The late Okwui Enwezor announced as curator of Sharjah Biennial 15

The late Okwui Enwezor announced as curator of Sharjah Biennial 15

Sharjah Art Foundation

Left: Hoor Al Qasimi. Photo: Sebastian Böttcher. Right: Okwui Enwezor. Photo: Chika Okeke-Agulu.

November 6, 2019
The late Okwui Enwezor announced as curator of Sharjah Biennial 15
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Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) in Sharjah, UAE, announced the renowned critic and curator Okwui Enwezor (1963–2019) as curator of the next Sharjah Biennial, opening in March 2021. Enwezor conceived the 15th edition of the Sharjah Biennial (SB15), entitled Thinking Historically in the Present, as a platform to reflect on the past fourteen editions of the Biennial and to consider the future of the biennial model. In accordance with Enwezor’s wishes, SB15 will be realized with the support of Sharjah Art Foundation Director Hoor Al Qasimi, as co-curator alongside a working group of Enwezor’s longtime collaborators: curator Tarek Abou El Fetouh; professor and Founding Director of NTU CCA Singapore Ute Meta Bauer; art historian and Cornell University professor Salah M. Hassan; and art historian and Princeton University professor Chika Okeke-Agulu. Al Qasimi and the SB15 Working Group will oversee the development and implementation of Enwezor’s curatorial concept in collaboration with an advisory committee composed of architect Sir David Adjaye, artist John Akomfrah and Ashkal Alwan Director Christine Tohme, who will provide additional consultation on the Biennial. 

In his written plans for SB15, which he began developing in spring 2018, Enwezor envisioned the “Sharjah Biennial 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.’”

“It is difficult to overstate the tremendous impact Okwui Enwezor had on contemporary art and its institutions. His visionary work internationalized 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. On a personal level, Okwui’s documenta was deeply influential to my own understanding of the urgent need to create a platform for art and ideas in this region of the world,” said Al Qasimi. “It was an enormous privilege to have been able to call Okwui a colleague and a friend. Together with his close collaborators who have joined the SB15 Working Group and Advisory Committee, we are honored to bring Okwui’s vision for the Biennial to fruition in Sharjah. Our hope is that SB15 will serve as a platform to further explore and expand on his curatorial and intellectual legacy.”

Continuing the Sharjah Biennial’s support for artists from the MENASA region and beyond with an internationally recognized platform for exhibition and experimentation, SB15 will bring together a range of works by contemporary artists, including major commissions, large-scale public installations, performances and films. On view in Sharjah Art Foundation buildings and public spaces across the city’s arts and heritage areas as well as other spaces across the emirate of Sharjah, SB15 will explore the impact of the last fourteen editions of the Sharjah Biennial and the future of the biennial model around the world.

The 2020 edition of Sharjah Art Foundation’s annual March Meeting, a three-day program convening artists, curators and arts practitioners from around the world to discuss vital issues in contemporary art, will inaugurate SB15. Organized around the title and theme of SB15, Thinking Historically in the Present, MM 2020 will focus on the 30th anniversary of the Sharjah Biennial, bringing together former Sharjah Biennial curators, artistic directors and artists as well art historians and critics to examine the role of the Biennial in the region and in the global contemporary art scene. Details about the MM 2020 program, running from March 21 to 23, 2020, will be available in late 2019. Further information about the SB15 concept, artists and projects will be announced in the coming months.  

SB15 Working Group member Salah M. Hassan remarked, “Okwui always believed in the Sharjah Biennial as a model for displacing older, Western-based biennials by offering a cutting edge and globally relevant alternative.” Hence, this upcoming edition of the SB15, according to Hassan, “represents Okwui’s insistence on the art exhibition as a platform for engaging with history, politics and society and how these shape our global present.” 

Sharjah Art Foundation’s announcement of Sharjah Biennial 15 follows Okwui Enwezor’s bequest of his papers and library to Sharjah’s Africa Institute, of which Al Qasimi is also President and Salah M. Hassan is Director. SB15 Advisory Board member Sir David Adjaye has been commissioned to design the campus of this interdisciplinary academic research institute and think tank, slated for completion in 2023.

For biographies and for more information on Sharjah Biennial 15, please click here.

Media Contacts
Sharjah Art Foundation:
Alyazeyah Al Reyaysa
T +971(0)65444113
alyazeyah [​at​]

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