The fourteen artists participating in Saudi Arabia's controversial first Desert X AlUla, a “site-responsive exhibition,” have been announced. The lineup includes artists living and working in Saudi Arabia, including Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim and Rashed Al Shashai, as well as other artists based throughout the Middle East, Europe, and North America, including previous Desert X participants such as Superflex and Lita Albuquerque. The first international exhibition of the Coachella Valley biennial has been organized along with the Royal Commission of Al-Ula and co-curated by Desert X artistic director Neville Wakefield, along with curators Raneem Farsi and Aya Alireza. It will take place in the Al-Ula area in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a region at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s push to invite in more tourism. The large-scale installations are meant to “inspire new dialogue about the desert and reflect on themes that range from the passage of goods and ideas along the ancient incense route, the cultural memory that passage has left, and the natural resources that have shaped the region, both past and present,” according to a release from Desert X. Artists will create installations responding to the particulars of the geology, geography, history, and present of the region, with projects such as an “oasis” of date containers from Zahrah Al Ghamdi, a series of steel rings by Rayyane Tabet meant to engage with the oil pipelines in the region, and a sculpture by Nasser Al Salem that “embraces the idea of time as a continuum that connects all cultures and civilizations.” Desert X has also promised to increase public outreach programming through schools and universities. Desert X AlUla emphasizes the history of Al-Ula as a site of global connection and exchange, but it's become increasingly contentious to participate in programming in the repressive monarchy. Saudi Arabia has been accused of “sportswashing” for inviting major international boxing and golf events to the country, and pop stars like the group BTS have similarly come under fire for performing there. When asked about the pushback to the Al-Ula exhibition, artistic director Neville Wakefield told The Art Newspaper: “We live in binary times, when people are either isolationist or believe in the power of cultural dialogue. Art changes hearts and minds. Denying an entire population this opportunity is to be part of the problem not the solution.” However the choice to work with Saudi Arabia has caused issues even within Desert X. This past fall, the Los Angeles Times reported that three board members—the artist Ed Ruscha, the curator Yael Lipschutz, and the philanthropist Tristan Milanovich—resigned from the organization's board over the choice. Lipschutz told the L.A. Times that he thought the project in Saudia Arabia was “completely unethical,” noting that Desert X wasn’t just starting a “dialogue,” but receiving money from the Saudi royal family. Issues of philanthropic funding have been causing increasing friction in the world of art and architecture, whether it’s BP sponsoring the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Sackler family donating to museums like the Met and V&A, arms profiteers serving on the boards of the Whitney and MoMA. The full list of artists is: Lita Albuquerque, Manal Al Dowayan, Zahrah Al Ghamdi, Nasser AlSalem, Rashed Al Shashai, Gisela Colon, Sherin Guirguis, Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Nadim Karam, eL Seed, Wael Shawky, Muhannad Shono, Superflex, and Rayyane Tabet. Desert X AlUla opens January 31st.
Posts tagged with "Desert X":
The organizers behind Desert X, an art and architecture–focused biennial that takes place in the Coachella Valley east of Los Angeles, have unveiled this year's participating artists. For its 2019 run, the festival will highlight a who’s-who of rising international creatives, including Venezuelan-born artist Iván Argote, Mexican artist Pia Camil, Irish artist John Gerrard, American photographer Cara Romero, American artist Jenny Holzer, Egyptian-born artist Iman Issa, and the Danish art collective Superflex, among others. In addition to highlighting evocative works of landscape-based installations and sculpture, the organizers have expanded the scope of the exhibition to include film and performance-based projects, according to a press release. This expanded scope will apply to the geographic range of the exhibitions, as well. This year, the organizers have embraced a wide terrain for the works that extends south from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea and the U.S.-Mexico Border. The Desert X 2019 program is led by Desert X artistic director Neville Wakefield and curators Amanda Hunt and Matthew Schum. A goal for the 2019 program is to “embrace a range of ecological, environmental, and social issues that have been driving conversations about our role in the anthropocene,” according to Wakefield. To facilitate this conversation, the organizers plan to hold a symposium titled Desert, Why? at the Palm Springs Art Museum (PSAM). The event takes place between March 1 and 3 and is billed as a “celebration of art and the environment.” The three-day event will highlight Unsettled, a sweeping exhibition of contemporary art from across the Americas that is currently on view at PSAM. Associated performances, panel discussions, and other events will also happen during the symposium across various locations. A podcast hosted by Frances Anderton is set to “explore the environmental, ecological, and social themes in the 2019 Desert X exhibition,” as well. Anderton is the host of DnA: Design and Architecture, a weekly radio show on L.A.’s KCRW radio station. The podcast will be developed in collaboration with Avishay Artsy, a producer for DnA. Desert X kicks off February 9 and runs through April 21, 2019.
File under “X.” A new happening is coming to California’s high desert. Slated to open in February 2017, Desert X is “three-month site-specific international contemporary art exhibition,” aka, an arid art event timed to align with Palm Spring’s Modernism Week as well as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Writer and curator Neville Wakefield, known for curating site-specific works, will serve as inaugural artistic director. It’s promised that his knack for engaging alternative spaces will be on view as artists install in non-traditional spaces—one might expect landscape interventions a la High Desert Test Sites in Joshua Tree—as well as more conventional settings such as the Palm Springs Art Museum, a late modern design by architect E. Stewart Williams and A. Quincy Jones’ midcentury Sunnylands Center & Gardens, renovated by Frederick Fisher and Partners in 2012. “The desert has long exercised its fascination over the minds of artists, architects, musicians, writers and other explorers of landscape and soul,” noted Wakefield. He sets a high bar for the commissioned art works, asking that they simultaneously reflect the ideals and politics of the contemporary art world and respond to the desert context. The press release suggests that the pieces will “amplify and cast a gimlet eye on the geographies, ethnic/social and historical/geologic layers that exist in the southern California desert, while also looking to major movements in contemporary art world-wide.” The exact hows and whos of Desert X remain a vast and unknowable mystery, to borrow the evocative language of the press materials. “The landscape of harsh desert, high mountains, lush golf courses and a vanishing sea, holds a rich history and maintains mythical proportions in the narrative of the American West—one that includes ancient Indian tribes, prospectors, pioneers, and cowboys,” explained Susan Davis, Desert X founder and board president. “We see Desert X as unique in shining a spotlight on the rich preexisting architectural, natural and cultural legacies of the area, while offering the public a way to explore, activate and interrogate current, timely and historic issues through contemporary, creative practices.” However, Desert X’s board is well connected to the regional, national, and international arts organizations, including major arts institutions, such as Whitney Museum of American Art, the Park Avenue Armory Conservancy, the New Museum, the Hammer Museum, the Serpentine Galleries, and Creative Time. The truth is out there: Wakefield will share his vision and plans for the inaugural exhibition on January 29, 2016 as part of the Art Los Angeles Contemporary 2016.