Palms in Eternal Embrace: Ithra Art Prize Unveils Saudi Heritage Masterpiece

The Royal Commission for AlUla and the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) have recently revealed the outstanding masterpiece of the 6th edition of the Ithra Art Prize.

The winning artwork, titled “Palms in Eternal Embrace,” is a creation by Saudi artist Obaid Alsafi, unveiled at the AlUla Arts Festival on the 9th of February 2024.

This edition marks the initiation of a collaborative effort between Ithra and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), symbolizing a broader partnership to bolster creativity in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding region.

Embracing the Theme: Art in the Landscape

This year’s Ithra Art Prize revolved around the theme “Art in the Landscape,” calling for submissions of public artwork proposals that resonate with the unique landscapes and natural heritage of AlUla.

Palms in Eternal Embrace: Ithra Art Prize Unveils Saudi Heritage Masterpiece

“Palms in Eternal Embrace,” a large-scale site-specific installation, emerged as the winning masterpiece, set to be exhibited for six weeks amid the 2.3 million date palms of the AlUla Oasis.

Alsafi’s creation aims to prompt reflection on environmental conservation, particularly drawing attention to endangered palm trees—an emblematic representation of the Arabian Peninsula’s landscapes and heritage.

The intertwining of over 30 intricately woven palm trunks using locally sourced organic or recycled textiles serves as a powerful visual metaphor, symbolizing the potential of advanced technologies in preserving endangered flora and fauna.

A Fusion of Tradition and Modernity

Alsafi’s artwork is a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity. The palm trunks, intricately woven with locally sourced materials, draw inspiration from the traditional artistry of rope and Leifa making in Saudi Arabia.

Palms in Eternal Embrace: Ithra Art Prize Unveils Saudi Heritage Masterpiece

Collaborating with local artisans, Alsafi infuses contemporary design elements while honouring the rich heritage of craftsmanship in the region.

“Palm in Eternal Embrace” draws inspiration from Saudi Arabia’s rich history and landscapes, with Alsafi referencing the historical town of Qaryat Al Faw and the 5,000-year-old Rajajil Columns in the Al Jawf region.

The ancient sandstone pillars, aligned precisely to observe stars and seasons, reflect advanced astronomical knowledge of ancient cultures. Alsafi’s homage to Rajajil highlights the intersection of history, nature, art, and culture, woven into the cultural fabric of Saudi Arabia.

Ithra Art Prize: Fostering Regional Creativity

Launched in 2017, the Ithra Art Prize has become a beacon for artists from 22 Arab countries. The winning artist not only receives a prestigious award of $100,000 but also secures up to $400,000 in funding to bring their project to life—an unparalleled art grant in the region.

Palms in Eternal Embrace: Ithra Art Prize Unveils Saudi Heritage Masterpiece

The selection process for the winning artwork involved a committee of industry experts, including Farah Abushullaih, Head of Museum at Ithra, Nora Aldabal, Executive Director of Arts and Creative Industries at the Royal Commission for AlUla, Mohamed Ibrahim, Emirati Artist, Sophie Makariou, Scientific Director for Culture and Heritage at AFALULA, and Aric Chen, General and Artistic Director at Het Nieuwe Instituut.

Obaid Alsafi, expressing his vision behind “Palms in Eternal Embrace,” stated, “I want to initiate a dialogue about the deep relationship between the landscape and humanity, highlighting how people’s lives are intricately shaped by their surroundings.”

The artwork serves as a celebration of cultural heritage, drawing inspiration from Al-Rajajil stone pillars, a symbol of the intersection of history, nature, art, and culture.

Acknowledging Urgency in Environmental Conservation

Alsafi’s creation conveys a sense of urgency regarding the endangerment of palm trees globally. Through this artwork, he aims to encourage viewers to be mindful of the environment and actively participate in preserving both cultural and natural heritage. The day-long live performance accompanying the installation during the unveiling further enriches the viewer’s experience.

Palms in Eternal Embrace: Ithra Art Prize Unveils Saudi Heritage Masterpiece

Nora Aldabal, Executive Director of Arts and Creative Industries at the Royal Commission for AlUla, emphasized the power of art in raising awareness about the urgency of safeguarding the natural world. She expressed excitement about the artwork’s debut against the magnificent backdrop of AlUla.

Conclusion: Melding Art with AlUla’s Landscape

In conclusion, “Palms in Eternal Embrace” stands as a testament to the seamless integration of art and landscape.

Its cohesive, organic specificity to AlUla’s environment, as recognized by Farah Abushullaih, Head of Museum at Ithra, positions it as a thought-provoking installation during the AlUla Arts Festival.

As this captivating masterpiece finds its place in Ithra’s permanent collection, it continues to be a beacon of creative expression and cultural exchange in the heart of Saudi Arabia.

Salon Privé

Salon Privé Magazine is the quintessence of luxury lifestyle journalism, renowned for its sophisticated portrayal of the opulent world since its inception in 2008. As a vanguard of high-end living, the magazine serves as an exclusive portal into the realms of haute couture, fine arts, and the aristocratic lifestyle. With over a decade of expertise, Salon Privé has established itself as the definitive source for those who seek the allure of luxury and elegance. The magazine's content is crafted by a cadre of experienced journalists, each bringing a wealth of knowledge from the luxury sector. This collective expertise is reflected in the magazine's diverse coverage, which spans the latest in fashion trends, intimate glimpses into royal lives, and the coveted secrets of the affluent lifestyle. Salon Privé's commitment to quality is evident in its thoughtful collaborations with industry titans and cultural connoisseurs, ensuring that its narratives are as authoritative as they are enchanting. With accolades that include being voted the number one luxury lifestyle magazine in the UK, Salon Privé continues to be at the forefront of luxury journalism, offering its discerning readership a guide to the finest experiences the world has to offer. Whether it's the grandeur of global fashion weeks, the splendor of exclusive soirées, or the pursuit of wellness and beauty, Salon Privé Magazine remains the emblem of luxury for the elite and the aspirants alike.