The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) glows at night.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) are now inviting entries for the 6th edition of the Ithra Art Prize.
The comprehensive partnership aims to promote and grow the arts and cultural industries across Saudi Arabia.
The open call for the prize, which comes with a grant of $100,000, closes on September 30, 2023. The winning artwork will be unveiled during the AlUla Arts Festival in February 2024. One of the most significant grants in the region, the Ithra Art Prize at AlUla empowers the creative sector and this edition focuses on outdoor installation art and sculpture. It will be adjudicated by a committee of regional and international experts, including representatives from Ithra and RCU. The Prize supports artists from and based in the Arab world to develop career-making work. The winner receives $100,000, and Ithra covers production costs up to $400,000. The winning piece will be unveiled and showcased at AlUla’s multi-arts festival championing art in all its forms, before joining Ithra’s permanent collection.
UAE-based Ayman Zedani was the inaugural winner with his spatial installation Mem, while London-based Daniah Al Saleh won the second edition for Sawtam – a digital, audio-visual presentation based on the phonemes of the Arabic language. Saudi-based Fahad bin Naif won the third edition for his installation Rakhm, meaning “incubation”, and Berlin-based Tunisian-Ukrainian artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke won for E Pluribus Unum – A Modern Fossil, which takes a reflective look at the effects of the pandemic on the travel industry and how humanity measures progress and economic growth. Iraqi-Finnish artist Adel Abidin was named winner of the fifth Ithra Art Prize with his proposal ON — a wall installation which explores the complexity of capturing events.
The Ithra-RCU partnership boosts strategic talent and skills capabilities across the creative economy in line with KSA’s Vision 2030, and strives to connect Saudi’s western and eastern regions through art and culture. Fields for collaboration include film, training and education, corporate social responsibility, events and exhibitions and research, including boosting digital awareness. It delivers opportunities to build art-led skills development and experiences between the two communities.
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) glows at night.
The agreement leverages Ithra’s expertise in offering curated courses, training programmes and other cultural activities beyond the Center’s campus and RCU’s efforts to build on AlUla’s rich legacy to place art and creativity at the centre of a destination that is increasingly on the world visitor map. It cements Ithra and RCU as valued contributors to Saudi Arabia’s character, quality of life and economy.
Ithra and RCU have already activated the partnership with collaboration on the latest edition of the AlUla Design Award, which honours exceptional design inspired by the heritage, landscapes and artistic legacies of AlUla, with Ithra’s Creative Director Robert Frith serving on the jury panel. Frith is a creative professional experienced in the design and the curatorial development of museum, artistic and cultural projects. He works with clients from the public and private sectors.
Ithra, named for the Arabic word meaning “enrichment”, is one of Saudi Arabia’s most influential cultural institutions. It aims to inspire and enrich the public through a focus on cross-cultural experiences, supported by a variety of programmes aimed at igniting cultural curiosity, stimulating knowledge exploration and inspiring creativity through the power of ideas, imagination and innovation.
Arts tour in AlUla. Left: Arabic poster exhibition in AlUla.
RCU is regenerating AlUla, the historic crossroads of civilisations, as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage. AlUla is quickly emerging as a year-round arts and culture hub with events such as Winter at Tantora, the Ancient Kingdoms Festival, the Azimuth Festival, Desert X AlUla, concerts and exhibits at the multi-purpose Maraya venue, and the AlUla Arts Festival, which this year featured an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s art. AlUla is also rising as a destination for film production through the growth of Film AlUla, which has begun construction of an ambitious studio complex.
Ithra is seen as a beacon of change in Saudi Arabia, and symbolic of KSA’s shift towards human energy based in culture, creativity and innovation. “Saudi at heart and multicultural by nature, Ithra is a gateway to the Kingdom and a connection to the world,” it says. The Center creates new opportunities while preparing the next generation of innovative thinkers to lead in the creative and cultural industries. Determined to enrich lives and unlocking talent through a focus on cross-cultural experiences, it encourages the development of original content. At the heart of the creative economy, Ithra offers purpose-driven programmes and initiatives that support the Kingdom’s ongoing cultural transformation across the fields of arts, sciences, culture and innovation.
RCU was established by royal decree in 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla, a region of astonishing natural and cultural significance, located in north-west Saudi Arabia. RCU’s long-term plan outlines a responsible, sustainable, and sensitive approach to urban and economic development that preserves the area’s natural and historic heritage while establishing AlUla as a desirable location to live, work, and visit. It encompasses a broad range of initiatives across archaeology, tourism, culture, education and the arts, reflecting a commitment to meeting the economic diversification, local community empowerment and heritage preservation priorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 programme.
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