Wednesday 13 September 2023

Five curators for Sharjah Biennial 16

(Left to right): Natasha Ginwala (Photo: Victoria Tomaschko), Amal Khalaf (Photo: Christa Holka),  Zeynep Öz (Photo: Öykü Çakar-Smith), Alia Swastika (Photo: Yudha Kusum) and  Megan Tamati-Quennell (Photo: Ola Thorsen, US Embassy New Zealand)

Sharjah Art Foundation announced today the five curators for Sharjah Biennial 16, opening in February 2025.

Natasha Ginwala (Artistic Director of COLOMBOSCOPE, Colombo, and Associate Curator at Large at Gropius Bau, Berlin); Amal Khalaf (Director of Programmes at Cubitt, London, and Civic Curator at the Serpentine Galleries, London); Zeynep Öz (independent curator, Istanbul and New York); Alia Swastika (Director of the Biennale Jogja Foundation, Yogyakarta); and Megan Tamati-Quennell (New Zealand–based curator of modern and contemporary Māori and Indigenous art) are the five curators announced. The curators are organising distinct but interconnected projects, together representing a diverse and global range of perspectives across the spectrum of contemporary art.

Sharjah Biennial 16 runs from February through June 2025. Additional details will be announced in the coming months.

"The Sharjah Biennial embraces an expansive and decentralised approach, an ethos that is echoed by the five unique perspectives we are bringing together for the 16th edition," said Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation. "Each of these leading curators has worked relentlessly to advance scholarship and practice in their local contexts as well as internationally. Sharjah Biennial 16 will offer the opportunity to witness their ideas in conversation, culminating in a truly polyphonic examination of contemporary art and cultural practice."

Ginwala, Khalaf, Öz, Swastika and Tamati-Quennell are developing projects in dialogue with each other and with the Biennial’s 30-year history as a platform for artistic experimentation and discourse around critical topics in contemporary art. Each curator is inviting a selection of artists across a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, highlighting both leading and emerging talents in visual art, performance, music and publication. Continuing the Foundation’s engagement with the many communities throughout Sharjah, the Biennial will again activate venues across the emirate. 

About the curators:

Natasha Ginwala, a curator, writer and researcher, is Artistic Director of COLOMBOSCOPE, Colombo (2019–ongoing), and Associate Curator at Large at Gropius Bau, Berlin (2018–2024). She also served as Artistic Director of the 13th Gwangju Biennale (2021) with Defne Ayas. Ginwala has been part of curatorial teams for Contour Biennale 8 (2017), documenta 14 (2017), 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2014) and 8th Taipei Biennial (2012). She co-curated international exhibitions at e-flux, Sharjah Art Foundation, Hamburger Bahnhof - Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart, ifa Gallery, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, L’ appartement 22, Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi, MCA Chicago, 56th Venice Biennale, SAVVY Contemporary and Zeitz MOCAA. Ginwala is a widely published author with a focus on contemporary art, visual culture and social justice. 

Amal Khalaf is a curator and artist who serves as Director of Programmes at Cubitt (2019–present) and Civic Curator at the Serpentine Galleries (2009–present), both in London. Here and in other contexts she has developed residencies, exhibitions and collaborative research projects at the intersection of arts and social justice. Projects at the Serpentine include the launch of the Edgware Road Project / Centre for Possible Studies (2009–2014), Radio Ballads (2019–2022) and Sensing the Planet (2021). She curated the Bahrain Pavilion for the 58th Venice Biennale (2019) and co-directed the Global Art Forum at Art Dubai (2016). She is a trustee of Mophradat, Athens, and not/nowhere, London, and a founding member of the GCC art collective. Her work, exhibitions and research have also been presented at MoMA PS1, New York; Sharjah Art Foundation; Whitney Biennial, New York; Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris; Berlin Biennale; Fridericianum, Kassel; and New Museum, New York, among many others.

Zeynep Öz is a curator and writer who was co-founder and director of the Spot Production Fund, Istanbul (2011–2017), during which time she curated the series ‘Produce’ (I, II, III), commissioning over 30 projects. She curated the off-site Sharjah Biennial 13 project Bahar in Istanbul (2017) as an SB13 interlocutor and has edited and published numerous publications within the scope of the ‘Produce’ series and Bahar. Other curatorial projects include Abou Farid’s War, TBA21 on st_age (2021); BACA Award exhibition of Marwan Rechmaoui’s work, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, and Sharjah Art Foundation (both 2019); Pavilion of Turkey, 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Aichi Triennale 3 (2016); and Greatest Common Factor, SALT, Istanbul (2016). Öz taught at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul (2015–2020), and served on the curricular and selection committees of the Home Workspace Program, Ashkal Alwan. 

Alia Swastika is a curator, researcher and writer whose practice over the last ten years has expanded on issues and perspectives of decoloniality and feminism. Her different projects involve decentralising art, rewriting art history and encouraging local activism. She works as the Director of the Biennale Jogja Foundation, Yogyakarta, and continues her research on Indonesian female artists during Indonesia’s New Order. She established and was Program Director for Ark Galerie, Yogyakarta (2007–2017). She was co-curator for the Biennale Jogja XI Equator #1 (2011); co-artistic director of the 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012); and roundtable curator for contemporary art exhibitions for the Europalia Arts Festival (2017), including presentations at Oude Kerk, Amsterdam; M HKA, Antwerp; and SMAK Ghent, Belgium. Her research on Indonesian women artists during the New Order was published in 2019.

Megan Tamati-Quennell is a writer and curator with a specialist focus in the field of modern and contemporary Māori and Indigenous art. With a 33-year curatorial practice, she has held positions at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Govett Brewster Art Gallery. Although Tamati-Quennell’s extensive exhibition history is anchored strongly in New Zealand, her expertise spans transnational contemporary First Nations art, and she has worked on many projects internationally, for example, in Australia, Canada, Norway, the United Kingdom, South Africa and the United States. Tamati-Quennell’s research interests include contemporary Māori art; Māori modernism; Māori women artists, 1930 to today; international First Nations art; First Nations and non-western art in transnational contexts; and First Nations art curatorial praxis.  She is of Te Ātiawa, Ngāi Tahu and Kāti Māmoe Māori descent.

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