A 70-work Andy Warhol exhibition is headed to Saudi Arabia this winter as part of the Arts AlUla Festival, one of many events in the country intended to boost the nation’s cultural standing.
Under the title “Fame: Andy Warhol in AlUla,” the show is being organized by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and will be curated by Patrick Moore, that institution’s director. The show is due to open on February 17, 2023, at the Maraya, a gleaming mirrored building in the middle of the desert.
The exhibition’s focus will be the many ways the Pop artist depicted celebrities, from Muhammand Ali to Dolly Parton, and it will include Warhol’s prints, his famed “screen tests,” and more.
In the past few years, Saudi Arabia has hosted a range of art events that are intended to lure international artists and curators to the country. Those events include an edition of the Desert X biennial that launched in 2020.
Many in the art world have fiercely decried events such as Desert X AlUla, claiming that Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights violations should deter international figures from investing money, time, and attention in exhibitions held there. The Pulitzer Prize–winning art critic Christopher Knight was among those detractors, calling the 2020 edition of Desert X AlUla “morally corrupt.”
The announcement for the Warhol show touted this glitzy collaboration with Saudi Arabia as a potentially transformative one for those interested in art there.
In a statement, Moore said, “FAME is intended to be an introduction to the aspect of Warhol that I believe is most fascinating to many young people, including Saudi youth, as Andy Warhol’s journey, which started as a child staring at the movie screen and collecting publicity stills, is becoming more common through the rise of social media.”