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Okwui Enwezor. Courtesy of the Venice Biennale.

Sharjah Biennial Will Present Okwui Enwezor’s Final Exhibition in 2021

The 2021 edition of the Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates will stage the last show by the highly influential Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor, who passed away after a long battle with cancer in March. Titled “Postcolonial,” the exhibition is a sequel to “Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965” (2016–17), an ambitious presentation of art created after World War II that opened at Munich’s Haus der Kunst, which he led from 2011 to 2018.

Hoor al-Qasimi, the president and director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, told the New York Times that Enwezor’s landmark Documenta 11 in 2002 “completely changed my life, and the course of my career.” As the first non-European head of the quinquennial, Enwezor extended Documenta’s reach by bringing it to Vienna, New Delhi, the West Indies, and Lagos in the form of a series of off-site “platforms” that addressed different themes. Al-Qasimi asked Enwezor about curating a show for the fifteenth iteration of the biennial in the summer of 2018 and collaborated with Enwezor until his death.

Renowned for his global approach to organizing large-scale contemporary art exhibitions, which decentralized Western art, Enwezor curated several international shows over the course of his career, many of which received critical acclaim, including the 2008 Gwangju Biennale, the 2012 Paris Triennale, and the 2015 Venice Biennale. Enwezor was also an educator, who taught at various universities in the United States and served as dean of the San Francisco Art Institute from 2005 to 2009, and a prolific writer.

The biennial, titled “Thinking Historically in the Present,” will open on March 21, 2021 and will feature thirty artist commissions in addition to “Postcolonial.” The art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu, the curators Ute Meta Bauer and Tarek Abou El Fetouha, and the scholar Salah M. Hassan will work with al-Qasimi to help realize Enwezor’s vision.

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