The March 5–7 opening of the twelfth edition of the Sharjah Biennial (SB12) is almost upon us. It is an exciting time for art enthusiasts who frequent Sharjah Biennials, and art enthusiasts who would like to dip their toe in the pool of effervescent contemporary art, alike. With an extensive programme that boasts over 50 contributing artists and cultural practitioners, at least 36 are bringing brand new commissions to the event, Buro 24/7 Middle East breaks it down for you here in the vital guide to SB12. 

During a time of cultural reawakening in the UAE, the Sharjah Biennial, brought to you by the Sharjah Art Foundation, stands out as a cornerstone of the region's artistic calendar. Since it began in 1993, it has served as an intelligent platform for contemporary artists. For the twelfth edition, curator Eungie Joo, looks to explore the world through the social and political relevance and  potential of contemporary art, under the title: The Past, The Present And The Possible

We'll take you through the diverse exhibition spaces across the emirate, the event schedule and outline the film programme. With a record number of brand new commissions to be unveiled as the SB12 opens, we'll tell you a bit about some of the featured artists and prepare your for the sensory experience that awaits at this thrilling exhibition...

Buro 24/7 Middle East Guide: Sharjah Biennial 2015

The Space

SB12 events and exhibitions will be taking place across the city of Sharjah in a number of diverse venues, which range from industrial to ultra-modern. The SAF Art space building G is an example of a unique space featuring exposed brick and white floors and walls that accentuate the natural light. The SAF Art Space building H is a rugged and industrial exhibition space. Whilst the Bait Al Sarkal arts area is an example of traditional arabic architecture, with a series of archways laid in exposed brick. The SAF Art Space building F is a space to be explored through its series of hallways.  

Buro 24/7 Middle East Guide: Sharjah Biennial 2015

The Film Programme

This year the Biennial will feature a programme of outdoor evening film screenings in a dedicated cinema architecture space designed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Ole Scheeren, commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation.

The programme has been curated by Thai filmmaker, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and will feature programming by leading figures in the film industry, including Steve Anker, Dean of the School of Film/Video at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Los Angeles; Tilda Swinton, actress, and Mehelli Modi, Founder of Second Run DVD, to name but a few. 

We also have a sneak preview at plans for the foundation to expand the outdoor screenings at Mirage City Cinema into a weekly screening programme that will take place every Saturday beginning March 7.

The Artists

With such an extensive and illustrious list of practitioners, exhibitors and artists packing this year's programme the only way to really absorb the full extent of the varied talent involved, is to see it first hand. And with the majority of works exhibited being brand new and as yet unseen commissions we don't want to spoil any surprises, but here are a few artists in profile, from each of the disciplines on display. 

Nikhil Chopra's Use Like Water performance piece will be forming part of the opening lineup. Chopra uses his performances as a form of storytelling that blends familial histories, personal narrative and everyday life. Often beginning from an autobiographical starting point, he says that his: "Sense of identity is deeply connected to my sense of location in time and space."

Eduardo Navatto also  joins the SB12 lineup, from Buenos Aries where his visual arts practice is based, bringing his, as before unseen, XYZ performance art to the opening day of the programme. He has an extensive catalogue of works in mediums that range from sculpture, installation, performance and collage that are drawn from an equally varied spectrum of influences including: legal, spiritual, scientific, medical and archaeological.  Navarro has exhibited performance art at several Mercosur Biennial's in Brazil as well as making appearances in New York and Ireland. 

Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri are bringing their collaborative film offering In The Absence of Objects the Seen to this year's SB12, which will be the opening the film screening portion of the programme. Hailing from Bethlehem and Tehran respectively, the pair are both based in New York now and are heavily involved in the '16 Beaver Street' art group, which has been the spring board for many of their collaborative projects. 

Danh Vo is fresh from a successful solo exhibition at the Marian Goodman Gallery in London where he staged his Homosapiens exhibition. Vo studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Denmark and the Städelschule, Frankfurt. He scooped the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize, New York (2012) among a string other successful competition triumphs for his work. He also participated in the Venice Biennale two years ago and has exhibited his work in such institutions as the Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris and the Art Institute of Chicago among many others.

 Buro 24/7 Middle East Guide Sharjah Biennial 2015

About Eungie Joo

Joo brings a wealth of international curatorial experience to this year's programme planning. She was Director of Art and Cultural Programs at Instituto Inhotim, Brumadinho, Brasil and was Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs at the New Museum from 2007–2012, where she spearheaded the Museum as Hub program; commissioned the monthly seminar Night School by Anton Vidokle; edited the volume Rethinking Contemporary Art and Multicultural Education; and published the Art Spaces Directory, a guide to over 400 independent art spaces from over ninety-six countries. Her vision, experience and fresh perspective ensure that this years Sharjah Biennial will be unmissable.  

Event Schedule 

Thursday March 5

10:00  Opening Ceremony, Reception - SAF Art Spaces

10:00  Abkhazia Anembassy public hours with Maxim Gvinjia -  Sharjah Institute for Theatrical Arts

Ongoing XYZ - Eduardo Navarro -  Al Hamdan Bin Mousa Square 

Ongoing Use Like Water - Nikhill Chopra - Bair Obaid Al Shamsi

21:30 Souls' Landscapes: Violence, magical superstructures & invisible guardians - Uriel Barthélémi - Mirage City Cinema (performance) 


Friday March 6 

10:00  Abkhazia Anembassy public hours - with Maxim Gvinjia - Sharjah Institute for Theatrical Arts

16:00  Fanfare funérailles (Funeral brass) - Papy Ebotani - Arts Square to Calligraphy Square 

Ongoing Use Like Water - Nikhill Chopra - Bair Obaid Al Shamsi

20:30 Le Cargo - Faustin Linyekula - Sharjah Institute for theatrical Arts

22:00  In the absence of the objects seen - Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri - Bait Obaid Al Shamsi (film)


Saturday March 7 

19:00  Excursion to Kalba to view installation by Adrián Villar Rojas and installation by Hassan Khan at the Flying Saucer - Waterhouse 1 at Khalid Port (performance) 

21:30 Le Cargo - Faustin Linyekula -  Sharjah Institute for Theatrical Arts (performance) 



The past, the present, the possible: Sharjah Biennial 12 (SB12) opens March 5–7, 2015 and will be on view until June 5