Desert X AlUla 2024 is a spectacular exhibition with an extensive programme of events

Nature’s canvas adds dramatic appeal to Desert X AlUla 2024’s creative output, including installations by both international and local artists, workshops and events, spanning from textiles to music and photography

Desert X AlUla 2024 art installation, mirrored sphere in landscape
Faisal Samra, The Dot, Desert X AlUla 2024
(Image credit: Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla)

In partnership with Desert X AlUla 2024

To explore that which cannot be seen – that’s the mysterious and ethereal mission of Desert X AlUla 2024, the third iteration of the international, open-air art exhibition that takes place in AlUla, amid the desert wilderness of north-west Saudi Arabia. 

Titled ‘In the Presence of Absence’, this year’s edition sees 15 newly commissioned artworks featured across three sites: the spectacular Wadi AlFann desert location, which will become a global destination for land art opening in 2026; amongst the black lava stone of Harrat Uwayrid, a volcanic area; and at AlManshiyah Plaza. Desert X AlUla takes place as a highlight of the AlUla Arts Festival, AlUla Arts Festival which ran from 9 February – 2 March 2024.

Desert X AlUla 2024 installation in the landscape, appearing like dripping resin over rocks

Aseel AlYaqoub, Weird Life: An ode to desert varnish, Desert X AlUla 2024

(Image credit: Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla)

The exhibition is part of an initiative that is working towards building the next chapter of art history, explains Nora Aldabal, executive director of Arts AlUla. ‘Artists are invited to collaborate not only with other artists, but with the spectacular landscape and heritage of AlUla itself. This edition of Desert X AlUla, with its striking artworks and educational and cultural programming, underlines the value of arts and creativity as essential and transformative layers for enriching society, economy and quality of life.’

‘We challenged the artists participating in Desert X AlUla 2024 to adjust their perspective to encounter the unseen aspects of the place with reverence, attuning to the forces, rhythms and processes that shape the landscape in imperceptible ways,’ explains Desert X AlUla 2024 curator Maya El Khalil, who worked alongside co-curator Marcello Dantas, with artistic direction from Raneem Farsi and Neville Wakefield. 

Desert X AlUla 2024 installations, towers of terracotta pots in the landscape

Rana Haddad and Pascal Hachem, Reveries, Desert X AlUla 2024

(Image credit: Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla)

‘Human efforts might struggle to match the grandeur sculpted here. In response to this, the artists have developed innovative and dynamic works that address profound topics such as trade, migration and time that are relevant to the region and connect with the wider world,’ continues El Khalil. 

Desert X AlUla 2024 workshops and events

With the exhibition now open to the public, an extensive programme of events for visitors and local communities takes place during Desert X AlUla. This includes curator and artist talks, primary school visits and art workshops on themes from collage and model making to print making and photography. Music events taking place during Desert X AlUla include traditional Saudi dance, ambient compositions, and live radio broadcasts.  

Upcoming and recent events include: 

Exploring olfactory culture with Karola Braga
Artist and olfactory researcher Karola Braga will explore the relationship between absence and presence, memory and oblivion, scent craftsmanship and olfactory culture. The conversation will discuss incense’s symbolic and cultural constructions and their power to evoke individual and collective.
8 and 9 March, 3-6pm, language: English

Desert X Alula 2024 art installation in landscape

Sara Alissa and Nojoud Alsudairi, Invisible Possibilities, When the Earth Begins to Look at Itself, Desert X AlUla 2024

(Image credit: Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla)

Live music with the AlUla Music Hub Performers
With Sara Alissa and Nojoud Alsudairi’s site-specific work Invisible Possibilities: When the Earth Began to Look at Itself (pictured above) as a stage, the AlUla Music Hub Performers will play a live rendition of their instrumental ‘Movement of Desert Winds’ composition. Turning the landscape into a self-reflective arrangement, the artwork and the music will help reshape visitors’ understanding of the site’s ecological transition and its physical geographies. 
8 March, 5-6pm at Invisible Possibilities: When the Earth Began to Look at Itself at the main site; and 9 March, 5-6pm at the visitor centre

Textile workshop with Filwa Nazer
‘Materializing Shadows’ is a textile workshop hosted by Saudi-based artist Filwa Nazer that will draw on her background in the fashion industry and her experimental, sculptural volumes of textiles and geometric embroideries that reference deconstructed garment patterns and traditional handcrafts. The artist has previously employed the medium of textiles and sewing techniques to investigate relationships between our bodies and the spaces we occupy, and the workshop will explore broader societal experiences and personal introspections. 
6 and 7 March, 3-5pm, language: Arabic

Cyanotype workshop with Mohammed Hammad
NYC- and Jeddah-based film director and music composer Mohammed Hammad’s ‘Tinting the Sky’ is a cyanotype workshop that explores the beauty and process of the camera-less photographic printing technique. The method involves laying an object on paper coated with a solution of iron salts before exposing it to UV light and washing with water to create stunning white and Prussian blue images.
5 March, 3-5pm, language: Arabic

There is free entry to all the events with the Desert X AlUla 2024 Day Pass (limited capacity). For more information please visit

‘In the Presence of Absence’, Desert x AlUla 2024, until 23 March,

Desert X AlUla 2024 installations in the landscape

Kimsooja, To Breathe – AlUla, Desert X AlUla 2024

(Image credit: Photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla)