united-arab-emirates

Carsten Höller, Random Rolling Cylinder, 2013, aluminum, steel, rubber, electric motor, paint, fluorescent lights. Installation view, Bank Street.

Sharjah Biennial 11

Sharjah Art Museum and Other Venues

Carsten Höller, Random Rolling Cylinder, 2013, aluminum, steel, rubber, electric motor, paint, fluorescent lights. Installation view, Bank Street.

IT’S MY FIRST RESEARCH TRIP to the Middle East, and I am woefully underprepared. What do I know about Sharjah? Only that it’s a “dry” emirate (in both climate and alcohol consumption) that has invested seriously in culture and heritage rather than buying brand names (Abu Dhabi’s yet-to-be-built Louvre and Guggenheim museums) or pursuing art as business (Dubai’s commercial galleries and art fair). I also know that Jack Persekian, the artistic director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, was fired due to controversy over a “blasphemous” work in the 2011 Sharjah Biennial by Algerian artist Mustapha Benfodil. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, this edition’s curator, Yuko Hasegawa from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, chose to present an unpolemical framework by way of conciliatory riposte, albeit one wearily reminiscent of many 1990s biennials in its theme and syntax. “Re:emerge—Towards

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