Saudi Arabia isn’t exactly known as a hub of contemporary art and culture, but from January 31 until March 7, 2020, it will be the host of one of the coolest art installations in the world.
The 2020 Desert X exhibition, previously hosted in the desert of Coachella Valley, California, in 2017 and 2019, is comprised of 14 art installations, ranging from artificial puddles that double as trampolines to a three-seater swing, in the AlUla desert, an ancient oasis.
The works are all designed to spark conversation about the desert and the history of the area, which mostly remains unknown to the rest of the world.
The exhibition includes works by Saudi Arabian artist Nasser Al Salem, American artist Lita Albuquerque, Copenhagen studio Superflex, French-Tunisian artist eL Seed, and more. eL Seed’s installation — a pile of mixed Arabic letters taken from a poem and entitled “Mirage” — was inspired by the ancient trade routes that used to run through the desert. It is striking, yet blends beautifully with its surroundings.
Artist Rashed Al Shashai erected a pyramidal structure entirely from plastic pallets called “A Concise Passage.” Its purpose is to cast the AlUla desert as a historic place for the exchange of goods.
Manal Aldowayan’s piece, “Now you see me, now you don’t,” are trampoline puddles that also light up at night. Puddles in the desert are incongruous, while they are so common in other parts of the world that they tend to be ignored. Aldowayan’s work aims to highlight water scarcity in the amid climate change, and there’s no better place to do so than in the desert.
In an attempt to make us look more closely at what seems unimportant, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim has worked on 320 stones of different sizes and color inspired by the rocks that fall naturally off the cliffs in the desert.
Tickets to see the exhibition are free and open every day but Sunday. Despite the new, relaxed visa systems implemented, traveling to Saudi Arabia remains difficult. If you can’t catch the Desert X exhibition in Al Ula, plan to check out the next iteration of the event, which will take place in California between February 6 and April 11, 2021.