KSAArts & Culture

Here are the artists joining AlUla’s Wadi AlFann

The installations will be created by Saudi and American artists.

The desert may seem like an unlikely canvas for an artist, but Saudi Arabia’s AlUla has proven that it can be a great place to create spectacular works of art. The Royal Commission for AlUla has announced that Wadi AlFann valley, which spans a gigantic 65 square kilometres, will soon be home to large-scale art installations.

The creatives involved include an exciting list of local as well as international names. The artists creating works include Saudi artists Ahmed Mater and Manal AlDowayan, alongside American artists James Turrell, Agnes Denes and Michael Heizer. 

The chair of the commission’s Public Art Expert panel, who advises on the project, is the former director of London’s Whitechapel Gallery, Iwona Blazwick.

AlUla’s WadiFann
A rendering of Ahmed Mater’s work at Wadi AlFann.
Meet the artists 

Ahmed Mater, the doctor turned artist, swapped his stethoscope for a paintbrush and recently held his first exhibition in Riyadh, Prognosis 1979-2019. In AlUla, Ahmed’s Ashab Al-Lal will use mirrors to create an optical illusion and reflect the beauty of the landscape. 

Manal AlDowayan is famous for her feminist artwork, which often creates talking points in the kingdom. For her work in AlUla, Manal has drawn inspiration from AlUla’s mud huts, and will create structures reflecting the desert’s ancient homes. 

AlUla is home to Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it has a history to match the likes of the world’s greatest wonders. So, to draw on this, the Hungarian-born, American-based artist Agnes Denes will create pyramids in the desert. 

Michael Heizer is famous for his site-specific sculptures, and has created artwork in the Nevada desert. AlUla is home to rock art that is hundreds of years old, so Michael plans to build on this and create lineal engravings in the sandstone rock. 

Throughout James Turrell’s career he has explored the relationship between light and space. In AlUla, he is bringing those themes to life by creating an experience for the senses, so there’ll be tunnels that visitors can explore, which play with light and colour. 

AlUla has hosted impressive large-scale art installations before. Desert X AlUla, which included trampolines in the middle of the desert, showed just how creative – and fun – it can be for the artist and the visitor. 

While we do have to wait until 2024 to see the finished projects, later this year AlUla’s Wadi AlFann will host exhibitions and artist residences, which will give us a preview of what we can expect. 

GO: www.experiencealula.com for more information.

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Kohinoor Sahota - Deputy Editor
A sucker for a good story, if you invite Kohinoor to a gallery, comedy night, new restaurant, hiking trip, cycle ride, pool day or just about any activity, preferably with the promise of wine, she’ll probably say yes – that is if she isn’t busy planning her next adventure.

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