Sharjah Art Foundation has unveiled a spectacular programme of retrospectives and solo shows, celebrating five iconic global artists this autumn and winter

Arnulf Rainer:
Towards Overpaintings
Bait Al Serkal, Arts Area
September 9 to November 1

Arnulf Rainer is not only Austria’s leading abstract artist, but one of the most important living artists globally. Born in Baden in 1929, the self-taught artist was initially influenced heavily by Surrealism, but in the mid-1950s his style evolved towards Destruction of Forms, and blackenings and overpaintings of illustrations and photographs began to dominate his work.
Rainer was awarded the Great Austrian National Prize in 1978 and represented Austria at the Venice Biennale in 1978 and 1980. From 1981 to 1995, he held a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna — the same institution which he himself had left after just three days of studies. In 2009, the Arnulf Rainer Museum opened in Baden, providing a permanent home for his work.
Towards Overpaintings, curated by director of the Sharjah Art Foundation Hoor Al Qasimi, is a retrospective of Rainer’s early work, featuring a selection of sculptures, paintings and videos, as well as archival documentation on show for the first time. The exhibition is set to include selected works from his iconic Blind Paintings and Overpainting series and promises to provide valuable insight into the early development of his significant oeuvre.

Kamal Youssef:
Egyptian Surrealism’s Time Capsule
Sharjah Art Museum
September 17 to November 17

Curated by director of the Sharjah Art Foundation Hoor Al Qasimi and Dr. Salah Hassan, Goldwin Smith Professor and director of the Institute for Comparative Modernities at Cornell University, Egyptian Surrealism’s Time Capsule is a retrospective of work by Egyptian-American artist Kamal Youssef, organised in collaboration with Sharjah Museums Department.
Born in Egypt in 1923, Youssef has witnessed turmoil, conflict and radical political and cultural changes during the course of his 70-year career. In 1946, he co-founded a collective of young Egyptian artists known as Groupe de l’Art Contemporain, creating a stir in Egypt and internationally. He went on to represent Egypt in the Venice Biennale in 1950. In 1954 Youssef, along with eight of his fellow Egyptian artists, was invited to exhibit in Paris, where he remained until 1956, when he moved to the U.S.
His distinctive approach to painting and sculpture spans East and West and reflects on key moments in history, from the Egyptian revolution, to Paris in the 1950s, to the civil rights movement in America, the impact of the Vietnam War, the 9/11 terror attacks and their global aftermath, including the Iraq War. This retrospective promises to cast light on a lifetime of bold work, imbued with powerful cultural and historical resonances.

Dot Obsessions
Building I, SAF Art Spaces
October 1 to January 9, 2017

Born in 1929 in central Japan, Yayoi Kusama has become a global name over the course of her seven decades as an artist. Known for her extensive, almost obsessive use of polka dots and net-like patterns, Kusama was employing both motifs in her drawings as early as the age of ten. She graduated from the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts in 1949, despite strong opposition from her family, who were against her making a career as an artist.
Kusama has struggled with mental health issues throughout her life, harnessing them as a driving force behind her artwork. In 1957 she moved to New York, where her work received critical acclaim from key art world figures, but throughout the 1960s she struggled with recurring bouts of depression. In 1975 she entered the Seiwa Hospital in Tokyo, a private psychiatric clinic known for using art therapy to treat patients, where she lives to this day.
Adept at working across multiple media, Kusama has produced paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, performances or “happenings” and films. She has also penned poetry, several novels and more than a dozen pieces of music. Her exhibition at Sharjah Art Foundation, curated by director Hoor Al Qasimi, is set to feature a selection of early works from the 1950s, as well as site-specific installations and interactive installations. Not to be missed!

Robert Breer: Time Flies
Flying Saucer
October 1 to January 9, 2017

Although best known as an animator, Robert Breer was a multidisciplinary artist who worked with painting, subversive collage, kinetic sculptures and experimental films. Born in Detroit in 1926, Breer died in 2011, having produced more than 40 innovative films. Recognised as one of the founders of the American avant-garde, he is paid fitting tribute in this retrospective, curated by director of the Sharjah Art Foundation Hoor Al Qasimi. The exhibition is set to feature several of Breer’s earlier works in painting and experiments in animation, as well as later kinetic sculptures and large-scale pieces.
Breer’s work was fuelled by a broad range of influences and in turn has served to influence a generation of filmmakers and artists. His films combine abstract and representation painting, as well as hand-drawn rotoscoping, 16mm and 8mm film footage and photographs.
Breer first began experimenting with cartoon animation as a child, creating flip books, before making his first stop-action and experimental abstract films, based on paintings he produced while living in Paris in the 1950s. He deliberately sought to create what he called “assault and battery on the retina,” combining abstract lines, letters, shapes and live-action images in bewildering sequences. For those unfamiliar with his work, Time Flies promises to serve as a spectacular introduction.

Enrico David: Fault Work
Building F, SAF Art Spaces
October 1 to January 9, 2017

Based between London and Berlin, Italian artist Enrico David works in painting, drawing, sculpture and installation. Born in Ancona, in eastern Italy, he moved to London in the late 1980s and graduated from Central Saint Martins in 1994.
Fault Work will be David’s first exhibition in the region and is scheduled to showcase a mixture of metal sculptures and his famous large-scale tapestries, made using artisanal craft techniques. The artist cites a diverse range of influences, from traditional craft, folk art and design, to fashion magazines, advertising and pornography. His subject matter, however, remains fairly consistent — mutated human forms, at once grotesque, erotic and endearing.
His enormous tapestries, made using sewn canvasses, are often inspired by drawings and collages from fashion magazines. David was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2009, choosing to display, among various other pieces, an installation based on his childhood bedroom, showing a young boy caught up in a disturbing encounter with a lady.
This solo exhibition promises to provide a long-overdue opportunity for local audiences to confront David’s inspiring, disturbing and eccentric work face-to-face.

by Irene McConnell

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Collectors Issue #38, pages 26-30.