Noor Riyadh 2023: The world’s largest annual festival of light and art returns to Riyadh, with over 120 artworks by local and international artists

Chris Levine, Molecule of Light, 2021. Image courtesy of the artist and HAVAS. Photos © Noor Riyadh 2023, a Riyadh Art Program
Art Martin Cid Magazine
Art Martin Cid Magazine

Riyadh, November 30, 2023 – Noor Riyadh, the world’s largest light art festival, will return to Saudi Arabia’s capital for its third edition from November 30 to December 16, 2023. More than 120 artworks, large-scale installations and immersive projections will light up the city, bringing art to the people and boosting the creative economy. The event supports the Riyadh Art objective of transforming Riyadh into an awe-inspiring ‘gallery without walls’, engaging diverse audiences, transcending boundaries, and integrating art into the urban fabric.

Presented by Lead Curator Jérôme Sans and Curators Pedro Alonzo, Fahad Bin Naif and Alaa Tarabzouni Noor Riyadh’s 2023 theme ‘The Bright Side of the Desert Moon’ explores light as a unifying force that sustains, comforts and connects us all. Artworks are dispersed across five main hubs and additional locations throughout Riyadh City, with the central hub located at the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD), complemented by those at JAX District, Salam Park, Wadi Hanifa and Wadi Namar.  Across the festival, the luminous city is contrasted against its arid surroundings, like a whirlwind of transformation. While the dazzling light of the desert is compared to the isolation of modern technology, the artworks by artists from 35 countries invite visitors to slow down, transcend time and space and reintegrate.

While sculptor and artist Janet Echelman transforms scientific data into a dynamic visual spectacle, Diana Thater and the collective SUPERFLEX present monumental and immersive video art projections.

In Decimal ClockCarsten Höller uses light to explore the intricate relationship between time and space, creating “the most complicated clock on earth”, which makes visitors lose their bearings. Elsewhere, Ugo Schiavi weaves together time and space, corrupting the distinction between the past and present, sustained by artworks and objects from Riyadh, the desert around the Tuwaiq mountains and other Saudi Arabian locations in The Day the Sand Caught Fire.

Dana-Fiona Armour creates a dystopian landscape with oddly shaped glass sculptures directly inspired by a species of snake native to Saudi Arabia’s deserts, echoing the numerous cosmogonies in which the creature steals the sun or the moon.

A plethora of internationally renowned artists hailing from Saudi Arabia and around the globe reconvene in the capital after their much-acclaimed participation in the past editions of Noor Riyadh, including Bruno Ribero, Christopher Bauder, Chris Levine, DRIFT and Muhannad Shono.

Saudi Artists creating site-specific work

Among the highlights at Noor Riyadh is a number of site-specific commissions by 35 established and emerging Saudi artists. At Wadi Namar, Abdullah Alamoudi’sLook Up and You’ll Find Me uses light as a metaphor for guidance and connection, while Aziz Jamal’sThe Whites of Their Eyes employs light to weave together cultural narratives. At Wadi Hanifa, Zahrah Al Ghamdi’s installation explores light as a powerful symbol of life, growth, and transformation. Ayman Yossri Daydban’s Tree House uses cut out wooden forms to respond to perceptions of identity and heritage, while Khaled Makhshoush’s LED billboard juxtaposes nostalgic video game graphics against the natural landscape, a dialogue between the past and present.

Noor Riyadh Exhibition – ‘Refracted Identities, Shared Futures’

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From left to right: Artur Weber, Inner Waves, 2023; Shaikha Al Mazrou, Beyond All Measures, 2023; Julian Charriere, Vertigo, 2021. Images courtesy the artists. Photos © Noor Riyadh 2023, a Riyadh Art Program

Running concurrently to the festival in the JAX District from November 30, 2023, to March 2, 2024, the exhibition ‘Refracted Identities, Shared Futures’, curated by Neville Wakefield and Maya Al Athel, offers a more intimate exploration of the concepts presented at the festival.

Refracted Identities, Shared Futures is a journey that moves through the three spaces of the exhibition: Cosmos, Temporality and Connectivity. Works from over 30 artists from across the globe address mythology, astrophysics, swarm intelligence, and the unique and multifaceted properties of light.

Examples of this include Abdulmohsen Al Bin Ali‘s The Dreamer Dreams, which invites the viewer to explore the interconnected realms of memory and the desert. Talin Hazbar’s Earth Records unearths temporal layers, revealing hidden histories embedded in the very earth beneath our feet, while Shaikha Al Mazrou’s Beyond All Measures layers time in the form of paired horizons in which the oxidization of metals serves to create infinitely slow sunsets. In the closing space of the exhibition, Aidha Badr’s filaments of luminescent threads weave us together, while Ahaad Alamoudi uses light to become a form of social interaction reaching across divides.

The synergy between the Noor Riyadh festival and exhibition is exemplified by artists such as Julian CharrièreMariko MoriMonira Al Qadiri, and Random International. Their works featured across both encourage dialogue that connects the grandeur of the festival’s public displays to the exhibition’s introspective and nuanced environment.
 
Spectacular artist-led presentations

Building on last year’s Guinness World Record-breaking drone performance, DRIFT’s Desert Swarm is set to be a highlight at the festival preview at KAFD, in which the artist presents a spectacular drone performance that uses art to reconnect nature with technology, mimicking the movements of the natural world accompanied by a live piano soundtrack.

Christopher Bauder is set to captivate audiences once again at Noor Riyadh with his latest light piece, DIALOGUE, which uses light and colour to bring a dynamic conversation to life between two of Riyadh’s architectural monuments: the Kingdom Center and Al Faisaliah Towers.
 
Public Program and Community Engagement

Committed to developing opportunities for the local community, Noor Riyadh 2023 features a robust program of more than 100 workshops, 40 talks and family activities, and over 1,000 guided tours. The event is also deeply engaging with 450 schools and 60 university ambassadors as well as embedding 43 apprentices into the festival teams. Through these efforts, Noor Riyadh is helping to develop the city’s creative economy to enrich lives, ignite creative expression and support diverse local talents.

Noor Riyadh is alive with activities for the community, featuring a unique creative experience called “Create Your Own Lantern”, led by artist Rafael Domenech. Themed guided tours offer deeper insights, while enlightening talks and discussions explore the role of art in the kingdom and its connections with the global art scene. For families, there are frequent engaging activities at various family hubs, including Salam Park. Additionally, emerging artists can benefit from specialized workshops, such as the “Generative Poetry” workshop by Artur Weber, another talented Noor Riyadh artist.

Khaled Al-Hazani, Executive Director of the Riyadh Art, said: “With a stunning selection of artworks and a rich community engagement program, Noor Riyadh 2023 promises to bring us another step closer to Riyadh Art’s ambition of transforming the city into a ‘gallery without walls’. As we celebrate people, places and possibilities, we wish everyone a memorable experience filled with joy and wonder.”

Tickets and attendance at Noor Riyadh
Most of the outdoor citywide artworks for Noor Riyadh are non-ticketed and open to all. However, some events require prior booking. The full program and ticketing details is available on Noor Riyadh’s website: http://noorriyadh.sa

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