2017 was a significant year for Sharjah Art Foundation with the presentation of Sharjah Biennial 13, which took place this year in five different countries, major solo artist retrospectives and the continued development of the foundation’s broad range of arts and cultural programming. Through ambitious scholarly exhibitions, community programmes, commissions, residencies and other initiatives, the foundation has maintained its support for both local and international artists and contributed to international dialogue around contemporary art.
The full scope of the foundation’s local, regional and international activities and initiatives in 2017 follows below:
Sharjah Biennial 13 (SB13): Tamawuj
Sharjah Biennial 13 (SB13): Tamawuj was curated by Christine Tohme. Act I of the biennial was held across Sharjah from 10 March to 12 June 2017, and Act II began in Beirut on 14 October 2017 and will continue until 19 January 2018. Also included in SB13’s year-long programmes were four off-site projects in Dakar, Istanbul, Ramallah and Beirut. Each off-site project investigated one of four key words: water, crops, earth and the culinary. SB13 has cultivated collaborations, infrastructures and strategies within Sharjah and other project localities and attracted 25% more visitors than previous Sharjah Biennials, with an estimated total of 120,000 local and international attendees for Act I.
Launched on 15 October 2016 as part of the SB13 curatorial concept, the SB13 School ran until 15 October 2017. This project supported local infrastructures in the central and eastern regions of the Emirate of Sharjah and engaged with their various communities. The SB13 School activities took place across numerous venues, including Al Madam Art Centre, Al Hamriyah Art Centre, Kalba Art Centre and Sharjah’s Arts Area.
March Meeting 2017
Taking place during SB13’s opening week (10–14 March 2017), Sharjah Art Foundation’s annual March Meeting considered conditions for the possibility of an art world in a region currently being invested with larger institutions and lesser infrastructures. The programme comprised panel discussions, talks, film screenings and different performances pertaining to the SB13 theme and sub-themes.
Music, Film, Education and Community Programmes
• In November 2017, the foundation launched its Music Programme, which brings events such as concerts, workshops, discussion sessions and open mics to local and regional communities. The programme launch began with the residency and concert of the music and film ensemble El Foukr R’Assembly. With members from Algeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, the band draws inspiration from the cultural expression of North and Sub-Saharan Africa and heralds a new sound through their interpretation of a number of Trans-Saharan and Pan-African musical genres.
• The foundation’s Film Programme presented 30 screenings at Mirage City Cinema, which were attended by more than 1,000 attendees. In addition to regular screenings, the programme organises a film club and supports filmic work by visual artists. Exploring storytelling through the medium of film, the 2017 programme offered viewers a collection of culture-specific tales from around the world, including a series of short films from the region. Highlights include the documentary Gaza Surf Club (2016) and the Emirati film Only Men Go to the Grave (2016). Additionally, the programme is currently offering a digital filmmaking course for film enthusiasts and aspiring filmmakers.
• Ranging from workshops such as Drawing a Story, Origami Table Arrangements and Caricature Exchange to full courses in drawing, painting, sculpting and pottery, the foundation’s 2017 Education Programme hosted over 300 offerings, which have collectively attracted more than 12,000 participants of all backgrounds, ages and abilities. With a variety of activities dedicated to children, adults and people with disabilities, the programme, taking place across the foundation’s many art centres, encouraged public engagement and enriched the cultural experience of the local community.
• With a focus on the Sharjah Art Foundation neighbourhood, the Community and Outreach Programme organised a variety of workshops, excursions and films for 2017 that emphasised public participation, urban research and sustainability. With a total of 29 workshops and community events, the programme engaged with around 1,500 people from the surrounding local community. Highlights for 2017 include the Film Wala initiative, the Sudanese Poetry and Music Night and the Ramadan Programme.
• A number of annual artistic and professional programmes and exhibitions continued in 2017, including March Project 2017, an educational residency programme for artists; Vantage Point Sharjah 5, an open call photography exhibition; and Selections: Summer 2017, an exhibition of works from the foundation’s growing collection.
Major Solo Artist Retrospectives
• The major retrospective Ahmed Morsi: A Dialogic Imagination (1 March to 3 June 2017), co-curated by Sharjah Art Foundation President and Director Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi and Dr. Salah M. Hassan, Goldwin Smith Professor and Director Institute for Comparative Modernities Cornell University, traced Morsi’s figurative and fantastical output as a poet and painter from the 1940s until the present day.
