In association with Sharjah Art Foundation, FOCUS: Hrair Sarkissian runs from Friday, 24 January– Sunday, 15 March 2020 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas. Curated by Sharjah Art Foundation’s Director of Collections and Senior Curator Omar Kholeif, the exhibition is Sarkissian’s debut solo show in the United States.

The exhibition features three major works by the artist, including Final Flight (2018–2019), partly commissioned by the foundation as part of Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber (SB14). In this work, Sarkissian examines the history of the endangered northern bald ibis, which was declared extinct in 1989 and rediscovered in Palmyra, Syria in 2002, through the use of new and age-old techniques, creating sculptures of the extinct birds’ skulls and subsequently capturing the complexity of the onset of war in Syria in 2011. The exhibition also presents Sarkissian’s Execution Squares (2008), previously shown at Sharjah Biennial 11 (SB11) and part of SAF’s permanent collection, comprised of fourteen photographs which document major public squares in Aleppo, Latakia and Damascus that have a history of staging public executions. The third work in the exhibition is a two-channel video entitled Homesick (2014), featuring Sarkissian’s family home in Syria, where his parents continue to live despite the on-going violence. The work explores memory, trauma, violence and longing, themes that continue to inform Sarkissian’s practice.

‘We are delighted to collaborate with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas on Hrair Sarkissian’s first major solo exhibition in the United States,’ said Hoor Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Art Foundation. ‘Sarkissian’s work in photography, video and sculpture reflects on conditions of trauma, and considers how violence can be made invisible through histories of erasure and reduction. It’s a pleasure to see his work presented internationally.’

‘It is a true pleasure to guest curate this exhibition with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas, which has long been one of my favourite museums in the United States. Hrair Sarkissian's FOCUS exhibition explores three distinct areas of the artist's practice and puts his work into conversation with the Modern's diverse global collection,’ said Kholeif. ‘Situated adjacent to Hrair's work Final Flight, for example, is one of my favourite works of art from the Modern's collection by artist Martin Puryear, entitled Ladder for Booker T. Washington. This piece references complex racial histories in the USA and is composed of a beautiful ladder, which ascends to the heavens. Across from it Sarkissian's Final Flight sees a series of seven birds, 3-d cast skulls, flying away in the opposite direction. This work references the extinction of memory, place, and time. The works in this space become wholly interconnected creating a poignant dialogue. This I believe is one of the true goals of collaboration -to intertwine and put different art histories into conversation.’

‘On behalf of our entire team at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, we are thrilled to organize this important exhibition of Hrair Sarkissian’s work and for this collaboration with Dr. Omar Kholeif and the Sharjah Art Foundation,’ stated Alison Hearst, Curator at the Modern. ‘Not only is this Hrair’s first major exhibition in the United States, it is one of the first solo exhibitions of an artist from the Arab world in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. We feel honored to be a part of this significant moment.’

In autumn 2021, Sharjah Art Foundation will present a major solo exhibition of Sarkissian’s work, including a number of new commissions and highlights from the artist’s oeuvre, in Sharjah. Following its presentation at the foundation, the exhibition will travel to Europe in 2022.

About Hrair Sarkissian

Hrair Sarkissian is one of the most important artists to work with photography to emerge from the Middle East over the last two decades. He was born in 1973 in Damascus, Syria and lives in London and The Hague. He has exhibited widely internationally in both group and solo shows at Tate Modern (London); New Museum (New York); Darat Al Funun (Amman); Mori Art Museum (Tokyo); SALT Beyoglu (Istanbul); Thessaloniki Biennale; Sharjah Biennial; Istanbul Biennial; Asia Pacific Triennial (Brisbane); and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, among many others. In 2013 he won the Abraaj Group Art Prize. He has lectured globally.

About Omar Kholeif

Sharjah Art Foundation Director of Collections and Senior Curator, Egyptianborn, Dr. Omar Kholeif is a writer and curator, who, over the last decade, has curated more than 100 exhibitions, special projects and commissions globally. He has authored and/or edited more than 20 books and catalogues on art, including recent publications Goodbye, World! Looking at Art in the Digital Age (Sternberg Press, 2018) and The Artists Who Will Change the World (Thames and Hudson, 2018). Kholeif’s most recent projects include Time, Forward! – the V-A-C Foundation’s contribution to the 58th Venice Biennale-, the 14th Sharjah Biennial: Leaving the Echo Chamber: Making New Time, as well as upcoming projects including the first retrospective of David Lynch’s art in the UK for the Manchester International Festival and Focus: Drawing, Tracing and Mapping at Abu Dhabi Art. He also recently served as a Visiting Tutor at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. Previously he was Manilow Senior Curator and Director of Global Initiatives at the MCA Chicago, Curator at Whitechapel Gallery, London, as well as Senior Curator at Cornerhouse and HOME, Manchester.

About the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is dedicated to collecting, presenting, and interpreting international developments in post–World War II art in all media and creating a welcoming environment for its public appreciation. The Modern promotes understanding and interest in art and artists through curatorial research and publications, and a variety of educational programs, including lectures, guided tours, classes, and workshops.

The collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is comprised of nearly 3,000 objects, including paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, and prints. The majority of works in the collection are dated between 1945 and the present. Major, international movements are represented, including Abstract Expressionism; British, German, French, and American Pop; Color Field Painting; Minimalism; Conceptualism; Post-Minimalism; New Image Painting, and Neo-Expressionism. Pop and Minimalism are particularly strong, as is German art of the 1970s and 1980s.

About Sharjah Art Foundation

Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and the surrounding region, in dialogue with the international arts community. Under the leadership of founder Hoor Al Qasimi, a curator and artist, the foundation advances an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art, preserves and celebrates the distinct culture of the region and encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art. The foundation’s core initiatives include the long-running Sharjah Biennial, featuring contemporary artists from around the world; the annual March Meeting, a convening of international arts professionals and artists; grants and residencies for artists, curators and cultural producers; ambitious and experimental commissions and a range of travelling exhibitions and scholarly publications.

Established in 2009 to expand programmes beyond the Sharjah Biennial, which launched in 1993, the foundation is a critical resource for artists and cultural organizations in the Gulf and a conduit for local, regional and international developments in contemporary art. The foundation’s deep commitment to developing and sustaining the cultural life and heritage of Sharjah is reflected through year-round exhibitions, performances, screenings and educational programmes in the city of Sharjah and across the Emirate, often hosted in historic buildings that have been repurposed as cultural and community centers. A growing collection reflects the foundation’s support of contemporary artists in the realization of new work and its recognition of the contributions made by pioneering modern artists from the region and around the world.

Sharjah Art Foundation is a legally independent public body established by Emiri Decree and supported by government funding, grants from national and international nonprofits and cultural organizations, corporate sponsors and individual patrons. All exhibitions are free and open to the public.

About Sharjah

Sharjah is the third largest of the seven United Arab Emirates and the only one bridging the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Reflecting the deep commitment to the arts, architectural preservation and cultural education embraced by its ruler, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Sharjah is home to more than 20 museums and has long been known as the cultural hub of the United Arab Emirates. In 1998, it was named UNESCO's 'Arab Capital of Culture' and has been designated the UNESCO ‘World Book Capital’ for the year 2019.

Media Contact

Alyazeyah Al Reyaysa