Unsettled Objects: Rarely Seen Works from Sharjah Art Foundation Collection

Published March 17th, 2021 - 07:34 GMT
Bringing together works by more than 30 artists, the exhibition encourages viewers to reconsider the way art objects are looked at and understood
Lubaina Himid, Going Out, 2020. Acrylic on canvas; 51 x 60.75 x 2 cm-Courtesy of SAF
Bringing together works by more than 30 artists, the exhibition encourages viewers to reconsider the way art objects are looked at and understood

Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) presents Unsettled Objects, an exhibition featuring recently acquired and rarely seen works from the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection. Anchored by major acquisitions from more than two decades of the Sharjah Biennial, the Foundation’s year-round exhibitions and other core commissioning programmes, the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection is one of the preeminent public collections of modern and contemporary art in the Middle East. 

Unsettled Objects, which opened on 12 March, takes the circular form of the Foundation’s newly restored architectural landmark, The Flying Saucer, in a design that evokes the experience of a revolving carousel. Occupying both indoor and outdoor space, The Flying Saucer also comes to life at night with an intervention by artist Prem Sahib on the building’s facade. The exhibition is on view until 15 June 2021.


The exhibition derives its title from a significant recent acquisition by the late conceptual artist Lothar Baumgarten, Unsettled Objects (1968–1969), projection filmed in Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum. Here, Baumgarten interrogates the method that museums adopt to categorise, store and present artefacts. We are asked to consider: where do these objects come from? Are the keepers of these entities entitled to hold them, and if so, under what jurisdiction?

Curated by Omar Kholeif, SAF Director of Collections and Senior Curator, this expansive exhibition brings together the work of over 30 artists from across the globe whose art helps us consider these questions while provoking a re-imagining of the ways in which history is narrated and explored. The artists featured in Unsettled Objects work in a variety of mediums across a broad expanse of time.

They explore concepts of mapping and archaeology, of memory and selfhood, of sight and absence. As the title suggests, their art unsettles our understanding of history by proposing that art has the potential to encourage a contoured view of a collective and inclusive society. Works on display include recent acquisitions from Yüksel Arslan, Dawoud Bey, Huma Bhabha, Huguette Caland, Lubaina Himid, Tala Madani, Lionel Wendt and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

In addition to exploring these questions, Unsettled Objects offers an opportunity to engage with a range of works in the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection, a public collection encompassing an exceptionally diverse body of more than 1,300 works across art movements from the 1920s to the present day, including substantial holdings of experimental, complex and multi-part installation works.

Reflecting Sharjah’s history as a major regional trade route, the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection acts as a node connecting an ever-expanding range of art forms and visual cultures. Together, the works in the collection reflect a South/South and East/East perspective on the history of modern and contemporary art, that is simultaneously inclusive, intergenerational and transcultural.

The complete list of artists in Unsettled Objects includes Sarah Abu Abdallah, Rasheed Araeen, Yüksel Arslan, Thuraya Al-Baqsami, Lothar Baumgarten, Semiha Berksoy, Dawoud Bey, Huma Bhabha, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Huguette Caland, Mounir Canaan, Tony Chakar, Marcos Grigorian, Mona Hatoum, Kamala Ibrahim Ishag, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Lubaina Himid, Mohammed Kazem, Amal Kenawy, William Kentridge, Omer Khairy, Astrid Klein, Yayoi Kusama, Tala Madani, Trevor Paglen, Bruno Pacheco, Michael Rakowitz, Prem Sahib, Mohan Samant, Hrair Sarkissian, Anwar Jalal Shemza, Saule Suleimenova, Lionel Wendt, Akram Zaatari and Abdul Hay Mosallam Zarara.

This exhibition is part of Sharjah Art Foudation’s 2021 spring programme which also features March Meeting (MM 2021): Unravelling the Present, the solo exhibitions Tarek Atoui: Cycles in 11, Zarina Bhimji: Black Pocket and Rayyane Tabet: Exquisite Corpse.

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