Sharjah Art Foundation announced today the five curators for Sharjah Biennial 16, opening in February 2025: Natasha Ginwala (Artistic Director of COLOMBOSCOPE, Colombo, and Associate Curator at Large at Gropius Bau, Berlin), Amal Khalaf (Director of Programmes at Cubitt, London, and Civic Curator at the Serpentine Galleries, London), Zeynep Öz (independent curator, Istanbul and New York), Alia Swastika (Director of the Biennale Jogja Foundation, Yogyakarta) and Megan Tamati-Quennell (New Zealand–based curator of modern and contemporary Māori and Indigenous art). The curators are organising distinct but interconnected projects, together representing a diverse and global range of perspectives across the spectrum of contemporary art.
‘The Sharjah Biennial embraces an expansive and decentralised approach, an ethos that is echoed by the five unique perspectives we are bringing together for the 16th edition,’ said Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation. ‘Each of these leading curators has worked relentlessly to advance scholarship and practice in their local contexts as well as internationally. Sharjah Biennial 16 will offer the opportunity to witness their ideas in conversation, culminating in a truly polyphonic examination of contemporary art and cultural practice.’
Ginwala, Khalaf, Öz, Swastika and Tamati-Quennell are developing projects in dialogue with each other and with the Biennial’s 30-year history as a platform for artistic experimentation and discourse around critical topics in contemporary art. Each curator is inviting a selection of artists across a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, highlighting both leading and emerging talents in visual art, performance, music and publication. Continuing the Foundation’s engagement with the many communities throughout Sharjah, the Biennial will again activate venues across the emirate.
Sharjah Biennial 16 runs from February through June 2025. Additional details will be announced in the coming months.
ABOUT THE CURATORS
Natasha Ginwala, a curator, writer and researcher, is Artistic Director of COLOMBOSCOPE, Colombo (2019–ongoing), and Associate Curator at Large at Gropius Bau, Berlin (2018–2024). She also served as Artistic Director of the 13th Gwangju Biennale (2021) with Defne Ayas. Ginwala has been part of curatorial teams for Contour Biennale 8 (2017), documenta 14 (2017), 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2014) and 8th Taipei Biennial (2012). She co-curated international exhibitions at e-flux, Sharjah Art Foundation, Hamburger Bahnhof - Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart, ifa Gallery, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, L’ appartement 22, Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi, MCA Chicago, 56th Venice Biennale, SAVVY Contemporary and Zeitz MOCAA. Ginwala is a widely published author with a focus on contemporary art, visual culture and social justice.
Amal Khalaf is a curator and artist who serves as Director of Programmes at Cubitt (2019–present) and Civic Curator at the Serpentine Galleries (2009–present), both in London. Here and in other contexts she has developed residencies, exhibitions and collaborative research projects at the intersection of arts and social justice. Projects at the Serpentine include the launch of the Edgware Road Project / Centre for Possible Studies (2009–2014), Radio Ballads (2019–2022) and Sensing the Planet (2021). She curated the Bahrain Pavilion for the 58th Venice Biennale (2019) and co-directed the Global Art Forum at Art Dubai (2016). She is a trustee of Mophradat, Athens, and not/nowhere, London, and a founding member of the GCC art collective. Her work, exhibitions and research have also been presented at MoMA PS1, New York; Sharjah Art Foundation; Whitney Biennial, New York; Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris; Berlin Biennale; Fridericianum, Kassel; and New Museum, New York, among many others.
Zeynep Öz is a curator and writer who was co-founder and director of the Spot Production Fund, Istanbul (2011–2017), during which time she curated the series ‘Produce’ (I, II, III), commissioning over 30 projects. She curated the off-site Sharjah Biennial 13 project Bahar in Istanbul (2017) as an SB13 interlocutor and has edited and published numerous publications within the scope of the ‘Produce’ series and Bahar. Other curatorial projects include Abou Farid’s War, TBA21 on st_age (2021); BACA Award exhibition of Marwan Rechmaoui’s work, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, and Sharjah Art Foundation (both 2019); Pavilion of Turkey, 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Aichi Triennale 3 (2016); and Greatest Common Factor, SALT, Istanbul (2016). Öz taught at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul (2015–2020), and served on the curricular and selection committees of the Home Workspace Program, Ashkal Alwan.
Alia Swastika is a curator, researcher and writer whose practice over the last ten years has expanded on issues and perspectives of decoloniality and feminism. Her different projects involve decentralising art, rewriting art history and encouraging local activism. She works as the Director of the Biennale Jogja Foundation, Yogyakarta, and continues her research on Indonesian female artists during Indonesia’s New Order. She established and was Program Director for Ark Galerie, Yogyakarta (2007–2017). She was co-curator for the Biennale Jogja XI Equator #1 (2011); co-artistic director of the 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012); and roundtable curator for contemporary art exhibitions for the Europalia Arts Festival (2017), including presentations at Oude Kerk, Amsterdam; M HKA, Antwerp; and SMAK Ghent, Belgium. Her research on Indonesian women artists during the New Order was published in 2019.
Megan Tamati-Quennell is a writer and curator with a specialist focus in the field of modern and contemporary Māori and Indigenous art. With a 33-year curatorial practice, she has held positions at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Govett Brewster Art Gallery. Although Tamati-Quennell’s extensive exhibition history is anchored strongly in New Zealand, her expertise spans transnational contemporary First Nations art, and she has worked on many projects internationally, for example, in Australia, Canada, Norway, the United Kingdom, South Africa and the United States. Tamati-Quennell’s research interests include contemporary Māori art; Māori modernism; Māori women artists, 1930 to today; international First Nations art; First Nations and non-western art in transnational contexts; and First Nations art curatorial praxis. She is of Te Ātiawa, Ngāi Tahu and Kāti Māmoe Māori descent.
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. 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. Hoor Al Qasimi serves as President and Director. All exhibitions 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 Muhammad 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 Marri
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