Sharjah Biennial 2021 to feature Okwui Enwezor's final exhibition

The renowned curator started developing plans for the 15th edition in 2018, and these will be executed by a 'Working Group' of curators

MUNICH, GERMANY - MARCH 06:  Okwui Enwezor, director of the 'Haus der Kunst', attends the 'All the World's Futures' International Art Exhibition Press Conference at Haus der Kunst on March 6, 2015 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Joerg Koch/Getty Images)
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One of the most influential names in contemporary art during his time, Okwui Enwezor has been announced as the curator for the next Sharjah Biennial (SB), which will take place in March 2021.

Though the Nigerian curator, art critic and writer died in March this year, he had already started putting together his vision for the biennial’s 15th edition in 2018, the same year he left the Haus der Kunst museum in Munich. He developed the theme for SB15, Thinking Historically in the Present, with the intention of reflecting on its previous editions and rethinking the biennial model around the world. In his written notes, he sought for SB15 to act “as a module with which to deal with the disruptive power of artistic monolingualism but also as horizon of the possible to conceive another theoretical space for ‘Thinking Historically in the Present.’”

Sharjah Art Foundation director Hoor Al Qasimi will implement the late curator's plans as he had conceived them with an SB15 'Working Group', Enwezor's longtime collaborators, namely curators Tarek Abou El Fetouh and Ute Meta Bauer, and art historians Chika Okeke-Agulu and Salah M. Hassan, who is also director of Sharjah's Africa Institute. They will be supported by an advisory committee run by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, artist John Akomfrah and director of Beirut art organisation Ashkal Alwan Christine Tohme.

“It is difficult to overstate the tremendous impact Okwui Enwezor had on contemporary art and its institutions. His visionary work internationalised art world paradigms and laid out an ambitious intellectual project that has shaped the development of so many initiatives and institutions, including the Sharjah Biennial and Sharjah Art Foundation,” said Al Qasimi in a statement.

Enwezor cemented his influence in 2002, when he became the first non-European to curate Documenta, a contemporary art exhibition that takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. Al Qasimi cited the specific edition as “deeply influential to my own understanding of the urgent need to create a platform for art and ideas in this region of the world.”

SB15 will be inaugurated with Sharjah Art Foundation's annual March Meeting from March 21 to 23, 2020. The three-day talks program will bring together artists and curators to discuss issues in contemporary art, focusing specifically on the role of the biennial regionally and globally, in line with the biennial's theme. Details for the meeting will be announced later this year.

According to the New York Times, the biennial will include 30 permanent commissions by 30 artists from around the world. There will also be a presentation titled Postcolonial that will act as a sequel to Enwezor's 2017 Haus der Kunst exhibition Postwar.

In line with the curator's request before his death, his papers and library will be given to Sharjah’s Africa Institute, where Al Qasimi serves as president.