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Safar art collection at AlUla International Airport

Posted: 28 October 2022 | | No comments yet

AlUla International Airport has introduced a new, major collection of over 64 artworks by 24 Saudi and international artists called ‘Safar’, meaning travel in Arabic.

Safar is a major new collection of over 64 artworks by 24 Saudi and international artists at AlUla International Airport (ULH). Spanning both the Executive Terminal and the Commercial Terminal, Safar 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 Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) to train and upskill the next generation of creatives.

Safar, meaning travel in Arabic, is a fitting name for this important 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, AlUla 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 this 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.

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 all mirror the same underlying square grid pattern (the basis of textile techniques such as Al Sadu weaving: 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 in dialogue with AlUla’s unique 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. 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 striking typographic raw steel installation that has been created in collaboration with the community, presenting their voice in sculptural form.

Artwork by Ishaq Madan as part of the Safar art collection. Credit: Arts AlUla.

Alongside this, the work of emerging artists such as Stephanie Neville, Sandrah Boutros and Nidanin Woodwork is presented as a contemporary cabinet of curiosities in the Executive Terminal Library. This includes works inspired by AlUla’s rich heritage of textile and crafts, alongside photography from The Royal Commission for AlUla’s archive that depict the surrounding landscapes.

Commenting on the project, Nora Aldabal, Executive Director, Arts and Creative Industries for the Royal Commission for AlUla said: “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.”