Noor Riyadh, known as the world’s largest annual light art festival, wrapped up its 2023 edition recently, turning the capital of Saudi Arabia into a ‘gallery without walls.’
Running from November 30 to December 16, the festival showcased over 120 artworks from 100 artists across 30 countries, drawing in almost 3 million visitors.
This year, the festival bagged six Guinness World Records. Christopher Bauder’s DIALOGUE on Al Faisaliyah Tower clinched records for the most lights in a light show on a single building and the most lights used in a temporary light and sound show. Studio Drift’s Desert Swarm pulled off the largest drone bird swarm with an astonishing 3,000 drones and set a record for launching the most drones in a week.
Curated under the theme ‘The Bright Side of the Desert Moon’ by Jérôme Sans, Pedro Alonzo, Fahad Bin Naif, and Alaa Tarabzouni, Noor Riyadh 2023 explored light as a unifying force. Spread across five main spots in Riyadh, the festival featured artworks that aimed to redefine the city’s nightscape. Notable highlights included Janet Echelman’s data-driven visual spectacles, Diana Thater and SUPERFLEX’s immersive video art projections, and Christopher Bauder’s DIALOGUE illuminating architectural landmarks.
The festival showcased Middle Eastern and specifically Saudi artists, with site-specific commissions and interventions across the city. Salam Park hosted Chourouk Hriech’s Cities of Stars, depicting global cityscapes with intertwined natural elements. In JAX District, Muhannad Shono’s Absent Sky played with light and formlessness, while Monira Al Qadiri’s impactful Monument and luminescent Zephyr series explored nature’s dualities and microscopic marine life.
As for the exhibition ‘Refracted Identities, Shared Futures’ in the JAX District, it continues until March 2, 2024. Prepared by Neville Wakefield and Maya Al Athel, the exhibition looks into themes of mythology, astrophysics, and the multifaceted properties of light. Over 30 artists contribute, with works like Badiya Studio’s Symphony of Light celebrating Saudi culture and Farah Al Qasimi’s The Swarm exploring the intersection of social media influence and ancestral history.
Khaled Al-Hazani, Executive Director of Riyadh Art, expressed gratitude for Noor Riyadh 2023’s impact on the city’s art and culture landscape. The festival’s extensive engagement programs featured over 100 workshops, more than 40 talks, over 100 family activities, and more than 1,000 guided tours. Committed to developing the creative economy, the festival embedded 41 apprentices and engaged over 460 dedicated volunteers and support staff.
Noor Riyadh 2023 made its mark, by leaving a lasting impact on Riyadh’s cultural scene. As the festival’s activities continue through the ongoing exhibition, Riyadh’s journey toward becoming a vibrant global spot and ‘gallery without walls’ aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. For more information on the exhibition and programming, visit Noor Riyadh’s website.