Permanent art display in monumental desert set to become global icon

Permanent art display in monumental desert set to become global icon

Renowned artists Manal AlDowayan, Agnes Denes, Michael Heizer, Ahmed Mater and James Turrell will create permanent and era-defining new works for Wadi AlFann, an iconic new cultural destination set to open by 2024 in the ancient desert of AlUla, in the Arabian Peninsula.

Wadi AlFann – meaning ‘Valley of the Arts’ – spans 65 square kilometres in north-west Saudi Arabia. This awe-inspiring display of contemporary art will see large-scale, site-specific works by some of the world’s most compelling artists placed permanently in the monumental landscape of AlUla, an extraordinary region steeped in thousands of years of natural, historical and cultural heritage.

Historically lying on the incense trade route, AlUla is home to the ancient Nabataean city of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was once capital to the Kingdom of Dadan. Today, it is a living museum of heritage, arts and nature, rekindling its legacy as a vital cultural destination.

Wadi AlFann will welcome art lovers, adventurers and globetrotters from across the world on a transformative cultural journey to a unique place of creative and geographical wonder, continuing AlUla’s history as a place of cross-cultural exchange. This epic new destination will provide unparalleled opportunities for local communities and visitors to experience art as a source of education and enrichment.

Created by renowned pioneers of land art and artists at the forefront of contemporary practice, the concepts, vision and scale of Wadi AlFann’s commissions will mark a new chapter in AlUla’s rich history. The first five works will explore themes like collective memory, folklore, civilisation, achievement, form, scale, myth, mirage, perception and the materiality of light. They will mark the start of a continued programme of commissions, with more artists to be announced.

This unprecedented, ambitious and visionary showcase will offer a profound opportunity to experience art in dialogue with nature. Learning from the desert, the commissioned artists will take inspiration from its dramatic topography, undulating vistas, remarkable geology and complex ecosystem.

From late 2022, Wadi AlFann’s pre-opening programme will feature temporary exhibitions, artist residencies and public symposia. A dynamic public programme will accompany the unveiling of the first five artworks, including performances and tours through the valley, along with educational opportunities for local communities. 

“Wadi AlFann will rekindle the creativity of AlUla and deliver new transformative experiences for locals and visitors alike,” says Nora Aldabal, Executive Director of Arts and Creative Industries at the Royal Commission for AlUla, “This visionary destination will build a vibrant and prosperous local cultural economy, forging pathways for the people of AlUla to unlock creative potential.”

Aligned to the Saudi government’s holistic blueprint for the country at large, known as Vision 2030, Wadi AlFann is one of various new creative landmarks planned for AlUla as part of its Journey Through Time masterplan – developed by the Royal Commission for AlUla and unveiled by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince – which will see 15 new destinations for culture, heritage and creativity open by 2035.


Note to editors:

It is always AlUla / not Al-Ula

About the Royal Commission for AlUla

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) was established by royal decree in July 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla, a region of outstanding natural and cultural significance in north-west Saudi Arabia. RCU’s long-term plan outlines a responsible, sustainable, and sensitive approach to urban and economic development, that preserves the area’s natural and historic heritage, while establishing AlUla as a desirable location to live, work, and visit. This encompasses a broad range of initiatives across archaeology, tourism, culture, education, and the arts, reflecting a commitment to meeting the economic diversification, local community empowerment, and heritage preservation priorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 programme.

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