The 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, led by Artistic Director Ute Meta Bauer, announces a list of participating artists and presents its curatorial framework and title, After Rain. Evoking a scent that comes from the ground, the title embodies revitalization and renewal.
The second edition of the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, in the historic town of Diriyah just outside of Riyadh and home to the UNESCO world heritage site of At-Turaif, will open to the public from February 20 to May 24, 2024. It explores the role of a contemporary art biennial in a country that is undergoing rapid social change. To date, the Biennale features 92 artists from 43 countries, including 30 artists from the wider Gulf region.
A substantial number of new works that each engage with this moment of transformation have been commissioned for the Biennale. Ahmed Mater, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent artists, and Berlin-based photographer and filmmaker Armin Linke, will embark on a long-term collaboration documenting Saudi futurism since the 1940s. Emerging Saudi-based, Yemeni artist Sara Abdu is creating a series of towers constructed from artisanally produced bars of soap, which generate a multisensory experience exploring cleansing rituals from the region. Saudi artist Mohammad AlFaraj will present a new work that incorporates palm trees and sound, reflecting upon the landscape of his home, Al Ahsa, one of the world’s largest oases, located in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
As the Biennale runs through the holy month of Ramadan, a specific focus is placed on communal gatherings around sharing food. In a bamboo architectural structure, Britto Arts Trust invites the audience to harvest, cook, and eat. NJOKOBOK (Youssou Diop and Apolonija Šušteršič) operates a juice and tea bar serving locally produced hibiscus and ginger juice, alongside Senegalese mint tea. Lucy + Jorge Orta invite the public to participate in a meal during Ramadan in the alleyways of the JAX District, connecting the Biennale halls with surrounding artist studios and the wider neighborhood.
New spatial installations will fill the outdoor spaces of the JAX District. Bosnian-born Azra Akšamija is creating a 70-meter-long canopy of recycled felt, inspired by Saudi textiles and traditional Al Sadu weaving techniques. Anne Holtrop will build a shading structure made of recycled sheet glass, produced by the local glass manufacturers that make up an important part of the country’s heavy industry.
After Rain unfolds across seven halls, numerous courtyards and terraces in the JAX District of Diriyah, which is situated along Wadi Hanifa, a seasonal riverbed. This particular landscape invites a varied program of performances, concerts, and poetry readings coming to life through the year-long Biennale Encounters series, which began in April 2023. Together, artists and the curatorial team make After Rain a process of artistic exploration and an ongoing conversation with new audiences. This edition is informed by several research trips to regions across Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries undertaken by the curatorial team together with local artists and those visiting from abroad; this travel has been essential for the development of newly commissioned works.
After Rain convenes multiple generations of artists who are engaged with investigating the complex history of the region, sustaining the human-nature continuum, examining the built environment, observing the state of the surrounding landscapes, and encouraging us to listen more closely. Some of these artistic explorations involve writers and poets, botanists, architects, scientists, planners, and chefs.
Artistic Director Ute Meta Bauer: “The role of a biennial goes beyond the presentation of contemporary art, as it feeds off and nurtures the cultural ecosystem in which it is embedded. This multifaceted and multi-format Biennale can be seen as a journey, becoming a place for both interaction and contemplation, as each work becomes a storyteller, a protagonist, or an actor in a play. It brings together artists from different parts of the world with artists from Saudi Arabia and the wider region. Presented through various artistic languages, these works are engaged in shared issues around land, water, food, and healing practices.”
Aya Al Bakree, CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation: “It is our deeply held belief and ambition as a Foundation to deliver world-class international platforms that highlight the transformative power of the arts in Saudi Arabian society. After Rain opens a new chapter for the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, where a diverse and multi-generational group of artists come together. Through collaborative commissions, the Biennale Encounters program, and participatory events, we hope to ignite conversations, broaden perspectives, and, above all, engage wider audiences than ever before with the arts.”
LIST OF PARTICIPATING ARTISTS (as of October 25, 2023)
Hamra Abbas, Sara Abdu, Irene Agrivina, Alia Ahmad, Azra Akšamija, Nabila Al Bassam, Dhali Al Mamoon, Reem Al Nasser, Rasha Al-Duwaisan, Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, Mohammad AlFaraj, Abdulla Buhijji & Noor Alwan, Aseel AlYaqoub, El Anatsui, Nazgol Ansarinia, Rasheed Araeen, Siah Armajani, Martha Atienza, Tarek Atoui, Dana Awartani, Asma Bahmim, Sammy Baloji, Zarina Bhimji, Ursula Biemann, Safeya Binzagr, Rossella Biscotti, Britto Arts Trust, Muhanned Cader, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Liu Chuang, Tiffany Chung, Ade Darmawan, The Migrant Ecologies Project (Lucy Davis and collaborators Zai Tang, Kee Ya Ting, and Zachary Chan), Priyageetha Dia, NJOKOBOK (Youssou Diop and Apolonija Šušteršič), Ibrahim El-Salahi, Alia Farid, Christine Fenzl, Ângela Ferreira, Alexander Eriksson Furunes and Sudarshan Khadka, Simryn Gill, Anne Holtrop, Hasan Hujairi, Saodat Ismailova, Joan Jonas, Armin Linke and Ahmed Mater, Mariah Lookman, Taus Makhacheva, Małgorzata Mirga-Tas, Regina Maria Möller, James Morris, Tania Mouraud, Zarina Muhammad, Dala Nasser, Hind Nasser, Hussein Nassereddine, Filwa Nazer, Nguyễn Trinh Thi, Elia Nurvista, Phi Phi Oanh, Lucy + Jorge Orta, Sopheap Pich, Marjetica Potrč, Lala Rukh, Arin Rungjang, Tomás Saraceno, Citra Sasmita, Seher Shah, Liang Shaoji, Hassan Sharif, Shooshie Sulaiman, Tang Da Wu, Paulo Tavares / autonoma, Sissel Tolaas, Anaïs Tondeur, Mona Vătămanu & Florin Tudor, Suzann Victor, Munem Wasif, Ines Weizman, Yeo Siew Hua, Liam Young, Camille Zakharia, Samia Zaru.
LIST OF NEW COMMISSIONS (as of October 25, 2023)
Sara Abdu, Azra Akšamija, Rasha Al-Duwaisan, Mohammad AlFaraj, Tarek Atoui, Britto Arts Trust, Tiffany Chung, Christine Fenzl, Anne Holtrop, Hasan Hujairi, Mariah Lookman, NJOKOBOK (Youssou Diop and Apolonija Šušteršič), Ahmed Mater and Armin Linke in collaboration, Lucy + Jorge Orta, Citra Sasmita, Sissel Tolaas, Camille Zakharia.
Ute Meta Bauer (artistic director), Wejdan Reda (co-curator of the Biennale and full-time curator for the Diriyah Biennale Foundation), Rose Lejeune (co-curator), Anca Rujoiu (co-curator), Ana Salazar (co-curator), and Rahul Gudipudi (adjunct curator).
Press release from Diriyah Biennale Foundation
Image: Foreground: Dhali Al Mamoon. Kather Nripati (Wooden Lord). 2021. Background: Taus Makhacheva. Charivari. 2019. Installation view of Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale 2024, JAX District. Photography by Marco Cappellettii. Image courtesy of Diriyah Biennale Foundation