Light art festival illuminates Saudi capital of Riyadh

The exhibition, which will be on display until June 12, features 30 masterworks from a range of artists who explore light as an artistic medium in the form of installations, sculptures and videos.

A general view shows an empty street after a curfew was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 24, 2020. Picture taken March 24, 2020 (photo credit: AHMED YOSRI/ REUTERS)
A general view shows an empty street after a curfew was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 24, 2020. Picture taken March 24, 2020
(photo credit: AHMED YOSRI/ REUTERS)
Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, has been transformed into a huge art gallery thanks to a large-scale light art festival highlighting the works of over 60 local and international artists.
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Despite an ongoing travel ban due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the kingdom decided to move forward with the inaugural edition of the Noor Riyadh (‘Noor’ means light in Arabic) festival. The event launched on March 18 features 33 spectacular installations, immersive art experiences and more than 1,000 pieces of public art spread out across the city.
One of the landmark exhibitions in the festival is “Light Upon Light: Light Art Since the 1960s,” which is taking place at the King Abdullah Financial District Conference Center (KAFD) and was commissioned by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City.
The exhibition, which will be on display until June 12, features 30 masterworks from a range of artists who explore light as an artistic medium in the form of installations, sculptures and video works.
"Light is essential to see while art is fundamental to one’s well-being,” Susan Davidson, one of the curators of “Light Upon Light,” told The Media Line. “We hope that the exhibition enlightens the city and offers an accessible and engaging contemporary art experience for everyone."
Internationally renowned award-winning Saudi artist Lulwah Al Homoud is among the notable artists whose work is on display in the show. Her video installation, “The Infinite Blue,” uses animated images to create an immersive experience for viewers.
"Light has been a major element in my art, not necessarily in the physical world but also metaphorically,” Al Homoud told The Media Line, adding that her video installation at the festival “focuses on the relation between the finite and the infinite through abstract lines and shapes expressing growth, movement and what lies between them.”
Other artists participating in the groundbreaking light exhibition include acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, whose popular avant-garde installation “Infinity Mirror Room: Brilliance of Souls” is sure to turn heads; as well as Canadian-Mexican light art pioneer Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, whose “Recurrent Anaximander” generative animation display is created from 400,000 custom-made pixels that are intended to mimic the sun’s surface.
Alongside the numerous exhibitions, the Noor Riyadh festival also includes tours, talks, workshops, film screenings and music. Several of these activities are available online, in a bid to make them more accessible to audiences outside the kingdom.
The city of Riyadh currently is on a ten-year mission to rebrand itself as a cosmopolitan global city that is open for business and open to the world. As part of this initiative, the Riyadh Art project has undertaken to make art installations a central focus of its efforts to kindle a creative economy in the region.
“Noor Riyadh has been designed as an immersive, interactive festival of light and art and, whether you are here in person or engaging with us online around the world, this is an opportunity to connect with people from across the globe, sharing experiences based on the warmth of personality, generosity of spirit and creative thought,” Khaled Al-Hazani, director of Riyadh Art, said in a statement.
Significantly, Noor Riyadh is the city’s first massive public art program. It coincides with the kingdom’s larger Vision 2030 strategy, a program that ultimately aims to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil and diversify its economy by investing in public service sectors such as tourism and culture.