Sharjah Biennial postponed for second time to 2023

Covid-19 travel restrictions and unequal access to vaccines cited as concern by Sharjah Art Foundation director Hoor Al Qasimi

Al Mureijah Square. Courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation
Al Mureijah Square. Courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation

Sharjah Biennial 15 (SB15) has been postponed to February 2023, the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) announced on Tuesday.

“Reflecting on the relentless devastation of Covid-19 in many parts of the world, as well as the uneven access to vaccines and restrictions to travel still in place, SAF has made the decision to open Sharjah Biennial 15 in 2023,” said the foundation's director and biennial curator Hoor Al Qasimi.

Our goal is to give artists and our audiences the necessary time to tend to what is most urgent around them.

Hoor Al Qasimi, Sharjah Art Foundation director and biennial curator

“Our goal is to give artists and our audiences the necessary time to tend to what is most urgent around them. We hope to be able to gather in Sharjah once again with renewed energy and appreciation for the way art can bring complex questions into focus,” she said.

It is the second time that the event has been rescheduled, along with the annual March Meeting, a convening of artists, curators, historians and critics to discuss issues in contemporary art.

In 2020, the March Meeting was moved to 2021 and the Sharjah Biennial to 2022 owing to the pandemic. The former – which marked the beginning of SB15’s programming – went ahead this year with the theme Unravelling the Present, with the sessions held virtually and recently made available online.

For SB15, the foundation will feature 30 major commissions by artists, including John Akomfrah, Kader Attia, Destiny Deacon, Bouchra Khalili, Doris Salcedo, Yinka Shonibare, Hajra Waheed, Carrie Mae Weems, among others. Their new commissions will be presented alongside works by international artists, with the full list expected to be announced in 2022.

Themed under Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present, the show has been conceived by the late Nigerian curator, art critic and writer Okwui Enwezor and SAF director Al Qasimi.

Before his death in March 2019, Enwezor had already started formulating his vision for the biennial around 2018, when he left the Haus der Kunst museum in Munich. The intention of SB15 was to rethink the biennial model and reflect on SAF's own history and evolution as the institution that has been running the exhibition for years.

“These commissioned artists build on Enwezor’s vision that transformed how we understand and engage with contemporary art and its institutions. Although he worked with many of these artists, I felt it was important to include other voices that bring his proposal into our immediate present and leverage the critical role that he believed the Sharjah Biennial could play in this endeavour,” Al Qasimi said.

Though the first Sharjah Biennial took place in 1993, it was in 2003, when Al Qasimi took over as curator and artistic director, that the programming expanded to look at more contemporary and international artists. After the establishment of SAF in 2009, the foundation has made the biennial one of its core initiatives.

To realise the biennial, Al Qasimi is also collaborating with a group of curators and art historians labelled the SB15 Working Group, which include curators Tarek Abou El Fetouh, who had previously worked on Abu Dhabi Art’s performance programme, and Octavio Zaya, as well as academics Salah M Hassan, Ute Meta Bauer, Chika Okeke-Agulu.

They are also collaborating with members of the advisory committee, which includes architect David Adjaye and Christine Tohme, director of Beirut’s Ashkal Alwan, The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts .

Updated: May 18, 2021 05:09 PM

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