Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Art Rises in the Saudi Desert, Shadowed by Politics

By Vivian Yee
For Desert X, the artist RashedAl Shashai installed “A Concise Passage” in the sandstone canyons of an ancient oasis in Saudi Arabia. Rashed AlShashai and Desert X Al Ula; Lance Gerber
AL ULA, Saudi Arabia — The Coachella art crowd had arrived in the Saudi desert, and chic caftans in head-turning colors outnumbered abayas on the sand. At a buffet ornamented with cantaloupes carved in the shape of flowers, waiters tended a fresh-squeezed juice station and rows of dainty canapés. Across the gold-and-russet sandstone canyon, the brawny rock formations sprouted contemporary art: an iridescent spaceshiplike sculpture, a glinting metal tunnel, a scattering of brightly painted spheres. These were the fruits of Desert X AlUla, a partnership between Desert X, a California-based art biennial that had staged two previous exhibitions in the Coachella Valley, and the Saudi government, which had coaxed Desert X to mount a show in its own western desert at the country’s expense. [More]
The French artist eL Seed created “Mirage” as a bridge between East and West, using Arabic calligraphy to spread messages of peace and unity. Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris; eL Seed and Desert X AlUla; Lance Gerber