It has become almost standard to expect exhibitions and programming of the highest international calibre from the Sharjah Art Foundation, and this season will not disappoint. In an exhibition that highlights book design in Japan from the early 1900s to the present day, Sharjapan: The Poetics of Space runs at the foundation’s Al Hamriyah Studios until mid January. In its exploration of the relationship between art and books, the exhibition looks at Japanese books from the perspective of graphic design as well as considering books in general in terms of the balance between the content, materials and bindings as well as design elements such as illustrations and font styles. In short, the book itself becomes a “poetic space.” Curated by Yuko Hasegawa, artistic director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, this is the first in a three-year-long series of exhibitions she is curating for Sharjah Art Foundation.
Other key events at the foundation include a retrospective exhibition of Egyptian artist Amal Kenawy, who explored political, social and feminist issues as well as reflected on topics of death and regeneration. Since her passing in 2012, Kenawy has become well known for her video works, installations, performance documentation and archival material. Key pieces here include Silence of the Sheep (2009) and early work Frozen Memory (2002).
Elsewhere in the emirate, Versatile Letters at the Sharjah Calligraphy Museum pays tribute to Sudan-born Tagalsir Hassan, who has been a leading figure in the preservation, promotion and continuing development of Arabic calligraphy in the region for more than four decades. Featuring 67 works, the exhibition includes traditional calligraphy alongside newer, more contemporary pieces.
At Maraya Art Centre, Saudi artist Dana Awartani will be having her first institutional solo show in the Middle East. The Silence Between Us brings out two threads in Awartani’s practice: poetry and light. The interplay between these elements as well as the elaborate use of both physical and symbolic layering become key parts of reading the show. Through its initiative 1971 – The Design Space, Maraya Art Centre has collaborated with the Khatt Foundation to stage RASM, an exhibition dedicated solely to graphic design. It presents posters of designers since the launch of the Khatt Foundation’s design community in 2008 as well as two new commissioned works by Dubai-based designers.
Over at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, a massive presentation celebrating the institution’s 10-year anniversary covers a far-ranging collection exploring how societies developed as the result of encounters and exchanges, either through trade, migrations or conquests, and how the constant flow of people, objects and ideas has shaped the world from medieval times up to the present day. Divided into six parts, the show also includes contributions from the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin, bolstering the exhibition to world-class standards.
Lastly, Sharjah Archaeology Museum’s show The Echo of Caravans: Pre-Islamic Civilization Sites in Saudi Arabia features rare pieces showing links that existed between ancient communities across the Arabian Peninsula.
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Sanctuaries #47