The Sharjah Biennial is an international platform for exhibition and experimentation for artists from the region and beyond. Since 1993, the Sharjah Biennial has commissioned, produced and presented large-scale public installations, performances and films by artists around the world, bringing a broad range of contemporary art, cultural programmes and producers to the communities of Sharjah, the UAE and the region. Prior Sharjah Biennial curators include: Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif, Claire Tancons, Christine Tohme, Eungie Joo, Yuko Hasegawa, Suzanne Cotter, Rasha Salti, Haig Aivazian, Isabel Carlos, Tarek Abou El Fetouh, Mohammed Kazem, Jonathan Watkins, Eva Scharrer, Jack Persekian, Ken Lum, Tirdad Zolghadr, Peter Lewis and Hoor Al Qasimi.
Sharjah Biennial 15 (SB15), titled Thinking historically in the present, conceived by the late Okwui Enwezor and curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, director of Sharjah Art foundation, reflects on Enwezor’s visionary work, which transformed contemporary art and established an ambitious intellectual project that has influenced the evolution of institutions and biennials around the world, including the Sharjah Biennial. Bringing together more than 150 artists from over 70 countries, SB15 will take place in 16 venues across the emirate of Sharjah. A robust programme of film, music and performance, to be announced later this year, will accompany the exhibition.
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 Sharjah Biennial as a way to reflect on and contribute to the Biennial’s history and that of the overarching Foundation, and their role in addressing the need for institutional models outside of the West that support dialogue and the production and presentation of contemporary art responsive to our times.
Enwezor proposed commissioning 30 works for SB15 to celebrate Sharjah Biennial’s 30-year anniversary and to activate this critical platform through the development of new productions. In line with this framework, 30 artists have been invited to embark on commissions for SB15: John Akomfrah, Kader Attia, Sammy Baloji, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Carolina Caceydo, 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.
SB15 is curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, with the support of the SB15 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).