The second edition of AlUla Arts Festival is running from February 16 to 28 within the central theme of Living in Color. The inspiring 12-day event is set in the majestic natural landscape of the ancient city and boasts a unique program that includes curated contemporary art, large-scale installations, workshops, talks, cinema, and many more artistic endeavors.
AlUla Arts Festival showcases AlUla's long-standing legacy of being a cultural crossroads, championing both cutting-edge modern art and ancient art, preserved for thousands of years. Located 1,100km from Riyadh, in North-West Saudi Arabia, AlUla is a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage. The vast area includes a lush oasis valley, towering sandstone mountains and ancient cultural heritage sites dating back thousands of years, covering the periods when the Lihyan, Dadan, and Nabataean kingdoms reigned.
Welcoming all forms of art, the festival was inaugurated in 2022 as part of the broader AlUla Moments calendar of events and festivals and is set to become a must-see annual event on the global arts scene. Offering a unique opportunity for visitors to appreciate art in the stunning landscapes of AlUla, it aims to inspire visitors and community members alike to share their own creativity and ideas, offering hands-on experiences, from community murals to interactive workshops.
Here are some of the unmissable must-visit features from this year’s line-up:
1) FAME: Andy Warhol in AlUla
FAME is produced in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and curated by the museum’s director Patrick Moore to respond specifically to the mirrored building Maraya, a dedicated arts and culture venue in AlUla. The exhibition features Warhol’s famous paintings and prints of Hollywood stars and celebrities alongside his ground-breaking installation Silver Clouds and archival photography. FAME is also accompanied by a robust program of performances, talks, and workshops, including the 13 Most Beautiful, large-scale projections of Warhol’s silent films set to a specially commissioned live soundtrack by cult rock duo Dean and Britta.
2) Wadi AlFann: Art in the Landscape Guided Hikes
Translated as valley of the art, Wadi AlFann is set to be an inspiring worldwide cultural destination where large-scale pieces of modern art will be permanently installed against a magnificent natural backdrop. New, large-scale, site-specific commissions by Manal AlDowayan from Saudi Arabia, Agnes Denes from Hungary, Michael Heizer from USA, Ahmed Mater from Saudi Arabia, and James Turrell from USA will create the first five works for Wadi AlFann by 2024. These era-defining works by some of the most compelling artists from around the world will be permanently placed in the monumental landscape of AlUla and will mark the start of a continued program of commissions, with more artists and activities to be announced.
With a spotlight on the inspiring desert landscapes of AlUla, Art in the Landscape Guided Hike will introduce audiences to the Wadi AlFann 65-square kilometer landscapes, through the lens of art. Aimed at adventurous art lovers, the ticketed guided hike will last six hours, with participants navigating the canyons and stunning desert trail while learning about the Wadi AlFann vision and artist narrative.
3) 100 Best Arabic Posters
This colorful exhibit, organized by the German University of Cairo, features a jury-selected selection of the best Arabic graphically designed posters from the previous year, resulting in a one-of-a-kind bespoke archived collection. 100 Best Arabic Posters in AlJadidah, presents eye-catching graphic designs from the Arab world. Launched in 2015 at the German University of Cairo, the unique platform showcases the latest innovations within the region’s contemporary visual culture, serving as a reference for graphic designers, visual artists, and scholars within the Arab world and beyond.
4) Madrasat Addeera Public Art
There is a stellar line-up of interactive art and craft workshops and talks for adults as well as children of all ages and families planned throughout the season. Brought to AlUla in collaboration with Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, it is specifically aimed at engaging the local community through art, Madrasat Addeera Program comprises of workshops at various levels in subjects such as wood carving, textile weaving, palm frond weaving, geometry, and decorative design.
5) Living in Color in AlJadidah
AlJadidah, AlUla’s artistic district, will offer a collection of public art commissioned especially for the AlUla Arts Festival. Dotted around the various squares and community areas, the artworks include photography, sculpture, and immersive activations to inspire and delight.
Led by Hukat AlFann, the Living in Color Guided Tours will take visitors through the Community Square in the Arts District and Oasis to see newly commissioned and temporary public art, including community artworks and murals by artist eL Seed, as well as the unique community hand-painted urban carpet in AlJadidah. The duration of the ticketed tour is 75 minutes, though visitors can also conduct a self-guided tour with the help of AlUla Art’s print and digital guides.
6) The AlUla Artist Residency
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), in collaboration with the French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula), has launched the second edition of the AlUla Artist Residency Programme. Running from October 2022 through March 2023, the AlUla Artist Residency and Exhibition features six artists undertaking a three-month residency in AlUla, living alongside and collaborating with the local community, scientists, and researchers to develop new works and practices. The multidisciplinary artists include Saudi nationals Mohammad al-Faraj and Daniah al-Saleh, as well as Emirati artist Dr. Afra Atiq, Moroccan-Canadian artist M’hammed Kilito, French-American artist Sabine Mirlesse, and Filipino artist Augustine Paredes. These artists with diverse backgrounds and practices were encouraged to bring together a multitude of cultures and media, including visual art, installation, and, for the first time, photography, poetry, and film.
As part of the AlUla Artist Residency, the artists learned about the forms, skills, and traditions of AlUla’s past civilizations, such as the Dadanites and the Nabataeans. In doing so, not only do they have the opportunity to recall and honour the heritage of the oasis, but they also questioned the place of the artist in such fast-transforming, future-oriented projects.
The residency will culminate in a public program of events including Palimpsest of Time, an exhibition and open studio weekend from 17 February to 18 March that will bring together 13 artists from the current and previous AlUla Artists Residency programme. The exhibition will be hosted in Mabiti- a guest house and palm grove home to the artist residency – an additional installation at Madrasat Addeera celebrates all 25 creatives who have experienced the residency program so far.
AlUla Arts Festival will run until February 28, with some programs extending through May.
For more information, please visit www.experiencealula.com