Marwan Rechmaoui, various works, 2014–present. From ‘Pillars’, 2014–present. Concrete, metal and other materials; dimensions variable. Installation view: Slanted Squares, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut/Hamburg. Photo: Harry Heuts

This November, Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) is pleased to present Marwan Rechmaoui: Slanted Squares, organised by the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht and Sharjah Art Foundation on the occasion of the Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary Art (BACA) 2019. The exhibition is curated by Zeynep Öz.

On view at SAF from 2 November 2019 through 2 February 2020, the solo exhibition reflects the artist’s methodical study of cartography, demographics and urbanisation. Before travelling to SAF, this exhibition was on view at the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, from 24 May through 8 September 2019 as part of BACA 2019.

Marwan Rechmaoui was selected for the 2019 Bonnefanten Award by a distinguished jury composed of Hoor Al Qasimi (chair), President and Director, Sharjah Art Foundation; Zeina Arida, Director, Sursock Museum; Stijn Huijts, Artistic Director, Bonnefantenmuseum; Frances Morris, Director, Tate Modern; Suha Shoman, Founder and Chair, Khalid Shoman Foundation and Darat al Funun; and Christine Tohmé, Founding Director of Ashkal Alwan, The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts.

Granted every two years since 2000, the BACA recognises the exceptional artistic achievement of an artist whose practice is considered important and influential to artists, curators and other art professionals and whose work merits a serious introduction to a wider international audience. The laureate is awarded a prize of 50,000 euros, a solo exhibition at the Bonnefantenmuseum and a dedicated publication on his or her work.

Born in 1964 in Beirut, Lebanon, where he currently lives and works, Marwan Rechmaoui focuses on the sociopolitical structure and complex multicultural history of the Arab world through physical construction sites and foundational structures. He employs industrial materials such as concrete, metal, rubber, tar, textiles and glass to create models of city streets and Beirut landmarks as well as objects that reference domestic aspects of urban life.

Slanted Squares presents two series of sculptures, a Sharjah Art Foundation commission and a group of drawings, all centred around construction sites and buildings. Rechmaoui uses these spaces to generate metaphors for urban archaeological processes, for example, excavating, stabilising and possibly rebuilding.

The ongoing series ‘Buildings’ (2002–present) consists of six sculptures, each referencing buildings in Lebanon that exist in a state of suspension. The structures have either been left unfinished or are currently being used for functions other than those originally intended. Works in this series include Monument for the Living (2002), Spectre (2006–2008), The Coop (2019), If I Only Had a Chance (Experimental Theatre) (2019), If I Only Had a Chance (Helipad and Space Museum) (2019) and If I Only Had a Chance (Kindergarten) (2019).

The series ‘Pillars’ (2014–present) focuses on the foundations that allow structures to be built. Pillars provide the strong support on which layers accumulate; they are the architectural and ethical grounds upon which all physical and social sites are constructed. With many of Beirut’s physical pillars crumbling, this work reflects simultaneously on the corruption of foundations and the inhabitants’ experience of abandonment. Rechmaoui started working on this series at the beginning of the Syrian war in 2014, when the media images provoked feelings similar to those he had experienced in connection with Beirut 20 years earlier.

Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation for Sharjah Biennial 13, Untitled 12 (2017), a twelve-panel work suggesting a running shoreline, expands on Rechmaoui’s interest in cartography by foregrounding the sentient capacity of spatial information. Critical of the impoverished representations of space that are often produced by two-dimensional surveying methods, he accounts for discrepancies between perception and empirical data by considering the disposition of the geography as well as that of the materials used to articulate its diverse topographies.

Rechmaoui’s drawings (2019) act as a mechanism for the artist to express playfulness and freedom. The vegetation in these drawings not only serves as the subject matter but also symbolises the unrestrained growth of organic matter, which stands in stark contrast to the rigidity and conflict of urban life. These works allude as well to various life forms created through the artist’s work with concrete.

Rechmaoui’s work has been presented in a number of solo and group exhibitions, including Slanted Squares, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, the Netherlands (2019); Truth is black, write over it with a mirage’s light, Darat al Funun, Amman (2018); Sharjah Biennial 13 (2017); Home Works 2, 4, 5, and 7, Ashkal Alwan, Beirut (2003-2015); Istanbul Biennial 13 (2015); Here & Elsewhere, New Museum, New York (2014); Cadavre Exquis, Suite Méditerranéenne, Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence, France (2013); Sharjah Biennial 11 (2013); On the Edgware Road, Serpentine Gallery, London (2012) and Sharjah Biennial 7 (2005).

His work can be found in the collections of the Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi; Sharjah Art Foundation and Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid. This year, he was the recipient of BACA 2019.

This exhibition is accompanied by the publication Marwan Rechmaoui: Slanted Squares, including texts and illustrations by Marwan Rechmaoui, Zeynep Öz, Hoor Al Qasimi, Stijn Huijts, and Akram Zaatari, co-published by Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht and Sharjah Art Foundation. The book will be available for purchase at SAF’s shops in Al Mureijah Square and Arts Square and is distributed internationally by Idea Books.

All Sharjah Art Foundation exhibitions are free and open to the public. To learn more about this show, visit