Home Magazine The 2021 Saudi Arabia Biennale

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Culture, has announced that 2021 will be the year of the first  Biennale for contemporary art. The prince, who is the president of the Biennale Foundation's board of directors, said that the Culture Ministry intends to develop a series of platforms dedicated to contemporary art, in order to make Saudi Arabia a regional and international center for art and culture, in open competition with the Arab Emirates.

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Dates and artists are not certain but what seems clear is that the aim is to make another step towards civil and cultural progress. The participation in the Biennale is currently open only to artists from Arab countries (even if they are studying ways of interaction with artists from other parts of the world). There are also two phases: a secular contemporary art exhibition, followed by another of the Islamic art. The town of Ad Diriyah, already known for the Formula E Grand Prix and as the "pearl of Saudi Arabia", will be chosen as the area where the event will take place, a place that in recent years is a center of an important tourist revitalization program. What we can consider not random choice, considering that the town is part of the At-Turaif district - included in the UNESCO heritage list - historically known as the first capital of the kingdom and the place where the Al Saud family has its roots. After renovating the historic center with the UNESCO funds, the district is working on building 30 new luxury hotels, restaurants of the same category and eight new museums, including the largest Islamic museum in the world which will be called Al Saud house.


The historic Ad Diriyah city is home to the Unesco-listed 15th-century site of At-Turaif.


The development program is carried out by the AD Diriyah Gate Development Authority, whose CEO is Jerry Inzerillo, vice president of Forbes Travel Guide. With this event, the family seems to want to underline its sympathies for the West and also to encourage the country's opening to international tourism. Since 2019, work has been done to simplify the visa procedures, in 2018 women (still victims of discrimination) were given permission to drive. Another important fact to report is that during’’ From Within - 2019’’ exhibition that took place in the industrial zone of Ad-Diriyah (JAX) - among the four members of the curatorial commission, three were women, to be precise Noor Aldabbagh, Alaa Tarabzouni and Maram Alammari, just as participation in the Biennale of Venice and the Ad Diriyah Biennale.

“The Saudi Ministry of Culture announced the establishment of the Thunaiyat Ad-Diriyah Foundation, designed to provide a framework and oversee the organisation of a yearly cultural biennale, alternating each year between contemporary art and an Islamic art exhibition [...] The biennale’s focus will alternate its themes between each yearly edition, creating a sustainable platform for Saudi artists to showcase unique works and engage with international peers. It’s also an extraordinary opportunity for visitors to experience the depth and breadth of Saudi’s cultural offering and creativity,” said a ministry spokesman to The Art Newspaper.

Cover image: The town of Ad Diriyah.

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