The 2024 edition of the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale returns for its second edition at the JAX District in Diriyah. The latest biennial encompasses works and presentations by over 90 artists from more than 40 countries including El Anatsui, Hamra Abbas, Joan Jonas, Tiffany Chung, and many more.
Globally renowned curator Ute Meta Bauer leads the curatorial team as Artistic Director, joined by Co-Curators Wejdan Reda (SA), Anca Rujoiu (RO), and Rose Lejeune (UK), along with Adjunct Curator Rahul Gudipudi (IN). This diverse team, hailing from various geographic backgrounds, expands the Biennale’s scope to include performance, sound, research-based practices, and digital forms.
JAX District has successfully transformed the industrial heritage site in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, into a vibrant hub for artists and creatives. It is adjacent to the capital city of Riyadh and also home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of At-Turaif. Rather than existing as a static framework, the Biennale is conceived as a living entity with a strong emphasis on conversation and process. Collaborations and partnerships connect artists and architects with local cultural producers, musicians, nonprofit entities, restaurateurs, traders, and farmers, showcasing how contemporary art engages with society on multiple levels. The aim is to create spaces for personal encounters and exchanges among diverse communities. The Biennale Encounters program, initiated in April 2023, further offers a regular series of public gatherings, artist talks, workshops, and activities within the JAX District.
Additional core team members, including Laura Miotto, Savina Nicolini, Attitudine Forma, Kai von Rabenau, Ebrahim Hassan, Laura Schleussner, as well as Lucas Goy, support the curatorial vision for a multi-sensory exhibition experience.
In anticipation of the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, Bauer and the core team meticulously planned research trips to diverse regions across Saudi Arabia. Subsequently, these visits were centered on engaging in dialogue with Saudi artists of different generations, aiming to delve into the nation’s rich and diverse cultural scene.
Ute Meta Bauer, Artistic Director of the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, expressed her excitement and honour to be part of the project, also highlighting the team’s diverse expertise and the privilege of engaging with Saudi Arabia’s art history. Aya Al Bakree, CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, celebrated the strong team, anticipating a significant contribution to contemporary art in Saudi Arabia.
Titled “After Rain,” the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale symbolizes revitalization and renewal, emphasizing the importance of water for all life forms. The Biennale focuses on practices such as inhabiting, cultivating, harvesting, searching, and sharing, presenting works that explore the human-nature continuum, observe the built environment, and encourage a closer connection to our surroundings.
The scent of “After Rain” becomes a metaphor for the Biennale, representing a multi-sensory experience. Above all, it involves an artistic exploration and a conversation with scientists, architects, researchers, planners, philosophers, writers, and poets, fostering spaces of transformative encounters and exchange between diverse communities. The Biennale addresses the coexistence of humans and non-humans, acknowledging the impact of climate change on all life forms.
Spread across seven halls and numerous courtyards and terraces in the JAX District of Diriyah, the Biennale presents artworks in various formats, extending into the digital realm. Bauer has curated a group of artists from the Gulf region and Southeast Asia, focusing on her ten-year experience in Singapore.
Operating in unfamiliar parts of the world requires an awareness of historical, political, and contextual specificities. “After Rain” aims to create an open map of developments, indeed emphasizing the contemporary moment as a direct reference to a specific context and time.