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Sharjah Biennial looks beyond UAE with a year-long programme across five cities
The Art Newspaper

The organisers of the Sharjah Biennial have unveiled plans for their most ambitious event yet, encompassing off-site projects in four other cities— Beirut, Dakar, Istanbul and Ramallah—as well as a year-long education programme.


The 13th edition of the biennial is organised by Christine Tohmé, the founding director of the Beirut-based Ashkal Alwan (the non-profit Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts). The main contemporary art exhibition in Sharjah (10 March-12 June 2017) is due to include works by more than 50 international artists and will be based on the theme of Tamawuj, meaning in Arabic the rise and fall of waves or an undulating appearance. A second leg of the show will launch in Beirut next October.


The biennial programme begins next month on 15 October with the launch of SB13 School, an intensive education project. A digital research platform is due to launch at the same time called chip-ship involving the Paris-born artist Kader Attia, the independent curators Lara Khaldi and Zeynep Öz, and a representative from Ashkal Alwan.


A project statement says: “These four ‘interlocutors’ will be working closely with researchers in the four cities [Dakar, Ramallah, Istanbul, Beirut], paired with counterparts in Sharjah. Together they will populate chip-ship, a centralised digital storage space, housing various media, images, and texts, addressing the four keywords: water, earth, crops and culinary.”


This information resource will act as a springboard for events across the cities based on the four environmental themes. The Dakar stage, based on the theme of water, will take place next January, followed by Istanbul in May focusing on crops. Fifteen artists will also create new commissions for the Sharjah Biennial based on the digital resource.


The Sharjah Biennial, which was founded in 1993, has provided a crucial platform for contemporary artists in the conservative enclaves of the Middle East. The emirate of Sharjah, just north of Dubai, is now considered a regional hub for contemporary art, more so than its oil-rich neighbour, Qatar, which, in recent years, has invested heavily in contemporary art exhibitions and acquisitions.