Our visit to the Sharjah Art Foundation was planned only to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibition (what an opportunity!), not because one didn’t want to see the other work on display but just that one didn’t know about it or frankly too much about the foundation itself other than its general location (possibly our ignorance more than anything else).
We got there is bit earlier than the 4pm Friday opening timings, starting with a ‘you had to be there to get it’ moment of fun in the parking lot which may just have set the tone for the day (so thank you parking attendant man). The outside of the place itself looked to be the site of some not so ancient ruins due to the refurbishment being carried out and so we decided not to stop at the reception/ office and explore the situation for ourselves.
What lay behind the brick strewn path and broken walls once you enter Sharjah Art Foundation proved to be nothing short of a treasure. Wandering through the maze of white walled alleyways on a beautiful Friday, fascinated by this quaint little find (for us at least!), we were in our element and since the guard at the Kusama exhibit had said they were blowing up the balloon and it would be ready very soon we were in a heightened state of excitement and anticipation possibly stopping just short of jumping up and down and clapping our hands.
Our first stop was at Fault Work by Enrico David. Exploring the fault line between figuration and abstraction, fascinating started here with an exhibition of sculptures set against a background of colorful tapestries that was psychologically complex, haunting and beautiful.
Next stop: The Khartoum School, The Making of Modern Art in Sudan. This major historical survey takes a look at the modernist art movement in Sudan from 1945 to present times that was essentially a movement seeking to develop a new visual vocabulary to reflect the distinctive identity of a nation newly independent from British colonial rule. Included in this exhibition are paintings, pottery, ceramics, sculptures, photography, film & video which shows the multi-faceted nature of the movement and its far reaching influence in Africa and the Arab world. A real visual feast, with some never seen before archival material, this is hands-on lesson in art history.
The roof with a view was next. It was a wonderful feeling to be somewhere different on a cool Friday afternoon and looking out over the Sharjah rooftops chatting on about work, art, life and what a charming venue for a wedding the Sharjah Art Foundation would make was certainly not the norm.
We then ambled down to the large installation Guideposts by Bassem Yousri in the open space next to the staircase that had taken us up. Consisting of two site-specific sculptural installations: I Am Serious! and Do Not Look Inside, Yousri explores instances relevant to his current ongoing ‘Institutional Aesthetic’ in which he has been tracking what aesthetic represents during his years in Cairo. Working with recycled materials and objects found at the Sharjah Art Foundation, this is a very interesting interactive piece and so was the story we were able to spin around it (we’ll save that for another time) but definitely mission accomplished for the artist when viewers can do that!
The open space that held the above installation was right next to a ‘secret garden’. Although it isn’t a secret, it sure felt that way, tucked in a corner of this magnificent place with tables and chairs and tyres and trees.
Next was our raison d’etre for the visit: Yayoi Kusama: Dot Obsessions
“Polka dots become movement…Polka dots are a way to infinity.”
Having worked with many media but most recognized for her use of repetitive patterns and polka dots, Yayoi Kusama has since the age of ten been experimenting with repetition as a form of obliteration (of image). A leading figure of the 1960’s avant-garde art movement in New York, Self-Obliterations continued to be developed by the artist throughout her lifetime and incredible body of work. Exhibition/ installation, interactive and not, it was indeed a treat to be part of a creation of something so immense.
In The Obliteration Room visitors are given a sheet of colorful polka dots of different sizes and can participate in turning an all-white domestic setting into a crazy and fun experience. The smiles on our face are possibly testament to this;)
Featuring works on paper, collages incorporating her ‘infinity nets’, references to Joseph Cornell and ‘aggregation sculptures’, the exhibition allows the viewer to trace the artists’ journey from early explorations to the current ongoing ‘My Eternal Soul’ series. These large-scale works are shown in the central gallery along with Kusama’s 2013 multi-media installation ‘The Dots Obsession’ where inflated over-sized red and white polka dot balls surround a domed infinity room. Enter this illusory mirror lined globe and become a performer in Dot Obsessions by being endlessly reflected along with the dots.
Of course one could not help but be inspired to have a bit of fun!
Check out the video in The Infinity Room
We did stop at the reception on the way out and once again were met by a charming little space and a friendly face which capped of our visit to the Sharjah Art Foundation in Terminator Arnie style with a ‘We’ll be back’.
If there’s such a thing as too much fun, then this day was certainly it!