Clio Dorado by Manolo Valdes is an artwork presented outside AlUla International Airport.
Safar is a major new collection of over 64 artworks by 24 Saudi and international artists at AlUla’s International Airport. Spanning both the Executive Terminal and the Commercial Terminal, it highlights and celebrates AlUla’s cultural legacy, natural wonders and community, and includes works by artisans of AlUla’s Madrasat Addeera Art and Design Centre, opened by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCA) to train and upskill the next generation of creatives.
Safar — meaning travel in Arabic — is a fitting name for this collection of sculpture, photography, textiles, paintings and design pieces found at the gateway to AlUla. AlUla has long been a place of artistic journey — a historic hub of cultural transfer, which is now being revived as an oasis of art and creativity. A long-standing place of passage, it has always welcomed traders, merchants and pilgrims who have — for millennia – portrayed their experiences of AlUla’s spectacular cultural landscape through literature and art. The Safar art collection continues the legacy, linking the narratives of the past through the contemporary perspectives of artists of our time — a journey through the airport and a journey through AlUla’s past heritage and future vision.
The collection was conceived by RCA and facilitated by Capsule Arts, presenting work by significant Saudi and international artists such as Dana Awartani, Shaikha Al Mazrou and Zahrah Al Ghamdi (all of whom have a longstanding relationship with Arts AlUla) as well as emerging artists such as Stephanie Neville, Sandrah Boutros and Nidanin Woodwork. Speaking to Arts AlUla’s vision for a new — and local — creative community, works by the 10 Saudi artists and six regional artists sit alongside those by artisans from Madrasat Addeera, the first Art and Design Center in AlUla which offers craft programmes for local artisans.
In a piece entitled ‘Our Living Tradition’, artisans from Madrasat Addeera investigate the Order of Nature as a design tool and how language is intrinsic to traditional arts and cultures. Their paintings mirror the same underlying square grid pattern (the basis of textile techniques such as Al Sadu weaving, which is a new addition to UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage) but feature different patterns that originate from the varied traditional crafts that span the region.
Safar’s artworks are seemingly in dialogue with AlUla’s physical and cultural landscape. Two sculptures by Shaikha Al Mazrou reference local rock engravings in a deep brick orange resin, while two framed diptychs by Dana Awartani continue the heritage narrative through intricate traditional patterns inspired by aerial views of AlUla’s famous heritage sites.
Growth by Zahrah Al Ghamdi in leather.
Meanwhile, Farah Behbehani’s embroidered textiles serve as an ode to the community of AlUla through a local craft, and Ranim Halaky’s ‘Conversations through time’ is a typographic raw steel installation that has been created in collaboration with the community, presenting their voice in sculptural form. Alongside this, the work of emerging artists such as Neville, Boutros and Woodwork is presented as a contemporary cabinet of curiosities in the Executive Terminal Library.
It includes works inspired by AlUla’s rich heritage of textile and crafts, alongside photography from the RCA’s archive that depict the surrounding landscapes. Commenting on the project, Nora Aldabal, Executive Director, Arts and Creative Industries for RCA says: “We are delighted to unveil the Safar art collection — a continuation of our ongoing cultural programming, setting the standard for engaging contemporary artists within the Kingdom.
“Safar represents the depth and breadth of Arts AlUla’s relationship with the arts: a major new collection that follows recent world-class events such as Desert X AlUla 2022, the Cortona on the Move artist residency, What Lies Within and the launch of Wadi AlFann.
“Not least because of its airport setting, the Safar art collection reconnects AlUla with local, regional and international visitors in its next chapter as a centre of artistic exploration, expression, and production. “The arts are a vital contributor to the region’s character and identity, the quality of life for its local community and the region’s economic future. We look forward to sharing it with all who come to AlUla.” One can fly to AlUla International Airport with Saudia Airlines, FlyDubai and FlyNas. International arrivals from Dubai International Airport, Kuwait International Airport and Cairo International Airport (from October 5); domestic arrivals from Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman. The airport is 35 kilometres, or a 30 minute drive, from AlUla city centre.
AlUla is a city of the Medina region in north-western Saudi Arabia. The importance of AlUla as an archaeological and historic site led to the establishment of the RCA in 2017, the aim of which is to develop and promote it as an international tourism destination.
The commission also develops the plans for heritage conservation and preservation. To promote tourism and gain more attraction, RCA is training young Saudis on an ambitious project where tourists will explore the area’s cultural treasures. Recruited from the AlUla region itself, the young people (all high-school age or in their first year as university students, and split 50-50 between boys and girls) are in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, being trained in hospitality, learning new languages, studying farming and water technology, and researching the cultural, social and natural history of their home region. The Prince Abdul Majeed bin Abdulaziz International Airport is a crucial part of the development strategy of the RCA.
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