Saudi Arabia’s Wadi AlFann Publications launches art books after Venice showcase

DUBAI: AlUla-based Wadi AlFann Publications has launched two books — Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan’s “Oasis of Stories” and US artist Mark Dion’s “The Desert Field Guide.” 

“Oasis of Stories” showcases drawings collected from AlDowayan’s participatory workshops with communities throughout AlUla, engaging over 700 Saudi women, leading up to her participation as the Kingdom’s representative at this year’s Venice Biennale.  

The artworks, which were also displayed at the biennale, portray various aspects of the women’s lives, reflecting the rich tapestry of their culture and identity. 

Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan. (Supplied)

Dion’s book assists “visitors and locals in unlocking the vast natural history of (AlUla) as well as its growing status as a cultural site,” he told Arab News.  

“The deserts of AlUla are places of astonishing beauty and uncanny life forms,” Dion added. “The guide playfully, and at times mischievously, places Wadi AlFann in a global context, while highlighting unique life forms visitors might encounter. I am really trying to encourage a sense of wonder by emphasizing that the more you know about the desert, the more marvelous it becomes.” 

AlDowayan and Dion hosted a panel discussion at the biennale last month and delved into their new launches, exploring how participation is fundamental to their practice as well as delivering insights on the desert. 

Wadi AlFann’s Venice showcase featured the first five artists commissioned for the upcoming ‘cultural destination’ — AlDowayan, Agnes Denes, Michael Heizer, Ahmed Mater and James Turrell. They are producing artworks for eponymous AlUla valley, covering an area of 65 square kilometers. The project is scheduled to open its doors to visitors in late 2026. 

AlDowayan told Arab News: “The most beautiful thing I have realized (at the Venice Biennale) … is the humanity we share and the language that we are trying to bring, about care, about climate change, and about preserving our languages and not really looking to the Western canon of how we are defined.” 

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