Sharjah was just lauded as one of the five most creative cities in the world, according to a recent BBC report. The accolade is in no small part due to the efforts of the Sharjah Art Foundation, which for the past 10 years has been supporting contemporary art by artists of the MENASA region, both in new commissions and retrospectives.
The Foundation's autumn programme, just announced, hews to this mix, with historical surveys by established artists such as Egyptian sculptor Adam Henein and the late Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, as well as shows of younger producers such as Akram Zaatari, Bani Abidi, Farah Al Qasimi and Filwa Nazer.
The shows are staggered throughout the season, starting from September 21.
A retrospective of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian
The flagship show for the coming season is sure to be the retrospective of Farmanfarmaian, who died in April at the age of 97. Though Farmanfarmaian's works have been regularly seen in the UAE and elsewhere, Sunset, Sunrise will offer a substantial exploration of the artist's practice, composing some 70 works stretching over six decades.
Farmanfarmaian, who studied in New York at the height of Abstract Expressionism in the 1960s, brought her knowledge of Western abstraction to joyful patterned and mirrored expressions of Islamic geography, Persian mysticism, and traditional craftwork.
In addition to her famous reflective works, this show also brings together her drawings, jewellery and previously unseen collages from the 1980s.
Upcoming solo shows
Other solo shows this autumn include a retrospective of the Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari, whose Arab Image Foundation, which he co-founded in Beirut in 1997, became the fulcrum of the Lebanese art scene. Zaatari's work, both within the Foundation and in his solo practice, examines the complicated history of the Lebanese Civil War, using the uncertainty around that era as a springboard for more fundamental questions of fiction, memory, and document – a discourse that has only gained in importance in the digital age of proliferating imagery.
Sharjah Art Foundation also shows a survey by the prominent Egyptian artist Adam Henein, whose sculptures draw on traditional Egyptian symbology, as well as more recent iconography, such as Umm Kulthum, whom he immortalised in 2003.
Other upcoming solo shows include a survey of the young Pakistani artist Bani Abidi (with two new commissions) and the Lebanese artist Marwan Rechmaoui, who won the prestigious Bonnefanten Prize this year.
Finally, the foundation also shows the culmination of residency and commissioning projects that support emerging artists and curator. The 2019 results of the March Projects — Sharjah’s annual series of commissions — goes on view, with works by Emirati artists Asma Belhamar, Farah Al Qasimi, May Rashed and Saeed Almadani, as well as by the Saudi artist Filwa Nazer and the Colombian Mario Santanilla. Also up is the second exhibition in the new Air Arabia partnership, in which a young curator puts together a show emphasizing pathways of the Global South. This year the South African researcher Bhavisha Panchia looks at the First Congress of Arab Music, held in Cairo 1932.
As usual, many of the Sharjah Art Foundation shows are put together in partnership with other institutions, and have toured or will tour further abroad.
The full line-up
All shows are at the Sharjah Art Foundation near the Corniche in Sharjah. Opening on September 21 is Lasting Impressions: Adam Henein. Opening on September 27 is Akram Zaatari: Against Photography. An Annotated History of the Arab Image Foundation and ’32: The Rescore. Air Arabia Curator in Residence Exhibition. Opening on October 12 is Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Sunset, Sunrise, Bani Abidi: Funland and March Project 2019 Exhibition. Finally, Marwan Rechmaoui: Slanted Squares opens on November 2.