13 Sep 2023 - 01 Jun 2024

Net Zero

King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra)


The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) launches Net Zero, an exhibit showcasing the work of 17 international and two Saudi contemporary artists, based on their personal observations of environmental challenges. The artworks will provide a creative and educational platform to drive awareness of and engagement around the global transition to Net Zero, especially for the emerging contemporary arts industry in the Middle East region. The exhibition was curated by Candida Pestana, with assistant curator Lama Alissa.

The artworks, nine of which have been commissioned specifically for this exhibit, convey the contributing artists’ perspectives on a range of environmental issues, to spark dialogue and ideation. The exhibit includes new commissions by acclaimed Saudi artist Zahrah Alghamdi, Danish art collective Superflex and a site-specific multimedia installation by Jordanian designer and artist Dina Haddadin. These will be displayed alongside pieces by leading international contemporary artists from Ithra’s permanent collection, including works by British photographer Nick Brandt, US visual artist Emil Lukas and French multimedia artist Philippe Parreno.

Zahrah Alghamdi’s site-specific piece City of thorns, made entirely of thorns as a symbol of the resilience of nature, highlights the impact of climate change on our cities and future, underscoring the responsibility we bear to protect the natural environment for future generations.

Another new commission, entitled Honeycomb Collection, created by Canadian artist Ava Roth in collaboration with a colony of bees, who have created the organic comb that features in the piece. This is overlaid on embroidered patterns which draw inspiration from traditional Islamic art motifs and echo the geometric pattern of the honeycomb. The use of sapphire and gold colors pays homage to the jewel tones commonly found in Islamic art, complementing the deep gold of the organic comb and evidencing a harmony between art and nature.

With the Net Zero exhibit, Ithra has taken a leadership approach to the future of museums and exhibitions by developing sustainable measures towards exhibition design, installation, exhibition collateral, vendors and logistics. Ithra has partnered with ACCIONA Cultura, a global company that specializes in the creation of museums, events, interiors and immersive experiences with an innovative and sustainable approach, to develop carbon tracking and offsetting solutions including the design, production, installation and operational phases of the exhibition.

Additionally, Ithra has applied the seven R’s rule of circularity to the delivery of Net Zero, as an evolved approach from the traditional ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ model to include redesign, repair, renew and recovery of materials. All curatorial elements were developed or procured responsibly, ensuring optimal utility and value. It was essential for the overall creative concept for all design elements to take into account not only sustainable materials, but also production techniques and transportation, from large pieces such as the exhibition walls and artwork supports, all the way down to the labels and the accompanying tote bags, catalogues and other literature. Likewise the physical parts of the exhibition needed to have a pre-planned onwards use awaiting them, which have been explored from the very beginning. This includes low-carbon, 3D printed walls that will be repurposed within the Ithra facility and recyclable, compostable and plantable exhibit materials, such as the event catalog and art labels for the installations. This sustainable approach to the exhibition also means a sustainable investment in and impact on the community.

The exhibit takes an interactive approach to building awareness around sustainability, with a concurrent comprehensive public program that provides organic learning opportunities to complement the artworks and observations they raise. Audiences, particularly the arts and culture community, will be informed about the sustainable curatorial process, in order to ensure greater adoption of such practices across the wider industry. The public programming includes workshops and sessions on recycling, which will provide practical tips for people to apply in their every-day lives.

Farah Abushullaih, Head of Museum at Ithra, said: “The Net Zero exhibit aims to raise awareness and educate our audiences on sustainability from an artistic perspective. Part of Ithra’s mission is to educate the community on artistic practices, how artists reflect the world and engage with important and topical areas of interest through creativity. Ithra is especially keen to create opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue between emerging Saudi artists and international creatives, to prompt enriching and synergic creative knowledge exchange. In the case of the Net Zero exhibit, the artists’ perspectives are expected to encourage further dialogue and ideation in the region, which we hope will contribute to the global conversation around environmental challenges.”

The Net Zero exhibit will remain open for a period of nine months, ensuring sustainable operations throughout this period and circularity of all exhibit materials following the closing.

Noura Alzamil, Manager of Programs at Ithra, said: “Ithra began as an environmentally responsible institution since inception with the construction and operations of the facility, which has received both LEED gold and EBOM certifications. Our future forward, sustainable approach to exhibitions and museums aspires to be educational to all audiences – from industry professionals to museum-goers. The experience will also inform the curatorial approach for Ithra’s future exhibits and we hope that it will set a positive benchmark for the global museums and exhibitions industry.”

Candida Pestana, Net Zero exhibit curator, said: “The Net Zero exhibition showcases the realities of our present environmental challenges and the hopeful visions of a better future through the work of contemporary artists. It is crucial for us to address these topics and develop sustainable solutions for the museum and exhibitions sector, enabling active participation in the ongoing global conversation. Our goal is to share the genuine perspectives, thoughts, and insights of these artists with the audience.”

Press release from the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra)