Overview

Hassan Sharif (1951-2016) made a vital contribution to conceptual art and experimental practice in the Middle East. He gained attention for his cartoons published in the U­AE press - ironic, outspoken critiques of the rapid industrialisation of the Emirates. He rejected calligraphic abstraction and pursued a pointedly contemporary vocabulary, drawing on the non-elitism and intermedia of Fluxus and the potential in British Constructionism's systemic processes of making.

 

Sharif graduated from The Byam Shaw School of Art (now part of Central Saint Martins) in 1984 and returned to the UAE. He staged interventions and the first exhibitions of contemporary art in Sharjah, as well as translated art historical texts into Arabic so as to engage a local audience in contemporary art discourse.

 

Sharif started creating his Objects in the 1980s using found industrial materials or mass-produced items purchased in markets around the UAE. Weaving these objects together with rope, coil and twine, the heaps and bundles that Sharif created became a visualisation of the surplus of mass-production. In his Semi-Systems, he invented a set of rules, following this system to create line drawings that transform within a grid and colour studies on paper. Sharif revelled in the mistakes and errors that naturally occur in the monotonous creation of the work, believing that “‘Art’ is a result of errors.”

 

Sharif was a founding member of the Emirates Fine Arts Society (founded in 1980) and the Art Atelier in the Youth Theatre and Arts in Dubai. In 2007, he was one of the four artists to establish The Flying House, a Dubai institution for promoting contemporary Emirati artists.

 

His works are held in the collections of the Sharjah Art Foundation; MAMCO, Geneva; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate, London; Guggenheim New York and Abu Dhabi; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; M+ Museum, Hong Kong, among others. 

 

In 2017, a major retrospective of his works, entitled Hassan Sharif: I Am The Single Work Artist, curated by Hoor Al Qasimi was held at Sharjah Art Foundation. This retrospective has travelled to the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in 2020 and is currently on view at the Malmö Konsthall, Malmö. The exhibition will be on view at the musée d’art moderne et contemporain (MAMC), Saint-Étienne, in spring 2021.

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