/Highlight, News

Ute Meta Bauer appointed as Artistic Director of the second edition of Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale

Ute Meta Bauer

The Diriyah Biennale Foundation (DBF) is delighted to announce the appointment of acclaimed curator Ute Meta Bauer, as Artistic Director of the second edition of the Foundation’s Contemporary Art Biennale scheduled to take place in January 2024. Bauer’s appointment follows a rigorous selection process undertaken by an international advisory committee in recognition of her decades’ long achievements as a curator of exhibitions across varied formats including contemporary art, film, performance and sound, as an academic, and in creating and advancing new institutions.

The appointment of Ute Meta Bauer underscores the determination of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation to bring international contemporary art to Saudi Arabia, whilst also providing a platform for Saudi Arabian artists to contribute to global contemporary art discourse. Bauer will be supported by a team of local and international curators to be announced soon.

Aya Albakree, CEO, Diriyah Biennale Foundation says: “A profound commitment to curatorial excellence sits at the heart of our Foundation, and we are thrilled to welcome Ute Meta Bauer as the Artistic Director of the second edition of our Contemporary Art Biennale. Our vision is to build on our last edition’s success and continue to inspire fresh perspectives to contemporary art discourse both globally and in Saudi Arabia, a vision I am confident that Ute’s international, transdisciplinary experience will contribute to especially meaningfully.”

“Saudi Arabia is on an accelerated trajectory of social and cultural transformation, which is why I consider this a unique opportunity to capture this special moment in time through works of art,” commented Bauer. “As this country stands on the cusp of unparalleled change, and art and culture are languages able to express the nuances and dynamics of these shifting sands. I am excited to lead the second edition of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation’s Contemporary Art Biennale, understanding this endeavor as a collective process by the team alongside artists from within Saudi Arabia and abroad”.

Ute Meta Bauer was born in Germany and studied visual communication, stage design and art theory at Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg. Bauer is also an editor, professor, curator and, since 2013, she became the Founding Director of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, a national research centre of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). As professor at the NTU School of Art, Design and Media she co-chairs the Master’s in Museum Studies and Curatorial Practices, and her recent research projects focus on the link between cultural loss and the climate crisis.

Over the course of her decades’ long career, Bauer has held leadership positions in cultural and academic institutions including Artistic Director of Künstlerhaus Stuttgart (1990-1994); Professor of Theory, Practice and Communication of Contemporary Art and Vice Rector International Affairs at the Academy of fine Art Vienna (1996-2006); Founding Director of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway in Oslo (2002-2005) and Dean of the School of Fine Art, Royal College of Art, London (2012/2013). At Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Bauer served as Director of the Visual Art Program (2005-2009) and as Founding Director of ACT, MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology (2009-2012). Most recently she curated the Singapore Pavilion at the 59th Venice Art Biennale featuring Shubigi Rao: Pulp III: A Short Biography of the Banished Book and was a curator of the 17th Istanbul Biennale alongside David Teh and Amar Kanwar. Bauer was a co-curator of Documenta11 (2002) on the team of artistic director Okwui Enwezor and served as artistic director for the 3rd Berlin Biennale for contemporary art (2004). She was a co-curator with Paul C. Ha of the US Pavilion of the 55th Venice Art Biennale (2015) featuring artist Joan Jonas for which they received honorary mention for best National Pavilion.

The Diriyah Biennale Foundation’s second Contemporary Art Biennale builds on the success of “Feeling the Stones”, the inaugural edition in 2021, curated by esteemed museum director and curator Phil Tinari (Director and Chief Executive of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, China), and co-curators Wejdan Reda, Neil Zhang and Shixuan Luan. The Biennale was Saudi Arabia’s first biennale dedicated to contemporary art, and its thematic inspiration represented a metaphor for action at a time of profound social transformation in the 1980s. Featured artists included William Kentridge (South Africa), Richard Long (UK) and Sarah Morris (USA), as well as eminent Saudi Arabian artists Maha Malluh and Ahmed Mater, as well as Muhannad Shono, who represented Saudi Arabia at the 59th Venice Art Biennale. Developed during the challenges posed by a global pandemic, the Biennale’s festive inauguration was attended by art professionals from all over the world and endorsed by many locals and their families as a favorite destination during its three-month duration. Located at Diriyah’s Jax District, the biennale exhibition, and its multifaceted public program attracted more than 100,000 visitors from Saudi Arabia and abroad. This upcoming second edition, like the inaugural biennale, is intended to reiterate the significance of culture, the arts, and their transformative power, in line with the 2030 plan/vision of the Kingdom.

The independent, international advisory committee mandated with the selection of the curator of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation’s second edition of the Contemporary Art Biennale in 2024, includes:
Dr. Rafal Niemojewski (Chairman) – Director of Biennial Foundation
Antonia Carver – Director of Art Jameel
Akram Zaatari – Filmmaker, photographer, archival artist and curator
Raneem Farsi – Curator
Sarah Binladen – Patron of the arts and collector

Established in 2020 by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, the Diriyah Biennale Foundation (DBF) produces a biennale every year, alternating between the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale in Riyadh and the Islamic Arts Biennale taking place in Jeddah. DBF developed Saudi Arabia’s first-ever art biennale, the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, held from December 2021 to March 2022 in the JAX district of Diriyah, and a second biennale inaugurated in 2023 focusing on Islamic arts. The first edition of the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale was one of Saudi Arabia’s largest and most significant international displays of contemporary art to date, providing a platform for discovery and connection to Saudi Arabia’s cultural scene and creative communities.

Inspired by the changes taking place in Saudi Arabia and the heritage site of Diriyah, DBF assumes a critical role in nurturing creative expression and instilling an appreciation for culture, the arts, and their transformative potential. At this historical moment of evolution and growth in Saudi Arabia, these biennales will showcase some of the world’s leading artists, drive cultural exchange between the Kingdom and international communities, promote dialogue and understanding, and further establish Saudi Arabia as an important cultural center.

Read more about Diriyah Biennale