Curated by the late Okwui Enwezor, Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically In the Present (SB15) reflects on the past fourteen editions of the Biennial and considers the future of the biennial model. In accordance with Enwezor’s wishes, SB15 will be realised with the support of Sharjah Art Foundation Director Hoor Al Qasimi as co-curator alongside a working group of Enwezor’s longtime collaborators: curator Tarek Abou El Fetouh; professor and Founding Director of NTU CCA Singapore Ute Meta Bauer; art historian and Cornell Professor Salah M. Hassan; and art historian and Princeton University professor Chika Okeke-Agulu. Al Qasimi and the SB15 Working Group will oversee the development and implementation of Okwui's curatorial concept in collaboration with an advisory committee composed of architect Sir David Adjaye, artist John Akomfrah and Ashkal Alwan Director Christine Tohme, who will provide additional consultation on the Biennial.
In his written plans for SB15, which he began developing in spring 2018, Enwezor envisioned the “Sharjah Biennial as a module with which to deal with the disruptive power of artistic monolingualism but also as horizon of the possible to conceive another theoretical space for ‘Thinking Historically in the Present.’” Enwezor’s curatorial concept for the Biennial affirmed his insistence on the art exhibition as a platform for engaging with history, politics and society and how these shape our global present.
The 2020 edition of Sharjah Art Foundation’s annual March Meeting, will be organised around the title and theme of SB15, Thinking Historically in the Present. MM 2020 will focus on the 30th anniversary of the Sharjah Biennial, bringing together former Sharjah Biennial curators, artistic directors and artists as well art historians and critics to examine the role of the Biennial in the region and in the global contemporary art scene. Details about the MM 2020 programme, running from 21 to 23 March 2020, will be available in late 2019.
Okwui Enwezor (1963, Calabar, Nigeria–2019, Munich) was a curator, critic and art historian. Enwezor’s curatorial projects alternated between ambitious international exhibitions that sought to define their moment and historically driven, encyclopedic museum shows. His major projects include the Venice Biennale (2015), Paris Triennale (2012), Gwangju Biennale (2008), Seville Biennial (2006) and documenta 11 (1998–2002), and he served as Artistic Director of the Second Johannesburg Biennale (1997). Enwezor’s groundbreaking museum exhibitions include Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2016); Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life, International Center of Photography, New York (2012); Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, International Center of Photography, New York (2008); Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, International Center of Photography, New York (2006); The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich (2001); and In/Sight: African Photographers, 1940–Present, Guggenheim Museum, New York (1996).
Enwezor served as Director, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2011–2018) and Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice-President, San Francisco Art Institute (2005–2009). He was Global Distinguished Professor in the Department of Art History, New York University (2013) and Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (2012). Among his publications are Postwar: Art between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 (Prestel Publishing, 2017), which he co-edited; Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life (Prestel Publishing, 2013); Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (Damiani, 2010); Antinomies of Art and Culture: Modernity, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity (Duke University Press, 2009); and Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Market (Iniva, 1999). In 1994, he co-founded NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art.
Hoor Al Qasimi
Hoor Al Qasimi is President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation. Her recent curatorial projects include solo exhibitions of the works of Amal Kenawy (2018), Hassan Sharif (2017), Yayoi Kusama (2016), Robert Breer (2016), Farideh Lashai (2016), Rasheed Araeen (2014) and Susan Hefuna (2014). She was co-curator for Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige: Two Suns in a Sunset (2016) and major surveys such as When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938 –1965)(2016) and The Khartoum School: The Making of the Modern Art Movement in Sudan (1945–Present)(2016–2017). Co-curator of Sharjah Biennial 6 (2003), she has since continued as Biennial Director. She curated the UAE National Pavilion, Venice Biennale (2015) and will serve as the curator of the second Lahore Biennale, opening in 2020.
President of the International Biennial Association; Chair of the Board, Sharjah Architecture Triennial; Chair of the Advisory Board, College of Fine Arts and Design, University of Sharjah; and President of The Africa Institute, Sharjah, Al Qasimi serves on the Board of Directors for MoMA PS1, New York; Kunst-Werke Berlin e. V.; and Ashkal Alwan, Beirut as well as advisory boards for Khoj, New Delhi and Darat al Funun, Amman. She is also a member of the Prince Claus Award Committee (2016–present).
SB15 Working Group
Tarek Abou El Fetouh is an independent curator who has developed conversations among practitioners within and beyond the Arab world through the establishment of major initiatives such as Meeting Points - Festival for Contemporary Arts and the Young Arab Theatre Fund (recently renamed Mophradat). He was one of the curators for Sharjah Biennial 9 (2009).
Ute Meta Bauer is a curator, editor (Afterall magazine), Founding Director of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and a professor at the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Salah M. Hassan is Director of The Africa Institute, Sharjah, UAE, and Goldwin Smith Professor in the Africana Studies and Research Center and the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, US. He is an art historian, art critic, curator and founding editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art.
Chika Okeke-Agulu specializes in indigenous, modern and contemporary African and African Diaspora art history and theory. He is a professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. He is co-editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art and maintains the blog Ọfọdunka.
SB15 Advisory Committee
Sir David Adjaye OBE is recognized as a leading architect of his generation. In 2000, he formed his studio, Adjaye Associates, with offices in London, New York and Accra and projects spanning North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. His largest project to date, the $540 million Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened on the National Mall in Washington, DC in autumn 2016.
John Akomfrah is a respected artist and filmmaker whose works are characterized by their investigations into memory, post-colonialism, temporality and aesthetics and often explore the experiences of migrant diasporas globally.
Christine Tohme is the Founding Director of Ashkal Alwan, a non-profit organization established in 1993 in Beirut that aims to support contemporary artistic and cultural practices through its numerous initiatives. She curated Sharjah Biennial 13: Tamawuj in 2017.