The Easel

Shifting sands: An art exhibition, a desert landscape and an insight into Saudi society

Saudi Arabia doesn’t do things by halves. It plans to develop an area the size of Belgium into an arts hub and conservation area. A key event will be Desert X AlUla, an exhibition of “grand-scale art” in the striking desert landscape. Can a society that restricts freedom of expression foster a vibrant arts community? “[Y]es, but only up to a point. [The work] is often visually spectacular but feels ultimately insubstantial.”