• The Diriyah Biennale Foundation (DBF) announces the appointment of its international core curatorial team for the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale (DCAB), led by Artistic Director Ute Meta Bauer.
• Taking place in the JAX District in Diriyah, a town adjacent to the capital city of Riyadh and home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of At-Turaif, the Biennale will open on February 20, 2024, and run until May 24, 2024.
• The Biennale is a new platform for contemporary art fostering dialogue between Saudi Arabia and other parts of the world.
Diriyah: The curatorial team of the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is led by globally renowned curator Ute Meta Bauer as Artistic Director and comprised of DBF curator Wejdan Reda (SA) and curators Rahul Gudipudi (IN), Rose Lejeune (UK), and Anca Rujoiu (RO). Together, they bring experiences and insights from diverse geographic backgrounds, extending the Biennale exhibition with artistic formats such as performance, sound, research-based practices, and digital forms.
The Biennale is being developed as a living entity rather than a static framework, with a strong focus on conversation and process. Collaborations and partnerships will connect the contributing artists and architects with local cultural producers, musicians, nonprofit entities, restaurateurs, traders, and farmers, pointing to how art practices today engage with society on multiple levels. The intention is to create spaces for personal encounters and exchange with and between diverse communities. Since April 2023, the Biennale Encounters program has been offering a regular series of public gatherings, artist talks, workshops, and other activities within the JAX District.
Additional members of the core team include Laura Miotto and Savina Nicolini / SNA (scenography), Attitudine Forma (art fabrication), Kai von Rabenau / mono.studio (graphic design), Ebrahim Hassan (lead Arabic editor), Laura Schleussner (managing editor), and Lucas Goy / les éclaireurs (lighting design). They will support the curatorial vision of a multi-sensory exhibition experience.
In preparation for the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, Bauer and members of the core team undertook research trips to various regions across Saudi Arabia, including Dammam, Khobar, Al-hasaa, Riyadh, Jeddah, Khamis Mushait, Abha, and Rijaal Almaa. These visits focused on creating dialogues with Saudi artists of different generations to learn about the country’s rich and diverse cultural scene.
Ute Meta Bauer, Artistic Director of the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale: “I am delighted and honored to be part of this remarkable project. The team of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation and the team of this edition of the Contemporary Art Biennale bring together a breadth of expertise in terms of geographies and skills, which provides an invaluable context for our process-oriented approach. Saudi Arabia has a long, rich history of art, and it has been a privilege to encounter so many practices over months of research. Our aim is to engage deeply with the location and the conversations taking place here, while creating new connections within the region and beyond.”
Aya Al Bakree, CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation: “It is with great pleasure that we announce the core team for the next edition of the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale. The expertise that this strong team brings to the Diriyah Biennale Foundation not only expands our body of knowledge, but also adds to the diversity of art forms that we showcase and the audiences that we reach. Following the great success of the inaugural Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale in 2022, this edition’s team will make a significant contribution to the vitality of contemporary art in Saudi Arabia and to the presence of Saudi culture on the world stage.”
The Artistic Director was selected by an independent Advisory Committee, whose members include Rafal Niemojewski (chair), Raneem Farsi, Antonia Carver, Sara Binladen, and Akram Zaatari. Several candidates were approached, and a decision was made based on criteria following DBF’s curatorial principles. DBF is dedicated to establishing a robust curatorial team for the long term, with a collective commitment to capacity building.
With an awareness of Diriyah’s specific site, the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale intends to connect artists from Saudi Arabia, the wider region, and other parts of the world. The Biennale’s three-month exhibition period will feature newly commissioned art and architectural projects in addition to existing artworks and research projects in a series of repurposed former warehouses. During this time, a live program of performances, concerts, and poetry readings will extend from the Biennale’s site into its surrounding environment, including the Wadi Hanifah. A number of these works reflect upon and engage with the unprecedented process of transformation taking place in Saudi Arabia today.
The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is organized by the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, a public institution established in 2020 dedicated to nurturing creative expression and instilling an appreciation for culture and the arts in Saudi Arabia. The Diriyah Biennale Foundation also produces the world’s only Islamic Arts Biennale, taking place in Jeddah. The two Biennales are organized and developed by the Foundation in alternate years. The Diriyah Biennale Foundation headquarters are located in the JAX District in Diriyah alongside artist studios, a department of the Ministry of Culture, and the future location of a contemporary art museum.
Diriyah, on the northwestern outskirts of Riyadh, is the historic home of the House of Saud and their royal residence At-Turaif, a Najdi mud-brick settlement founded in the fifteenth century that has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009. Initially an oasis, Diriyah formed around the Wadi Hanifah, a valley with a seasonal river, where human presence dates back some 80,000 years—a history that is currently being explored archaeologically.