A landmark retrospective, including Hassan Sharif’s diverse body of work from the early 1970s to 2016
4 November 2017 - 3 February 2018
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Curator: Hoor Al Qasimi
Director, Sharjah Art Foundation
Introduction by Hoor Al Qasimi
Curator of the exhibition
This major retrospective traces the practice of the late Hassan Sharif from the early 1970s to 2016. The exhibition encompasses the artist’s diverse body of work, including early newspaper caricatures and comic strip drawings, ‘semi system’ works, performances, paintings and ‘urban archaeology’ objects. The show also includes works never shown before, installations realised for the first time according to existing instructions, and archival footage and material on his overall practice and processes.
Drawn from Sharif’s own writing on his practice in 1989, the exhibition title reflects his conceptual exploration of duration and repetition. In his text, Sharif asserts that the artist who engages in repetition comes to create a single work over his entire lifetime. Hassan Sharif: I Am The Single Work Artist presents a visual narrative of his practice, following Sharif’s journey as a pioneering experimental artist, both locally and internationally. Through his work, he has posed pertinent questions about the conditions in which contemporary art is practised and produced. Converging with changes in the times, these questions extend his artistic explorations into the realms of the social, cultural, educational and aesthetic. The narrative of this exhibition unfolds in seven chapters, each presented in its own space. The chapters have been given titles inspired by Sharif’s own words: ‘…so I created a semi system’, ‘My little tiny box’, ‘I’m loyal to colour’, ‘Performance is good’, ‘I’m an object maker’, and ‘Things in my room’. *) There is also a special chapter titled ‘Hassan’s Atelier’, which houses the contents of the artist’s studio, where he worked for many years until his untimely passing in 2016.
Hassan Sharif was instrumental in shaping the UAE’s contemporary art scene, which began in the early 1970s in Sharjah. This retrospective reflects Sharif’s long and storied history with the emirate, starting with the co-founding of Emirates Fine Arts Society (1980), followed by Al Mareija Art Atelier (1984). He staged interventions and exhibitions of contemporary art across the city that include his now famous One Day Exhibition (1984), presented at the Atelier, as well as a group exhibition held at Sharjah’s Central Souq (1985). Moving between roles as an artist, critic and writer, Sharif sought to encourage local audiences to engage with contemporary art, not only in exhibitions but also on the page through his own writing and Arabic translations of historical art texts and manifestos.
As a mentor to younger generations, Sharif demonstrated great daring, commitment to culture and playful irreverence in his practice. These qualities continue to serve as important touchstones for artists and institutions today. Exploring his multifaceted contributions to the development of culture and community in the UAE as well as the public engagement his work has inspired, this exhibition presents a range of archival material, including texts, photographs and newspaper clippings that complement and contextualise the works on view. This retrospective explores the achievements of an artist over a lifetime and examines these achievements from multiple angles. Sharif’s pursuit of a single work continues on in ways we must now imagine.
* Titles of each chapter have been collected from recorded conversations over the years and were provided by the Estate.
Hassan Sharif at the Sharjah Biennial 2003
© Photo: Haupt & Binder