Founded in 1993, the Sharjah Biennial has grown from a traditional and regionally focused exhibition into the internationally recognised event it has become today. Originally produced by the Sharjah Department of Culture and Information, in 2009 the Biennial became a core initiative of the newly established Sharjah Art Foundation alongside the annual March Meeting, residencies, production grants, commissions, exhibitions, collections, research, and publications.
While at first the Biennial followed a classic format with artists chosen to officially represent each participating country, there was a marked shift in direction when Hoor Al Qasimi took on the role of Curator and Artistic Director in 2003. Now the focus has turned more directly towards the presentation of art and engagement with the individual artists themselves, thereby establishing what has proven to be an enduring theme in the Biennial’s future manifestations.
The Sharjah Biennial is open to the public from March through June.The exhibition takes place in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, crossing the emirate to sites in and around the city as well as in the city of Kalba on the Gulf of Oman. Exhibition sites are a range of venues including the Sharjah Art Foundation Art Spaces, the Sharjah Art Museum, and the nearby traditional buildings and courtyards of the Arts and Heritage areas.
Central to the planning of the Biennial are education and outreach program that are designed to engage the diverse communities of the UAE. A Biennial Prize is awarded on each occasion by a jury of prominent art world figures.