Journeys in Land Art, Towards Wadi AlFann, AlUla – Showcase during La Biennale di Venezia

Royal Commission for AlUla

VENICE, Italy, April 17, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Wadi AlFann presents Journeys in Land Art, Towards Wadi AlFann, AlUla, a showcase during the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia which spotlights the first five artists commissioned for Wadi AlFann, a new destination for contemporary art. On display are a series of renders, drawings, maquettes and interviews including drawings gathered by Manal AlDowayan – the artist representing Saudi Arabia at La Biennale di Venezia 2024 – through her participatory workshops with communities across AlUla, as well a series of studies by Ahmed Mater and James Turrell. Guided tours are available on April 18th, 19th, 20th, 25th, 26th and 27th.

Wadi AlFann, meaning ‘Valley of the Arts’, will be an awe-inspiring new global cultural destination for contemporary art, where era-defining works by some of the most compelling artists from around the world will be permanently placed in the monumental landscape of AlUla, the extraordinary desert region of north-west Saudi Arabia steeped in thousands of years of natural, historical and cultural heritage. Located on a site spanning 65 square kilometres, this unique cultural destination will mark a new chapter in art history. The first five artists creating new, large-scale, site-specific commissions for Wadi AlFann are Manal AlDowayanAgnes Denes, Michael Heizer, Ahmed Mater and James Turrell.

These mark the start of an ongoing programme of commissions, with more artists to be announced soon. Learning from the desert, Wadi AlFann’s commissioned artists are responding to the landscape and heritage of AlUla, taking inspiration from its dramatic topography, undulating vistas, remarkable geological structures and complex natural ecosystem. The works will be created with respect for the landscape, set against the stunning sandstone cliffs and canyons of the vast terrain.

Displayed for audiences in Venice in the Wadi AlFann showcase, a maquette, a render and a series of studies by Ahmed Mater reveal the artist’s plans for his Wadi AlFann commission, titled Ashab Al-Lal, an installation inspired by scientific and philosophical thinkers of the Islamic Golden Age that will explore the mythic space between subjective imagination and objective reality by generating a mirage within the sand dunes.

James Turrell, a leading figure of the Light and Space movement of the 1960s, reveals the first render for his Wadi AlFann commission. For over half a century, Turrell has dedicated his practice to perceptual art, investigating the materiality of light and the limits of human perception. At Wadi AlFann, the artist’s new work will build upon the sensorial experience of space, colour and perception, creating a series of spaces within the canyon floor to be explored via a series of tunnels and stairs.

Also exhibited as part of the Wadi AlFann showcase are drawings gathered by Manal AlDowayan – the artist representing Saudi Arabia at La Biennale di Venezia 2024 – through her participatory workshops with communities across AlUla, where over 700 participants were asked to draw their personal stories onto paper. The depictions in the exhibited works range from participant’s homes, neighbourhoods, memories and family histories to flora, fauna, culinary customs and abstract creative expressions, with each piece reflecting the lives, cultures and identities of the people of AlUla. These drawings and stories will eventually be inscribed into the walls of her Wadi AlFann commission, titled Oasis of Stories, a labyrinthine installation inspired by the walls of AlUla’s Old Town that will invite viewers to walk through its passages.

These pieces feature alongside interviews with all first five Wadi AlFann artists, providing a fascinating glimpse of their creative practice and vision. Together, the displayed works take visitors on the journey towards the opening of Wadi AlFann.

Nora Aldabal, Executive Director of Arts and Creative Industries, Royal Commission for AlUla, says: “We are delighted to introduce Wadi AlFann to Venice, during the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, through the Wadi AlFann showcase. It provides a glimpse at the journey towards AlUla’s new global destination for land art. Visionary arts initiatives like Wadi AlFann play a crucial role in AlUla’s development strategy, and we cannot wait for you to see it in person.”

Journeys in Land Art, Towards Wadi AlFann, AlUla; Abbazia di San Gregorio, Venice; 16 – 30 April 2024

Showcase Dates:
16 – 30 April 2024

Opening hours:
16 April – 8:30 – 10am (Private preview)
16 April – 10 – 6pm
17 – 30 April – 9am – 6pm

Friday 19 April – The Book as Public Art – 12:30 – 1:30pm
Wadi AlFann Publications Launches Artists’ Books: Oasis of Stories and The Desert Field Guide. Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan joins US artist Mark Dion to discuss the book as work of art, how participation is core to their practice and what their artists’ books tell us about the desert.

Thursday 18 to Saturday 20, and Thursday 25 to Saturday 27 April – Daily Guided Tours – 4 – 5:30pm

Find out more:


Assia Sabi

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at

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