Sharjah Biennial-15: «Thinking Historically in the Present»

The Biennial is a large—scale exhibition project of contemporary art, which takes place every two years in the city of Sharjah.

The organizer of the first Biennial in 1993 was the Sharjah Department of Culture and Information. In 1998, Sharjah was recognized by UNESCO as the cultural capital of the Arab world.

In 2003, the exhibition was reoriented with the arrival of a new curator — Hoor Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Art Foundation.

Each Biennial is held under its own concept.  In the first five events, painting, graphics and sculpture were presented on a narrower regional scale.

In 2005, the exhibition was devoted to the issues of belonging, identity and cultural status. These are not new problems, but mass migration and globalization, which threaten the authenticity of culturally distinctive places and international cultural flows of the postcolonial world, make these problems more urgent than ever.

In 2007 — «Still Life: Art, Ecology, and the Politics of Change». The exhibition showed the growing social, political and environmental problems facing the world due to excessive urban development, political and economic ambitions, as well as thoughtless, misuse, abuse and depletion of natural resources.

In 2009, the organizers sought to «go beyond» the main topics by presenting a wide range of works selected by open invitation. The curator of the exhibition was Isabel Carlos, who considered the idea of striving for happiness as the main motivation of humanity to move from one place to another.

The 10th anniversary exhibition in 2011 highlighted the Arab Spring, a movement seeking political change that took place in various Arab countries for several months during this time period.

In 2013, the exhibition was called «Re: emerge: Towards a New Cultural Cartography» and presented at the same time all the complexity and diversity of cultures and societies, spatial and political relations of people, new forms of contact, dialogue and exchange between them, as well as production, through art and architectural practices, as a new way of cognition, thinking and feelings.

The 12th Biennial in 2015 brought together 51 artists and a group to help present and reflect together on ambitions and opportunities — «The past, the present, the possible».  Regarding this title, Jungi Ju (curator of the SB12), replied:

«It’s taken from a sentence in the book «The Right to the City» by Henri Lefebvre: «The past, the present and the possible are inseparable.»

The 13th Biennial in 2017 had the shortest name — «Tamawuj» («the rise and fall of the wave»), which includes a conversation about water, crops, land and cooking.

In 2019, the concept of the exhibition was devoted to exploring the goals and possibilities of art, when news is fueled by the monopoly of sources, when the ideas of «society» invariably shift, and boundaries and beliefs are dictated by cultural, social and political systems.

The 14th Biennial was called «Leaving the Echo Chamber», inviting its viewers to think about how we can reflect on our own history related to culture in an era when so many people are forced to believe that they must cede their own freedom to the main forces that exist and govern our world?

Biennial 15 (SB15) will be held from February 7 to June 11, 2023 in Sharjah, UAE.

The concept of the exhibition is «Thinking Historically in the Present».

The opening events will take place from February 7 to 12, 2023.

150 artists from 70 countries from all over the world will present more than 300 works of art. These works, as well as an extensive program of performances, music and films will be presented at 18 venues in 5 cities of the Emirate of Sharjah: Al-Dawid, Hamria, Kalba, Khorfakkan and Sharjah. 

«The idea of «Historical thinking in the present» is the conceptual basis for the biennale, which we sought to observe and develop, as well as reflect on our own past, present and future, as the Biennale celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2023. We look forward to welcoming local viewers and visitors from all over the world to reflect on the themes of the biennale and the artists’ broad view of nationality, tradition, race, gender, body and imagination,» said the curator of  SB15 — Al Qasimi.

SB15 will also feature works related to the local context of Sharjah.

Kerry James Marshall will offer the audience to see an open-air installation in the form of an archaeological find inspired by facts, myths and fairy tales, while Basel Abbas and Ruann Abu-Rahme, Asma Belhamar, Kambui Olujimi, Prajaka Potnis and Veronica Ryan will present their projects for specific places that echo the old and new architecture of the Foundation and recontextualize them.

You can book a visit to the exhibition and get acquainted with the program of the Biennial 15 on the website of the Sharjah Art Foundation — /.