Interesting and eclectic displays planned for Sharjah Biennial 2015
An abandoned ice factory on the east coast, a warehouse beside the creek and a building known only as The Flying Saucer Complex – the venues for exhibitions during Sharjah Biennial 12: The past, the present, the possible next year promise to be almost as interesting and eclectic as the art they will display.
Organisers yesterday announced 50 artists whose work will be on show during the three-month event.
Previously, all we knew about it was its title: The past, the present, the possible.
Eungie Joo, the curator, revealed that she came up with the concept after a conversation with an artist called Danh Vo about why contemporary art is relevant. She then stumbled across an essay by the French philosopher Henri Lefebvre about the communal rights of residents over their city. Here she discovered the phrase and realised that it was the perfect way to sum up contemporary art today.
“To me, art and artistic discourse seem to be the one place where there is a slight glimmer of freedom, a place where the mind can be free, if not the body, or a place where people can discuss possibilities that are actually not really possible,” says Joo.
“Lefebvre wrote that the past, the present and the possible cannot be separated, and I thought it has a beautiful alignment with art and the interdisciplinary elements of contemporary art at this moment.”
Joo therefore set out to select a wide range of cultural practitioners who could explore this concept through their art.
The chosen artists will exhibit a combination of existing work, new pieces and commissions spanning the generations and many geographic areas, at locations across the emirate.
The focal point for the event will be in the public spaces around the Sharjah Art Museum and the Sharjah Art Foundation offices, and work will also be on display in the Al Mureijah heritage area. One of the old houses there will be dedicated to a show by Danh Vo, the Vietnamese-born Danish performance-inspired conceptual artist whose conversation with Joo, before her selection as the biennial curator, ultimately led to the choice of theme and title for the event. It will also include works by Eduardo Navarro, an Argentinian artist.
Adrian Villar Rojas, who is also from Argentina, will use the incredibly interesting space in an abandoned ice factory in Kalba to display his work.
The Flying Saucer Complex, formerly home to a Taza chicken restaurant, is the newest building acquired by Sharjah Art Foundation and will be used as a permanent exhibition space after later. During the event, it will host a solo show by an artist but Joo is yet to decide which one.
Michael Joo, an artist from New York, will be showing his work in Warehouse Number Three, which sits beside the Sharjah Creek. There will also be two posthumous shows, with the pieces borrowed from private owners.
The first, featuring works by Fahr El-Nissa Zeid, a Turkish artist who died in 1991 and is lauded as one of the first abstract expressionists, is a very exciting addition to the biennial. Her work Break of the Atom and Vegetal Life sold for US$2.7 million (Dh9.9m) at Christie’s in Dubai last year and another, My Hell, is on permanent display in Istanbul Modern. We can expect to see a combination of her abstract works and a much-less exhibited selection of portraits and resin works.
“It will be a really important presentation for me,” says Joo. “I am excited to see the work presented and isolated in this way.” The other posthumous show is dedicated to the work of the Korean artist Chung Chang-Sup, who died in 2011.
Representing the UAE, Hassan Sharif will be showing works from the 1980s, while Abdullah Al Saadi will present a new commission following his Stone Slippers series that was exhibited this year.
“Sharjah Art Foundation has a great respect for artists and dedication to realising exhibitions and projects that would otherwise not exist, so it is really quite an honour to work with them at this time,” concludes Joo.
The past, the present, the possible: Sharjah Biennial 12 opens March 5 and will be on view until June 5