Dictionary (1981)

Hassan Sharif
Photographs and pencil on mounting board and glue, dictionary pages and cotton rope
Installation view: Hassan Sharif: I Am The Single Work Artist, Malmö Konsthall, 2020
Sharjah Art Foundation Collection
Photo: Helene Toresdotter


Hassan Sharif: I Am The Single Work Artist, currently on view at Malmö Konsthall in Sweden as part of the exhibition’s European tour, traces the late artist’s prominent career. Originally curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Art Foundation, the exhibition was first staged in 2017–2018 at the Foundation and was the most extensive presentation of the late artist’s prominent career. This iteration of the exhibition at Malmö Konsthall, curated by Mats Stjernstedi, Director of Malmö Konsthall, and Hoor Al Qasimi, is presented in collaboration with Sharjah Art Foundation and KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin. With a focus on sculptures and objects, the exhibition presents over 150 works from the artist’s diverse oeuvre, ranging from early satirical cartoons and documentation of performances in the Hatta desert to sculptural works that were produced in the last year of his life.

Running alongside the exhibition are a number of educational public programmes inspired by the work of Hassan Sharif, including a range of activities in Arabic. Malmö Konsthall will be providing visitors an opportunity to experience the major retrospective through audio tours in Swedish, English and Arabic, designed for both adults and children. Throughout the exhibition period, the Konsthall will also be offering educational programmes that are suitable for visitors of all ages, including guided tours and creative workshops in Arabic. Educational activities around Hassan Sharif: I Am The Single Work Artist include a book club that focuses on works related to the exhibition as well as a programme called Change the Arts, which introduces youth between the ages of 15 and 19 to the basics of artistic critique, publication-making and the design of a guided exhibition tour.

A pioneer of conceptual art and experimental practice in the Middle East, Hassan Sharif explored form, time, social action and mathematical systems throughout his career. His work is marked by the use of common materials in accumulative installations as well as complex social and philosophical reflection. Moving between roles as artist, educator, critic and writer, Sharif worked to encourage the engagement of local audiences with contemporary art through his Arabic translations of historical art texts and manifestos. He was a founder of The Flying House, Dubai (2007); Art Atelier, Youth Theatre and Arts, Dubai (1987); Al Mureijah Art Atelier, Sharjah (1984); and Emirates Fine Arts Society, Sharjah (1980). All these organisations support interdisciplinary approaches to contemporary art in the Emirates through mentorship and exhibition.

Since 1993, Sharif’s work has been exhibited in eight Sharjah Biennials, most recently at Sharjah Biennial 12 (2015), and over 90 of his works are currently part of the Foundation’s collection, from small works on paper to large installations. The Foundation is also custodian of Sharif’s studio and personal archives. Sharif’s work has also been shown in 1980–Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates, UAE Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale (2015); and ADACH Platform for Visual Arts, 53rd Venice Biennale (2009).

Sharif graduated from the Byam Shaw School of Art, London (1984), and returned to the UAE, where he began staging interventions and exhibitions of contemporary art in Sharjah. He lived and worked in Dubai until his death in 2016.

Accompanying the exhibition tour is the eponymous monograph published by Sharjah Art Foundation and Koenig Books, London. Edited by Hoor Al Qasimi, the publication presents the Foundation’s research into Sharif’s multidisciplinary practice. The major publication includes images of lost works, original English translations from his journalistic and experimental writings, archival materials from ephemeral exhibitions, and dialogues and reflections by Sharif’s contemporaries in the UAE. The book is not a typical exhibition catalogue or a chronological book, but an experimental work that reflects Sharif’s practice and weaves a personal narrative from the various threads of his career.
The publication serves both as a vital resource for scholarly and curatorial interest in contemporary art practice and as a reference for how cultural ideas travel and, in the process, are transformed.

I Am The Single Work Artist is the second major exhibition highlighting the work of Arab artists at the Konsthall. Previously on view was the major Michael Rakowitz exhibition The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, which ran from 14 September 2019 to 12 January 2020. Rakowitz has had a long relationship with the Foundation, making his first appearance in Sharjah Biennial 8 (2007) and more recently participated in Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber, presenting The Ballad of Special Ops Cody which is also part of the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection.

This exhibition is organised by Sharjah Art Foundation (UAE), KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Germany) and Malmö Konsthall (Sweden). The presentation at KW Institute for Contemporary Art was curated by Hoor Al Qasimi and Krist Gruijthuijsen, and at Malmö Konsthall by Hoor Al Qasimi and Mats Stjernstedt.
The exhibition was previously on view from 30 May to 19 July 2020 at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin.

For more information, visit www.konsthall.malmo.se