Though segments of the international art world are beginning to resume their pre-pandemic activities, one major art biennial said that it is still too soon to effectively mount its exhibition. The Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates has postponed its 15th edition from March 2022 to March 2023; the Sharjah Art Foundation, which organizes the biennial, had already delayed the show from 2021.
In a statement, Hoor Al Qasimi, the director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, said, “Reflecting on the relentless devastation of COVID-19 in many parts of the world, as well as the uneven access to vaccines and restrictions to travel still in place, SAF has made the decision to open Sharjah Biennial 15 in 2023. Our goal is to give artists and our audiences the necessary time to tend to what is most urgent around them. We hope to be able to gather in Sharjah once again with renewed energy and appreciation for the way art can bring complex questions into focus.”
The upcoming edition of the biennial, which carries the title “Thinking Historically in the Present,” was conceived by the late curator Okwui Enwezor. It is being curated by Al Qasimi in collaboration with the SB15 Working Group, which includes independent curator Tarek Abou El Fetouh; Ute Meta Bauer, founding director of NTU CCA Singapore; Salah M. Hassan, art historian and director of the Africa Institute in Sharjah; art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu; and independent curator Octavio Zaya.
For this iteration, Enwezor envisioned inviting 30 artists to create major commissions for the biennial as a way to celebrate what would have been its 30th year in 2021. As part of the announcement of the show’s delay, the biennial also released the full list of the artists who will create new work for the exhibition, among them John Akomfrah, Carolina Caycedo, Hassan Hajjaj, Wangechi Mutu, Doris Salcedo, and others.
“These commissioned artists build on Enwezor’s vision that transformed how we understand and engage with contemporary art and its institutions,” Al Qasimi said in her statement. “Although he worked with many of these artists, I felt it was important to include other voices that bring his proposal into our immediate present and leverage the critical role that he believed the Sharjah Biennial could play in this endeavor.”
The full list of commissioned artists follows below.
María Magdalena Campos-Pons
Mohammed Ibrahim Mahama
Kerry James Marshall
Carrie Mae Weems