News Register for our weekly news digest here.

View of Manal Al Dowayan’s Suspended Together, 2011.
View of Manal Al Dowayan’s Suspended Together, 2011.

Saudi Arabia’s First Biennial Announces Participating Artists

The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, the first event of its kind to be held in Saudi Arabia, has released a partial list of participating artists,The Art Newspaper reports. Among the international artists named are Saudi installation artist Manal Al Dowayan, Irish digital sculptor John Gerrard, Kuwaiti intermedia artist Monira Al-Qadiri, and Chinese printmaker and installation artist Xu Bing. Saudi talent will be attendant in full force at the biennial as well, with Land artist Zahrah Alghamdi, calligrapher Lulwah Al-Homoud, and tile artist Dana Awartani among those taking part. Also on display witll be Tunisian artist Nadia Kaabi–Linke’s Ithra Art Prize–winning work, a large-scale installation commenting on the economic effect of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The biennial is to take place in the Jax district of Diriyah, a suburb of Riyadh, and will run from December 11, 2021, to March 11, 2022. Comprising six sections under the theme Feeling the Stones, the event will feature the work of roughly seventy artists. The biennial is being curated by Philip Tinari, director and curator of Beijing’s UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, who was tapped last December for the position.

Organized by the recently created Diriyah Biennale Foundation, the biennial was established last year by the Saudi Ministry of Culture and is aimed at promoting the kingdom’s cultural standing in the world, and at advancing Saudi Arabia as an “open” society, as part of the government’s Vision 2030 initiative. A second biennial, the Diriyah Islamic Arts Biennale, will debut in 2022. Focusing on Islamic art, it will alternate years with the contemporary art biennial.

“There is a thriving scene in the Kingdom and real anticipation for this project,” noted Tinari. “So much of our effort has gone into creating a biennale that hasn’t happened before with systems that are new. There is so much to be gained from engaging and working [in the country].”