Art in AlUla
The Confluence of Humanity, Nature & Art
For thousands of years, AlUla has provided artists with creative inspiration, which pulses in the region’s ornately decorated tombs, sandstone etchings and the intricately patterned weavings of local craftspeople. As such, it’s only fitting that the region is leading the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s mission to become a globally recognised centre for arts and culture, and a hub for cultural tourism and the exchange of ideas.
In fact, over the next decade, Saudi Arabia intends to build numerous major art institutions and smaller museums — at least seven of which will reside in AlUla — to showcase an array of works, particularly those that place an emphasis on Saudi culture and Islamic arts.
As a driving force in this artistic movement, AlUla is taking strides to marry its rich culture, unique heritage and raw wilderness with more contemporary forms of expression. Most recently, several exhibitions took place during AlUla’s extraordinary Winter at Tantora Festival.
Past Art Exhibitions
JANUARY–MARCH 2020 DESERT X ALULA
In a valley surrounded by sandstone cliffs reaching high skyward, the collective exhibition Desert X AlUla harnessed the vast power of the region’s wild landscape to fuse art and nature. Visitors wandered the outdoor gallery to discover the works of 14 international artists, both complemented and contrasted by the stunning desert setting. Weather-hewn red-rock pillars loomed in the background of a graceful collection of delicate sand-coloured Arabic calligraphy, spreading a message of peace and unity. Farther on, brightly painted stone-shaped sculptures echoed the natural rockfall of the valley and a parade of statues paid homage to native flora and fauna, casting ever-changing shadows on the fine desert sands below. The centre of a split pyramid, radiant in bright pink, represented AlUla’s reawakening and transition from an area where goods were traded to a hub for the exchange of ideas. Other installations provided equal delight and ample opportunity to ponder matters spanning the global economy and regional history, as well as the threads that unite humans, nature and art.
DECEMBER 2019–FEBRUARY 2020 FRANCHISE FREEDOM
In this immersive exhibit, the inky blue-black skies of AlUla were lit with ethereal drones, taking to the air to mimic the flight of starlings. Thousands of man-made birds smoothly swooped and glided through the night in an unpredictable ballet, the sight of which was amplified by the vast expanse of desert. As festival goers gazed in wonder at this magnificent migration, a piano player serenaded them at the Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza — a single mausoleum carved into its own sandstone outcrop that rises from fine Saudi Arabian sands, awash in radiant light and further driving the connection between humanity, nature and emerging technology.
DECEMBER 2018–FEBRUARY 2019 VAN GOGH ALIVE
Held during the first season of Winter at Tantora, this multi-sensory experience propelled the works of Vincent Van Gogh well beyond the confines of the frame, allowing festivalgoers to be enveloped by his genius. Walking into the exhibit space at Maraya, viewers were entranced by floor-to-ceiling, digital displays of Van Gogh’s art. Both his most famous and lesser-known pieces were transformed into dynamic, shifting panoramas, enhanced by lights, color, music and audio clips of the artist’s writings. Viewers were surrounded by art on all sides, turning the traditional museum experience into an unforgettable opportunity to appreciate Van Gogh’s masterful work as if one was inside it.