The First Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale: Feeling the Stones

The first edition of the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale brought together over 60 artists in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from December 2021 to March 2022. The title Feeling the Stones comes from the Chinese saying “crossing the river by feeling the stones,” which was the slogan behind China’s policy of reform and opening-up in the late 1970s. Here, it served as a starting point for reflecting on the current situation, social change, and the subsequent role of art in Saudi Arabia. Participants included Monira Al Qadiri, Simon Denny, John Gerrard, William Kentridge, Wolfgang Laib, Sir Richard Long, Maha Malluh, Sarah Morris, Timur Si-Qin, Superstudio, Ayman Yossri Daydban, and Zheng Yuan, among others.

The publication documents the biennial program in terms of six core themes that explore Saudi Arabia’s contemporary art scene, the latent transformations of global societies, spirituality, and the spaces for thought in the exchanges between global and local communities. The richly illustrated catalogue includes text contributions by Philip Tinari, Chris Dercon, Shixuan Luan & Neil Zhang, and Wejdan Reda.