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Art of the matter

A star on the region’s cultural scene, the spotlight turns to Sharjah as the emirate prepares to host the 14th edition of the Sharjah Biennial from March 7 to June 10 

While Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been getting their fair share of art-related headlines these days, Sharjah has championed the UAE’s art scene long before many of the other emirates’ cultural districts began to take shape. In fact, 2018 marked 20 years since UNESCO named Sharjah the Cultural Capital of the Arab World, and 25 years since Sharjah’s ruler, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, founded the Sharjah Biennial, an international art exposition, now overseen by his daughter, Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi.

Today, Sharjah is home to a sprawling arts and culture district that encompasses more than just a single gallery. You could spend hours wandering through the arts area with its alleyways, paths and passages, in and out of buildings based on the traditional architecture of the region. Every corner turned seems to reveal a new gallery, painting or display to discover, set against the backdrop of sand-coloured walls and wind towers, with modern artists’ studios and contemporary exhibition spaces blending in seamlessly with the emirate’s local architecture.

Located in the Sharjah Art Area, the Emirates Fine Arts society is a non-profit that dates back to the 1980s – another example of the city’s longstanding dedication to preserving and promoting the arts. The organisation, which has close ties with Sharjah Art Museum, was originally conceived as a way to support and showcase local and international talent within the region. One of the ways in which Sharjah has firmly established its place on the global contemporary arts scene is through the Sharjah Biennial.

Every two years, some of the best artists and curators in the world flock to the emirate to participate in this growing cultural expo, with this year’s event taking place from March 7 to June 10. The 14th edition will feature nearly 90 established artists from around the world, along with 60 new commissions and many never-before-seen artworks. Showcased across three main exhibitions, this edition’s thought-provoking theme is Leaving the Echo Chamber – exploring the ways in which modern technology and monopoly news sources have created an inescapable ‘echo chamber’ of information. The art festival will include film screenings, music, performances and a variety of educational programmes to suit guests of all ages. 

Leading exhibitions

  1. JOURNEY BEYOND THE ARROW – CURATED BY ZOE BUTT Aiming to give deeper context to the movement of humanity and the tools that have enabled or hindered its survival, in this exhibition, artists reveal the generational impact of a range of physical and psychological tools whose representation and meaning has shifted.

  2. MAKING NEW TIME – CURATED BY OMAR KHOLEIF In a world that’s seen as constantly on the go, where social images and technology are instant, this exhibition poses the questions – how do we slow down and “experience the experience” and how do we make “new time”.

  3. LOOK FOR ME ALL AROUND YOU – CURATED BY CLAIRE TANCONSThe exhibition, primarily comprised of new commissions, offers an open platform of migrant images and fugitive forms concerned with the “alternative dispossessive and repossessive disposition of diasporisation as an aporetic phenomenon of the contemporary”. 


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