Sharjah 24: Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF)’s spring 2021 exhibitions Rayyane Tabet: Exquisite Corpse and Unsettled Objects are on view until 15 June across the Foundation’s venues and spaces.
The two exhibitions feature modern and contemporary art by influential artists from the MENASA region. Exquisite Corpse marks the first in-depth Middle East presentation of FRAGMENTS (2016–ongoing), the Tabet’s most ambitious project to date, in Galleries 1, 2 and 3, at the Foundation’s Aga Khan Award nominated Al Mureijah Art Spaces. The exhibition presents recently acquired and rarely seen works from the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection that explore art history’s hidden stories. Unsettled Objects is the first Collection exhibition to take place in the newly renovated and restored landmark The Flying Saucer. More detailed information about the exhibitions is provided below.
Rayyane Tabet: Exquisite Corpse
Exquisite Corpse brings together newly commissioned works and reconceived presentations from FRAGMENTS (2016–ongoing), the artist’s most ambitious project to date, marking its first in-depth presentation in the region. The project draws on personal insight, artefacts and historical records to explore an archaeological excavation led by Baron Max von Oppenheim at Tell Halaf in northeast Syria at the turn of the twentieth century. As an educator in Beirut, Tabet’s great-grandfather Faek Borkhoche was appointed as von Oppenheim’s translator and secretary for six months in 1929, a few years after Western powers had carved up the region. This personal connection led the artist on a journey through encounters with family heirlooms and archaeological objects, following their stories across time, generation and geography.
Curated by Sharjah Art Foundation Senior Curator Ryan Inouye, the exhibition also features two major commissions that embrace fragmentation as a condition of possibility: Digital Surrogates (2021) and Portrait of Faek Borkhoche (2021). Digital Surrogates is a publicly accessible web archive of historical records, research materials and project documentation in a range of formats that enables a relational, rather than scripted, exploration of history. Portrait of Faek Borkhoche is structured around a running display of all 230 pages of field notes taken by Tabet’s great-grandfather during the six-month expedition and charts entanglements between archaeology, ethnographic study and colonialism in a playful adaptation of exhibition design common to the encyclopedic museum.
The exhibition is also accompanied by a new publication with commissioned essays by scholars Omar Dewachi, Uzma Rizvi and Andrea Wallace. Working in the fields of political science and anthropology as well as copyright and intellectual property, these writers significantly contribute to the contextualisation of this exhibition through their attention to the social wound, the colonial intellectual and the surrogate, respectively.
Featuring recently acquired and rarely seen works from the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection, Unsettled Objects brings together the work of over 30 artists from around the world whose work helps us reconsider the way objects of art are looked at and understood while provoking a re-imagining of the ways in which history is narrated and explored. The artists featured in the exhibition work in a variety of mediums across a broad expanse of time. They explore concepts of mapping and archaeology, of memory and selfhood, of sight and absence. As the title suggests, their art unsettles our understanding of history by proposing that art has the potential to encourage a contoured view of a collective and inclusive society.
Curated by Sharjah Art Foundation Director of Collections and Senior Curator Omar Kholeif, Unsettled Objects is presented in the Foundation’s iconic venue, The Flying Saucer, and takes inspiration from the building’s circular form with an immersive design that evokes the experience of a revolving carousel. Occupying both indoor and outdoor space, The Flying Saucer comes to life even at night when the exhibition is closed with an intervention by artist Prem Sahib on the building’s facade.
Anchored by acquisitions and commissions from more than two decades of the Sharjah Biennial, the Foundation’s year-round exhibitions and other core commissioning programmes, the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection is a public collection encompassing a diverse body of more than 1300 works and spans art movements from the 1920s to the present day in an ever-expanding range of art forms and visual culture. Reflecting Sharjah’s history as a major regional trade route, the Collection acts as a node that connects cultures through modern and contemporary art. It proposes a reauthoring of the history of art, contextualising it from a South/South and East/East perspective while offering an alternative view that shifts the axis of this history to a more inclusive, intergenerational and transcultural one.
Visitors attending the Unsettled Objects exhibition at The Flying Saucer can also access the landmark venue’s underground art library, workspaces, activity pods and Fen Café.
Currently on view at Sharjah Art Foundation
The Sharjah Biennial 14 Prize-winning work Aging Ruins Only to Recall the Hard Chisel of the Past (2019) created by Otobong Nkanga with Emeka Ogboh is permanently installed in Bait Al Aboudi, Al Mureijah Square, and is open to visitors. Part of the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection, the work is an immersive, lyrical multi-channel sound, sculpture and light installation, that animates the flora and fauna in the courtyard of the heritage house.
Rain Room Sharjah by Random International in Al Majarrah Park is also open to the public. The immersive installation is only a 10-minute walk from the Foundation’s Al Mureijah Art Spaces, where visitors can experience a downpour without getting wet. General admission tickets are priced at AED 25 for adults. Children under 5 and visitors with disabilities can enter for free. Buy your tickets now on rainroom.sharjahart.org.
How to attend the spring 2021 exhibitions
The spring 2021 exhibitions at Sharjah Art Foundation are free to attend and open to all. However, prior online booking is required. Bookings can be made on the Foundation’s ticketing portal here: ticket.sharjahart.org.
Sharjah Art Foundation exhibitions and Rain Room Sharjah visiting hours are 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, Saturday to Thursday, and 4:00 pm to 9:00 on Friday.
Visit sharjahart.org to learn more.
About Sharjah Art Foundation
Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and the surrounding region, in dialogue with the international arts community. Under the leadership of founder Hoor Al Qasimi, a curator and artist, the Foundation advances an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art, preserves and celebrates the distinct culture of the region and encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art. The Foundation’s core initiatives include the long-running Sharjah Biennial, featuring contemporary artists from around the world; the annual March Meeting, a convening of international arts professionals and artists; grants and residencies for artists, curators and cultural producers; ambitious and experimental commissions and a range of travelling exhibitions and scholarly publications.
Established in 2009 to expand programmes beyond the Sharjah Biennial, which launched in 1993, the Foundation is a critical resource for artists and cultural organisations in the Gulf and a conduit for local, regional and international developments in contemporary art. The Foundation’s deep commitment to developing and sustaining the cultural life and heritage of Sharjah is reflected through year-round exhibitions, performances, screenings and learning programmes in the city of Sharjah and across the Emirate, often hosted in historic buildings that have been repurposed as cultural and community centres. A growing collection reflects the Foundation’s support of contemporary artists in the realisation of new work and its recognition of the contributions made by pioneering modern artists from the region and around the world.
Sharjah Art Foundation is a legally independent public body established by Emiri Decree and supported by government funding, grants from national and international nonprofits and cultural organisations, corporate sponsors and individual patrons. All exhibitions are free and open to the public.
Sharjah is the third largest of the seven United Arab Emirates and the only one bridging the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Reflecting the deep commitment to the arts, architectural preservation and cultural education embraced by its ruler, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Sharjah is home to more than 20 museums and has long been known as the cultural hub of the United Arab Emirates. It was named UNESCO's Arab Capital of Culture in 1998 and the UNESCO World Book Capital in 2019.
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