Conceived by the late Nigerian curator, Okwui Enwezor and curated by Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) Director, Hoor Al Qasimi, Sharjah Biennial 15, themed Thinking Historically in the Present, reflects on Enwezor’s visionary work, described as transforming contemporary art.
Nigerian-British artist, Yinka Shonibare MBE, is among 30 artists on commission projects for the SB15. The organisers noted how Enwezor’s work also established an ambitious intellectual project that has influenced the evolution of institutions and biennials around the world, including the Sharjah Biennial.
In a statement, SAF said Enwezor saw contemporary art exhibition as providing a means to engage with history, politics and society within the global current context. Sharjah Biennial 15 is scheduled to February 2023.
Excerpt from SAF:
“In line with the framework he established, 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. Their new commissions will be featured in the Biennial alongside a selection of works by international artists to be announced in the coming year.
“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 meaningfully activate this critical platform through the development of new productions.
“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,” said Al Qasimi. “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. 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.”
SB15 is being realised by Hoor Al Qasimi as curator in conjunction with 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).
SB15 began with the 2021 edition of the March Meeting—an integral part of Enwezor’s plans for SB15—which is the Foundation’s annual convening of artists, curators and art practitioners to explore critical issues in contemporary art through panels, lectures and performances. Held from 12 to 21 March 2021, March Meeting 2021: Unravelling 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 now 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 will continue these explorations and dialogue in the lead up to SB15.