Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) today announced a list of over 150 artists from more than 70 countries participating in the 15th edition of the Sharjah Biennial. Conceived by the late Okwui Enwezor and curated by the Foundation’s Director Hoor Al Qasimi, Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present reflects on Enwezor’s visionary work, which transformed contemporary art and has influenced the evolution of institutions and biennials around the world, including the Sharjah Biennial. Presented at more than 16 venues across the emirate of Sharjah, including a vegetable market, power station and former kindergarten, the Biennial features many never-before-seen works, including 30 major commissions. Free and open to the public, Sharjah Biennial 15 runs 7 February through 11 June 2023, with opening week events from 7 February to 12 February.
“Owkui saw Sharjah Biennial’s 30-year anniversary as an opportunity to reflect on the role that biennials serve in the ecosystem of contemporary art, particularly the Sharjah Biennial itself and the broader Foundation that grew from it. With gratitude to Okwui and the ambitious intellectual project he conceived, we are organising a Biennial that builds on and honours his vision to probe the past, present and future role that biennials and institutions, including the Sharjah Biennial and the Foundation, can serve. We look forward to welcoming local audiences and visitors from around the world to reflect on the themes the Biennial explores and the wide-ranging perspectives of the participating artists,” said Al Qasimi.
For Enwezor, the contemporary art exhibition provided a means to engage with history, politics and society in our global present. He envisioned the invitation to curate this edition of the Sharjah Biennial as a way to contribute to the Biennial’s history and that of the overarching Foundation, as well as a means of exploring their role in addressing the need for institutional models outside of the West that support contemporary art production, presentation and dialogue that is responsive to our times. To mark the Sharjah Biennial’s 30-year anniversary, Enwezor proposed commissioning 30 works for the Biennial as a way to meaningfully activate this critical platform through the development of new work. In line with this framework, 30 artists have been invited to embark on major commissions that explore histories that continue to shape our present: John Akomfrah, Kader Attia, Sammy Baloji, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Carolina Caycedo, Destiny Deacon, Manthia Diawara, Coco Fusco, Hassan Hajjaj, Mona Hatoum, Lubaina Himid, Isaac Julien, Amar Kanwar, Bouchra Khalili, Mohammed Ibrahim Mahama, Kerry James Marshall, Steve McQueen, Almagul Menlibayeva, Aline Motta, Wangechi Mutu, Philippe Parreno, Doris Salcedo, Berni Searle, Yinka Shonibare, Vivan Sundaram, Fatimah Tuggar, Hajra Waheed, Barbara Walker, Nari Ward and Carrie Mae Weems.
As another integral part of Enwezor’s plans, the 2022 and 2021 iterations of March Meeting – the Foundation’s annual convening of artists, curators and arts practitioners to explore critical issues in contemporary art – served as a collective prelude to the upcoming Sharjah Biennial 15. March Meeting 2021: Unraveling the Present examined the 30-year history of the Sharjah Biennial and the future of the biennial model; while March Meeting 2022: The Afterlives of the Postcolonial examined the legacies of colonialism and the contemporary impacts of related issues on cultural, aesthetic and artistic practices around the world. March Meeting 2023 continues the exploration of the Sharjah Biennial 15 themes while the exhibition is on view, from 9 March through 12 March 2023.
Thinking Historically in the Present is being realised by Al Qasimi as curator in conjunction with the Sharjah Biennial 15 Working Group, comprised of Tarek Abou El Fetouh (independent curator); Ute Meta Bauer (professor and Founding Director of NTU CCA Singapore); Salah M Hassan (professor and art historian, Cornell University and Director of The Africa Institute, Sharjah); Chika Okeke-Agulu (professor and art historian, Princeton University); and Octavio Zaya (independent curator, art writer and Executive Director of the Cuban Art Foundation). Al Qasimi and the Working Group are overseeing the development and implementation of the Biennial with an Advisory Committee that includes Sir David Adjaye (architect) and Christine Tohmé (Director, Ashkal Alwan, Beirut).
Sharjah Biennial 15 Participating Artists
Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme
Jawad Al Malhi
Monira Al Qadiri
Farah Al Qasimi
Mounira Al Solh
Au Sow Yee
Pablo Bartholomew and Richard Bartholomew
Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons
Iftikhar Dadi and Elizabeth Dadi
Tania El Khoury
Nabil El Makhloufi
Nina Fischer and Maroan el Sani
Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige
Laura Huertas Millán
Reena Saini Kallat
Kiluanji Kia Henda
Emily Kame Kngwarreye
Nusra Latif Qureshi
Lee Kai Chung
Kerry James Marshall
Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi
Pak Khawateen Painting Club
Anita Pouchard Serra
Jasbir Puar and Dima Srouji
Wendy Red Star
Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum
The Living and the Dead Ensemble
Hank Willis Thomas
Akeim Toussaint Buck
Carrie Mae Weems
Visiting Sharjah Biennial 15
Admission is free and open to the public, 7 February through 11 June 2023. Visit sharjahart.org for more information.
About March Meeting 2021 and 2022
March Meeting 2021: Unraveling the Present examined the 30-year history of the Sharjah Biennial and the future of the biennial model. All talks and panels from March Meeting 2021, which drew more than 4,000 attendees from around the world, are available online at: sharjahart.org/march-meeting-2021/programme. The March Meeting Papers, a series of eleven commissioned essays by art historians and scholars chosen through the March Meeting 2021 open call, are also available online at: sharjahart.org/sharjah-art-foundation/publications/march-meeting-papers.
The 2022 edition of March Meeting continued these explorations and dialogue in the lead up to Thinking Historically in the Present with March Meeting 2022: The Afterlives of the Postcolonial examining the legacies of colonialism and the contemporary impacts of related issues on cultural, aesthetic and artistic practices around the world.
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 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 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.
Sharjah Art Foundation
Alyazeyah Al Marri