• Opening to critical acclaim on 4 November 2017, the foundation presented a landmark retrospective of the works of pioneering conceptual and experimental artist Hassan Sharif, marking the largest and most comprehensive survey of the Emirati artist’s work to date. Curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, Hassan Sharif: I Am The Single Work Artist traces nearly five decades of the artist’s multimedia practice. On view through 3 February 2018 are over 300 works of painting, sculpture, assemblage, drawing, installation and photography, including never-before-seen works. Also being shown to the public for the first time, Sharif’s studio—recently donated to the foundation by the artist’s estate—provides new perspective on the artist’s multidisciplinary practice.
• Following its premiere in Sharjah in 2016, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige: Two Suns in a Sunset was presented at the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (IVAM) in Valencia, Spain from 6 April to 27 August 2017, completing the final leg of its international tour. This major exhibition was co-produced by Sharjah Art Foundation, Jeu de Paume (Paris), Haus der Kunst (Munich) and IVAM.
• Following its 2016 opening at Sharjah Art Foundation, the project do it بالعربي [in Arabic], which features artists’ instructions for anyone to make a work of art, continued touring to cities across the region, including Ramallah (May – October 2017) and Cairo (July - August 2017). Co-curated by Al Qasimi and Hans Ulrich Obrist, this project offered new iterations of the ongoing do it publication and exhibition project originally founded and curated by Obrist in 1993.
• In collaboration with the Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell University and the Visual Cultures Program at the American University in Cairo, the foundation organised the travelling exhibition When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965), which was shown at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Deoksugung, Seoul (28 April–30 July 2017). Its inaugural presentation took place the previous year (28 September–28 October 2016) at the Palace of Arts in Cairo. This exhibition was co-curated by Hoor Al Qasimi and Dr. Salah M. Hassan.
Commissions and Support for Artists Internationally
• At documenta 14 (8 April–17 September 2017), Naeem Mohaiemen premiered two interrelated moving image works co-commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation. In addition to his three-channel video installation Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017) in Kassel, the artist presented his first fiction film Tripoli Cancelled (2017) in Athens. Also at documenta 14 in Athens, Rasheed Araeen presented Shamiyaana–Food for Thought: Thought for Change (2016–2017), a new project supported by the foundation.
• Sharjah Art Foundation also co-commissioned and supported presentations of the work of artists Hassan Sharif, Abdullah Al Saadi and Rasheed Araeen at the 57th Venice Biennale exhibition VIVA ARTE VIVA (13 May–26 November 2017).
• Radouan Mriziga explored the relationship between dance and construction in his performance work 7 (2017) at Kaaitheater, Brussels from 17 to 20 May 2017, envisioning the moving body as a measure, maker and medium of expression. The work concludes a trilogy of performances beginning with 55 (2014), included in The Time is Out of Joint (2016), an exhibition at the foundation. As part of the Sharjah Art Foundation Residency Programme, which offers visiting artists and art practitioners a dedicated outpost in Sharjah for reflection and experimentation, the foundation hosted a ten-day residency that provided crucial rehearsal and production support for Mriziga’s performance.
• Wael Shawky continued his exploration and interrogation of historical narratives in The Song of Roland: The Arabic Version (2017), a large-scale musical and theatrical performance co-produced by the foundation that premiered at the Theater der Welt Festival in Hamburg on 26 May 2017 and travelled to Amsterdam (10–11 June) and Zurich (22–23 August). The performance will be presented in Athens from 28 to 30 December and make its way to Sharjah in spring 2018. This project builds on Shawky’s remarkable trilogy Cabaret Crusades (2010, 2012, 2015), in part supported by the foundation, and his performance Dictums 10:120 (2013), commissioned for Sharjah Biennial 11.
This year also witnessed an important milestone in the international reach of Sharjah Art Foundation with the election of President and Director Al Qasimi as the new President of the International Biennial Association (IBA). The IBA headquarters will move to Sharjah for the duration of her term.
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 organisations 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 centres. A growing collection reflects the foundation’s support of contemporary artists in the realisation 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 organisations, corporate sponsors and individual patrons. All events are free and open to the public.
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 Mohammad 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.
Alyazeyah Al Reyaysa