Framed as the revered curator’s final project, the next edition of the Sharjah Biennale was conceived by Okwui Enwezor before his death in 2019 and will feature over 140 artists. Originally scheduled for 2021, it will run from February 7 to June 11, 2023 at over 15 venues across the emirate of Sharjah. The 15th edition of the biennale, it will be called Think historically in the present and is curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation.
“With gratitude to Okwui and the ambitious intellectual project he conceived, we are organizing a Biennial that builds on and honors his vision to probe the past, present and future role that biennials and institutions, including the Biennial of Sharjah and the Foundation, can serve,” Al Qasimi said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming local audiences and visitors from around the world to reflect on the themes explored by the Biennale and the varied perspectives of participating artists.”
These artists will include a number of major international figures, such as: moving image artists Steve McQueen, John Akomfrah and Isaac Julien, conceptual artists Cao Fei, Mona Hatoum, Michael Rakowitz and Carrie Mae Weems, sculptors Kader Attia and Wangechi Mutu, photographer Hassan Hajjaj, painter Kerry James Marshall, and textile artists Ibrahim Mahama and Diedrick Brackens.
The works on display will include 30 new commissions. Al Qasimi is executing the exhibition in consultation with a working group of five curators and an advisory committee made up of architect David Adjaye and curator Christine Tohmé, director of Beirut nonprofit Ashkal Alwan. The 14th edition of the Sharjah Biennale, in 2019, was conceived as three separate exhibitions, each curated by a different curator (Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons).
The 30th anniversary edition of the Sharjah Biennale would have been a fitting platform for Enwezor, who (together with Serpentine Galleries artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist and Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev) has undoubtedly done more than any other curator to shape the discourse and formats of international biennials and other recurring exhibitions. His ever-expanding, omnivorous approach to contemporary art crystallized in 2002, when he curated that year’s edition of Germany’s five-year Documenta in Kassel. His curatorial style became both more refined and more ambitious over the next two decades when he curated the Seville Biennale in 2006, the 2008 edition of the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, the Paris Triennale in 2012 and, above all, the Venice Biennale in 2015.
In addition to organizing influential recurring exhibitions around the world, Enwezor has organized major museum exhibitions in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Asia, including last year, “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America” at the New Museum in New York. He also held a number of prominent institutional roles in the United States and Europe, culminating in his stint as director of Munich’s Haus der Kunst from 2011 to 2018. He died of cancer, at the age of 55, in March 2019.
The latest list of artists included in the 2023 Sharjah Biennale (the list is believed to be still in formation) can be viewed on the foundation’s website..