Noor Riyadh, a festival of light and art in Saudi Arabia, signals the ongoing robust shift in the Kingdom’s cultural landscape. Since its debut in 2021, the annual event has been transforming the Saudi capital into an open-air gallery, illuminating it with large-scale artworks by local and global creatives. The citywide installations explore themes such as identity, heritage and social issues, sparking meaningful conversations.
At the helm is interior architect and Festival Director Nouf Al Moneef. “The aim is to foster creativity and promote talent from Saudi Arabia and around the globe,” she says. “We believe in the idea that art is for everyone. It’s about inspiring people with experiences and enabling them to see the world in a new way.”
Noor Riyadh is organised under Riyadh Art, an umbrella organisation that was created in 2019 as one of the Saudi capital’s four major cultural and infrastructural projects, alongside King Salman Park, Riyadh Green, and Sports Boulevard. “It’s not like art has just suddenly surfaced in Saudi Arabia. It’s always been prevalent, but now there’s a greater focus on highlighting it and ensuring that it gets the recognition it deserves,” explains Nouf.
Starting with 12 locations and 63 artworks around the city in its inaugural edition, Noor Riyadh tripled in size last year, featuring 200 works by 130 artists across 40 locations. This year’s edition explores the theme, ‘We Dream of New Horizons’, centred around the ideas of renewal, transformation, and hope for the future.
The festival enthralled three million visitors and reached 1.5 billion more followers through its social media channels and coverage. “Noor Riyadh started on a small scale, but it has evolved into an international event that’s now working with institutions and initiatives around the world. We’re proud of what we’ve accom- plished and how Saudi Arabia has made great strides over the years,” states Nouf.
Noor Riyadh 2022 also won six Guinness World Records, including the largest celebration of light arts, and the largest number of drones participating in a creative art show.
The event has the gravitas to position emerging and established Saudi artists on the global map and offer scintillating insight into the Kingdom’s rich cultural production. “Our target is to ensure that at least 30 per cent of the participating artists are local. We want to highlight even more rising talents this year and give them an international platform,” Nouf notes.
Noor Riyadh has breathed new life into the capital’s urban fabric and will return for its next iteration in November 2023. “Our aim for this year’s edition is to ensure that we continue to fulfil its mission—to be a central part of Riyadh’s transformation into a vibrant and cosmopolitan global city,” shares Nouf. “That’s what’s important to us—we want to enrich lives through creative and joyful experiences.”
With further growth expected this year, Noor Riyadh promises to continue bridging cultures, reimagining spaces, and empowering artists.
Visit Riyadhart.sa and follow @Noorriyadhfestival and @Nouf.almoneef on Instagram.
This article was originally published in Villa 88’s Summer 2023 edition. Subscribe here.
Images courtesy of Noor Riyadh and the artists.