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A significant cultural renaissance has swept through Saudi Arabia and other countries across the MENA and North African regions in recent years. This revival underscores a growing acknowledgement of art and culture’s profound impact on society, not merely for their inherent value but also for their potential to drive economic prosperity and diversification. 

Courtesy Schiattarella Associati. Photographer: Hassan Ali Al-Shatti

Diriyah Art Futures emerges as the pioneering centre for New Media Arts in the MENA region, sparking fresh forms of creative expression where art, science, and technology converge. Serving as a vibrant hub for collaboration, speculation, and production, Diriyah Art Futures draws creative minds from around the world, nurturing an atmosphere of innovation.

Established through a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia and Diriyah Company, Diriyah Art Futures finds its home in the historic surroundings of Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. With a focused dedication to New Media and Digital Art, DAF brings a unique regional perspective to global conversations on contemporary issues. Through its commitment to education, content production, research, and scholarship, DAF provides fertile ground for fostering innovative thinking and creative exploration.

Courtesy Schiattarella Associati. Photographer: Hassan Ali Al-Shatti

Suzette Bell Roberts speaks with Ibrahim Alsanousi, the Acting CEO of Museums Commission

Does establishing Diriyah Art Futures originate from a goal to cultivate creativity and innovation while positioning Saudi Arabia as a premier cultural destination based on the objectives outlined in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030?

Ibrahim Alsanousi: Diriyah Art Futures (DAF) reflects the emphasis that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 places on cultivating creativity and innovation, as well as positioning Saudi Arabia as a leading cultural destination. DAF aims to develop new forms of creative expression at the intersection of art, science and technology, by fostering collaboration and speculation among global creative communities. By establishing DAF as the region’s first centre dedicated to New Media and Digital Art, we are demonstrating a commitment to nurturing the next generation of creative talent.

What motivated the Saudi Ministry of Culture to embrace the progressive trend of artists collaborating with scientists and technologists, leading to the launch of a formal academic institute focused on this integration?

Ibrahim Alsanousi: DAF’s focus on multidisciplinary exploration is motivated by the transformative potential of collaborations between artists, scientists and technologists. Harnessing the full power of multiple disciplines, we seek to enable new forms of creative expression and innovation, which transcend the boundaries of each. By launching formal academic programming focused on this integration, such as DAF’s Emerging New Media Artists Programme, we will empower emerging artists to shape the future, with access to cutting-edge resources, training and mentorship.

Courtesy Schiattarella Associati. Photographer: Hassan Ali Al-Shatti

Could establishing the institute on the Diriyah UNESCO World Heritage site enhance community engagement and involvement in contemporary art?

DAF’s home in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Diriyah is incredibly symbolic, making it more accessible and relevant to the local community. This relationship reflects the centre’s role of fostering a sense of pride and ownership among community members. Additionally, it may attract more visitors to the thriving Diriyah ecosystem, and appeal to those visiting other sites in the area, thereby increasing exposure to contemporary art and cultural dialogue.

How does the Emerging New Media Artists Programme align with Diriyah Art Futures’ broader objectives, and how does it aim to empower emerging artists within the global market?

Open to artists from across the world, DAF’s Emerging New Media Artists Programme has created a much-needed platform for nurturing and empowering emerging artists throughout the global market. Through this one-year programme, participants gain access to cutting-edge equipment production budgets, multidisciplinary learning opportunities and mentorship by prominent international digital artists. 

By supporting creative production training and facilitating connections with industry professionals, the programme equips emerging artists – including those from the Global Majority – with the skills, resources and exposure needed to thrive in the global art scene. Simultaneously, it also contributes to the centre’s mission of advancing New Media Arts in the region and beyond.

Courtesy Schiattarella Associati. Photographer: Hassan Ali Al-Shatti

Diriyah Art Futures includes a collaboration with Le Fresnoy — Studio National des Arts Contemporains; how does this add perspective to the programme?

The collaboration with Le Fresnoy – Studio National des Arts Contemporains adds perspective to the programme by bringing in expertise and perspectives from a renowned institution in contemporary arts. Le Fresnoy is known for its contributions to the advancement of digital arts and its emphasis on experimentation and innovation. By partnering with Le Fresnoy, DAF gains access to a network of established artists, scholars and resources, enriching the educational and artistic offerings of the Emerging New Media Artists Programme. We look forward to seeing the collaboration reinforcing the programme’s relevance and impact within the regional and global art community.

Diriyah Art Futures stands as a pivotal milestone not only for the MENA region but also for the broader world of New Media Arts. Serving as an incubator for the next generation of visionary artists, Diriyah Art Futures implements multifaceted initiatives that leave a profound impact on the global art scene. By reshaping the fabric of artistic exploration and expression, the institute heralds a new era in the evolution of art.

At the helm of Diriyah Art Futures is Dr. Haytham Nawar, a distinguished figure celebrated in the realms of art, design, and academia. Supported by a team of industry-leading experts, Dr. Nawar leads the institute’s ambitious mission to drive the development of art and design not only within Saudi Arabia but also across the broader MENA region and beyond. Together, they work tirelessly to advance the boundaries of artistic innovation and creativity, positioning Diriyah Art Futures as a beacon of creative excellence on the global stage.

For more information, please visit Diriyah Art Futures.

Suzette Bell-Roberts is the Co-founder and Digital Editor of ART AFRICA magazine.

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