We’re only just done with Sharjah Biennial 15 – and very good it was, too – but already Sharjah Art Foundation is announcing the curators for the Biennial’s next edition, which runs from February through June 2025.
As is becoming increasingly common for binenials, there is not a single curator or even a collective in the frame. Instead a total of five curators will be working on Sharjah Biennial 16: Natasha Ginwala, Amal Khalaf, Zeynep Öz, Alia Swastika and Megan Tamati-Quennell
In reflecting what she termed “an expansive and decentralised approach”, SAF President and Director Hoor Al Qasimi spoke of the five “unique perspectives” that will deliver SB16. “Each of these leading curators has worked relentlessly to advance scholarship and practice in their local contexts as well as internationally. Sharjah Biennial 16 will offer the opportunity to witness their ideas in conversation, culminating in a truly polyphonic examination of contemporary art and cultural practice.”
The five curators certainly represent “a diverse and global range of perspectives across the spectrum of contemporary art”, as SAF puts it.
The five – all women – do genuinely represent some of the rising stars of the non-profit art world. Natasha Ginwala is Artistic Director of COLOMBOSCOPE and Associate Curator at Large at Gropius Bau, Berlin (COLOMBOSCOPE is a contemporary arts festival in Colombo – next edition due 19-28 January – that has a reputation for delivering a genre-defying and context-responsive environment for cultural producers ). She’s been part of curatorial teams for a number of biennials already, including documenta 14 (2017), the 2014 Berlin Biennale and the 2012 Taipei Biennial.
Amal Khalaf is an active artist who is also Director of Programmes at Cubitt, London, and Civic Curator at the Serpentine Galleries – and she knows the area, for she has exhibited at Sharjah Art Foundation and in 2016 she co-directed Art Dubai’s Global Art Forum. The residencies, exhibitions and collaborative research projects she has developed operate particularly at the intersection of arts and social justice.
Zeynep Öz is a curator and writer who was co-founder and director of the Spot Production Fund, Istanbul (2011–2017). In 2017 she curated the off-site Sharjah Biennial 13 project Bahar in Istanbul; other curatorial projects include one for Sharjah Art Foundation (2019) and Abou Farid’s War for Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (2021) as well as the Turkish pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale.
Alia Swastika is the Director of the Biennale Jogja Foundation, Yogyakarta, following ten years as Program Director for Ark Galerie (also in Yogyakarta). Her co-curating includes the 2012 Gwangju Biennale and she was roundtable curator for contemporary art exhibitions for the Europalia Arts Festival (2017). Her research on Indonesian women artists during Suharto’s ‘New Order’ was published in 2019.
Megan Tamati-Quennell is a writer and curator of Māori descent who has a specialist focus in modern and contemporary Māori and Indigenous art. Her 33-year curatorial practice includes positions at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Govett Brewster Art Gallery; her expertise spans transnational contemporary First Nations art, and she has worked on many projects internationally.
They are apparently organising “distinct but interconnected” projects – each is inviting a selection of artists across a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, “highlighting both leading and emerging talents in visual art, performance, music and publication”. That should cover it.