhibitions at AlUla Arts Festival



FACT has scoured the site to bring you the must-see artworks and exhibitions.

The AlUla Arts Festival is back for its third iteration and is currently underway until 2 March 2024. Set against the backdrop of the ancient oasis of AlUla, this festival boasts an extensive program of events, exhibitions, and creative initiatives. With exhibitions spread across the city and surrounding desert, these are the things you don't want to miss.

AlUla 1445

This exhibition in AlUla Old Town features the vibrant photograph of Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj, surrounded by soda cans and colourful backdrops. The bold and enlivening imagery captures the essence of local life and community identity in AlUla and features portraits of local residents and even superstar singer Alicia Keys.

Hassan Hajjaj

Desert X AlUla

Returning for its third iteration, Desert X AlUla features 15 newly commissioned artworks under the theme "In the Presence of Absence." The artists have been invited to engage in a discourse with AlUla's landscape, nature, and heritage, crafting distinctive pieces that invite contemplation on the unseen aspects of desert landscapes and their rich histories. 

Highlight pieces include South Korean artist Kimsooja's "To Breathe – AlUla", which offers a cylindrical form that spirals into the desert landscape, refracting light that has travelled aeons into prisms that dance across the landscape. Brazilian scent artist Karola Braga employs fragrance to evoke the sensory realm of ancient trade. Her installation, "Sfumato", envelops participants in a mist of frankincense and myrrh heated in a volcano-like oven.

AlUla Arts Festival

Design Residency AlUla

The Design Residency at the Madrasat Addeera serves as a hub for showcasing AlUla's design initiatives and fostering collaboration among design professionals and enthusiasts. The open layout of the space encourages guests to roam freely, participating in activities such as games, networking, or simply unwinding. The pieces include a Bedouin tent filled with video installations, a large yellow couch to listen to music and a collection of sculptures created from items discovered in the desert.

Oasis of Stories

Wadi AlFann will also play host to Manal AlDowayan's landmark installation, "Oasis of Stories," offering a labyrinthine experience inspired by AlUla's Old Town when it opens in 2026. In a pre-cursor to the installation, AlJadidah Arts District showcases two adjacent exhibitions featuring AlDowayan's participatory workshops' outcomes and a collaboration with Sabrina Amrani Gallery. Here, visitors can see the drawings from local farmers, families and footballers, which will be inscribed onto sustainable salt panels erected in the desert for future generations to enjoy.

Manal AlDowayan with Iwona Blazwick, 2024. Images courtesy of the Royal Commission for AlUla.jpg

More than Meets the Eye

This exhibition on display inside the mirrored Maraya Concert Hall presents contemporary works by Saudi artists loaned from collectors in Saudi Arabia, offering insights into the evolution of the Kingdom's contemporary art scene. 

Presenting a vibrant array of paintings, sculptures, photography, installations, and videos spanning the last 25 years, this free-to-attend exhibition celebrates the boundless creativity of local modern and contemporary artists. Many of these works are on display publically for the first time, offering a fresh perspective on the region's artistic landscape. 

AlUla Arts Festival

Palms in Eternal Embrace

The Ithra Art Prize winner, Obaid Alsafi's winning artwork, "Palms in Eternal Embrace," showcases a large-scale installation highlighting the importance of safeguarding natural environments. On display for six weeks amidst the 2.3 million date palms of the AlUla Oasis, the piece encourages viewers to reflect on ways to safeguard the natural environment.

Comprising over 30 palm trunks intricately interwoven using locally sourced organic or recycled textiles, the interactive piece draws inspiration from traditional Saudi artistry and rope and Leifa making. Collaborating with local artisans, Alsafi has incorporated unique and colourful designs amidst the natural wood, blending modern and traditional art forms. The intertwined ropes symbolise the potential of advanced technologies in preserving endangered flora and fauna.

Ithra Art Prize

The Visual Arts Residency Exhibition

Curated by Maryam Bilal, the exhibition "The Shadow Over Everything" from the Visual Art Residency redefines Mabiti’s palm grove, turning it into an immersive artistic showcase. Artworks elegantly weave along the main path, seamlessly blending into the surrounding trees. This unique presentation invites viewers to ponder each piece individually while immersing themselves in a cohesive and enchanting experience featuring live performance art, stunning sculptures and interactive exhibits. Head to the rooftop to see the future of AI as imposed on AlUla.

GO: Visit experiencealula.com for more information.