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ALM Feature

Saudi Arabia sets art ambitions with Noor Riyadh Festival

A tour of this year’s Noor Riyadh Festival sheds light on Saudi Arabia’s ambition to become a cultural hub and, consequently, a tourism hub in the region.
Rashed AlShashai, Brand 16, December 2023.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Standing in the middle of the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh, a swarm of drones creates delicate constellations on the horizon. A virtuoso is playing the piano on a stage, complementing the 3,000-drone performance conceived by Studio Drift —  an artist duo formed by Dutch artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta — called “Desert Swarm.” 

The scene invokes the term “future shock,” which was coined by American writer and futurologist Alvin Toffler. It describes the strong psychological disturbance caused by the super-rapid growth of industrial societies. 

The drone show is part of the opening ceremony of the biggest light art festival in the world, Noor Riyadh, now in its third edition. Comprised of large-scale light art, building projections, performances, talks, workshops, tours and experiences, the festival tries to have something for everyone from the art aficionado to families and invites the local community to appreciate contemporary art and make it part of their lives.

Noor Riyadh is just one project under the bigger umbrella of Riyadh Art, an initiative launched in 2019 by King Salman meant to transform the Saudi capital into an open art exhibition.

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