x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Sharjah art fair gains more admirers

'The event is getting more and more attention every time it is hosted, not only from the art community in this area but from Europe'.

A painting by Ziad Dalloul is among work by more than 100 international artists at the Biennial.
A painting by Ziad Dalloul is among work by more than 100 international artists at the Biennial.

SHARJAH //A courtyard splattered with blood-red paint provided one of the more obvious clues yesterday that the traditional Al Shuwaihiyeen museum district had been transformed into one big artist's canvas.

Work from more than 100 international artists went on display for the launch of the 10th edition of the Sharjah Biennial art fair and exhibition, which runs for two months.

The Sharjah Art Museum, the Bait al Serkal, the Calligraphy Museum, the historic Dar al Nadwa - 17 buildings in total have been integrated into the exhibition, entitled Plot for a Biennial.

The event is being hosted by the Sharjah Art Foundation, which commissioned 65 works for the show under the theme "treason, trade and translation".

Most of the area along the Sharjah Corniche is hosting presentations of visual art, video and sculpture. The ambitious scale of this year's event was meant to reflect how far the fair has come since it began in 1993, said Jack Persekian, the director of the Sharjah Art Foundation.

"Since the first [show] we have continued to experiment with ways to orchestrate an event capable of reverberating through the city and the international arts community at various different levels," he said.

"This year we have expanded by commissioning work from a much wider range of artists and practitioners than ever before."

The president of the foundation, Sheikha Hoor al Qasimi, said the two decades of the Sharjah Biennial reflected the growing depth and diversity of Sharjah's social and cultural landscape.

"A great number of artists have chosen to visit the city and produce new work that has been inspired or guided by their experiences and interactions within the context of Sharjah," she said.

The vast exhibition space was officially opened by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, Ruler of Sharjah, yesterday morning.

A black cloth pierced with thousands of gold pins arranged to look like embroidery hangs over the entrance to the fair in Al Shuwaihiyeen. Having the work, dubbed Kashmiri Shawl, shown at the event marked a personal achievement for the Lahore-based artist who created it, Aisha Khalid.

"The event is getting more and more attention every time it is hosted," she said, "not only from the art community in this area but from Europe.

"It is very good for me as an artist to be here because I get an audience from all over the world. It is the perfect time for me to spread my message."

That message, reflected in the bed of nails on the cloth's opposite side, is about her views on Indian-occupied Kashmir.

"These shawls are high fashion in Europe, but nobody is thinking about how the people suffer in this region," she said. "It is the juxtaposition of wealth versus pain."

Imran Qureshi, a Pakistani visual artist, spent 15 days splattering the courtyard of Bait al Serkal with organic red paint. The installation is, at first glance, intended to resemble the site of a suicide bombing.

Upon closer examination of the apparent chaos, however, the paint splashes are revealed to be intricate flower patterns.

"It is the illusion between life and death," he said. "The contrast between something very delicate and very violent. I am trying to experiment with perceptions."

Mr Qureshi said that to exhibit within the region was more important than any international shows.

"I've shown at many different biennials and triennials but I'm more excited about this one and one I did in Kabul than any others, because we need dialogue in this region.

"All the time we exhibit in the West but there is no communication between us. Although we are neighbours, we don't talk - and how can we understand each other if we don't communicate?"

The Sharjah Biennial runs until May 16.