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March 5 – October 2 2021

Hassan Sharif: I Am The Single Work Artist

Currently on view at the
MAMC+, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain Saint-Étienne Métropole
Curated by Hoor Al Qasimi & Aurélie Voltz
5.3.2020 - 26.9.2021

Hassan Sharif was born in Iran, studied in London, and lived in Dubaï, where he became a pioneer of Conceptual Art in the Middle East.

As an artist, educator, and critic, he helped transform the artistic landscape of his country, leading it far beyond the realm of traditional calligraphy, and he remains one of the most influential artists in the Arab world.

Over a period of four decades, Hassan Sharif developed a significant body of work consisting of drawings, paintings, performances, sculptures, and installations. In contrast to this abundant production, the title of the exhibition (I am the single work artist) instead seems to suggest that this work should be seen as a single gesture that was repeated over time.

Hassan Sharif, Towel No. 2, 2013

Towel and copper wire
7 components 285 x 170 x 30 cm
Installed ca. 290 x 175 x 35 cm
Unique

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Hassan Sharif, Music, 1982

Oil on paper mounted on canvas
101,5 x 76,5 cm, framed 117 x 92 x 6,5 cm
Signed and dated
Unique

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Hassan Sharif’s practice evolved in a social and economic context that was radically transformed by the discovery of oil in 1958, followed by the creation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971. His work is marked by the rapid transformation of a small land like Dubaï into a megalopolis of luxury. He criticised the forced march of modernisation through the caricatures he published until 1979, at which point he devoted himself entirely to his own artistic practice. His training in London exposed him to British constructivism, Minimal Art, and Fluxus, whose influences he adeptly channelled in his own oeuvre. His performances in the Hatta desert in the early 1980s represent some of the first manifestations of Conceptual Art in the Gulf, as he jumped, threw a stone, filmed rock formations, or disappeared over a dune. He used photographs, collages, and writings to document his actions in his own courtyard, in a taxi, or at a souk.

Hassan Sharif, Raising Hands No. 4, 2009

Pastel and pencil on paper
40,1 x 29,7 cm, framed 49 x 38,5 x 2,5 cm
Titled, signed and dated
Unique

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Hassan Sharif, Raising Hands, 2009

Pastel on paper
42 x 30 cm
Signed and dated
Unique

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Through the subversive pop-up exhibitions that he organised with the collective Mureijah Art Atelier, he called viewers’ attentions to the everyday materials and objects he found in increasing amounts in local markets. A process of accumulating, cutting, weaving, and assembling led Sharif to develop a major current in his work, which he termed “urban archaeology”. Starting in the 2000s, as his installations became monumental in scale, he returned to painting, often incorporating these same everyday objects into his canvases. Their grotesque style and expressionist touch depict — with a sense of realism — the more shoddy and coarse aspects of consumer society.

Hassan Sharif, Thing in The Flying House No. 15, 2008

Oil on canvas
Diptych, 150 x 200 x 3,8 cm
Signed and dated
Unique

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Hassan Sharif, Things in The Flying House No. 1, 2008

Pastel on paper
42 x 29,7 cm, framed 51 x 38,8 x 2,5 cm
Signed and dated
Unique

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“I resorted to the idea of “redundant repetition” in producing art. I would continuously engage myself in boring, recurring and endless activities, a feature that would become a signature of my artwork since 1982, its underlying purpose.”

Hassan Sharif, Insect No. 3, 2015

Cardboard, papier mâché, wire, cotton rope and acrylic
55 x 59 x 24 cm
Unique

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Hassan Sharif, Red Ant No. 3, 2015

Wire, papier mâché, acrylic
59 x 47 x 10 cm
Unique

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“Despite the fact that my works are based on a sequential, industrial mode of creativity, they also demolish the sequential autonomy of an industrial product. I inject my works with a realism that exposes the socio-political economic monster, allowing people a chance to recognise the danger of over-indulgence in this form of negative consumption.” Hassan Sharif

Hassan Sharif, Dance of Life No. 4, 2009

Oil on canvas
200 x 145 cm
Signed and dated
Unique

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Hassan Sharif, M.A. Ibrahim’s sculpture No. 1, 2008

Oil on canvas
150 x 100 cm
Signed and dated
Unique

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At the same time that Hassan Sharif was completing these installations, he developed a more ascetic and graphic series of works that also made use of repetition: the “Semi-Systems”. He made mathematical calculations and established rules to generate geometric drawings that consisted of a quasi-infinite number of columns and segments of straight lines. He allowed fatigue and boredom to enter the equation and thereby introduce mistakes, which he left visible. Like much of Sharif’s work, the Semi-Systems depict a confrontation of authority, as well as the means of getting around it.

Hassan Sharif, Eight Points Angular lines - Part 1, 2013

3 elements as a set
Wood, glue and nails, 1 element
8,7 x 135 x 35 cm
Pencil on paper, 2 elements
59,5 x 42 cm each
framed 76,8 x 59,3 x 3,5 cm each
Unique

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Hassan Sharif, One to Twenty One, 2015

Cardboard,canvas, tracing paper, cotton thread
and canvas
102 x 46 x 12 cm
Accompanied by 1 draft paper
Unique

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Hassan Sharif’s work is echoed in a number of Western artistic approaches from the late 1970s and 1980s. In continuation of the exhibition, two rooms have been devoted to the MAMC+’s own collections, featuring Minimal Art, Fluxus and Supports/Surfaces in particular.

Hassan Sharif, Black Box, 2015

Carboard, papier mâché, cotton rope, cloth, wood, aluminum net, concrete, ribbon, and acrylic Box and 12 Pieces
12 x 20 x 13 cm
Unique

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Hassan Sharif, Lead No. 16, 2015

Lead, papier-mâché and cotton rope
42 x 50 x 63 cm
Unique

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This exhibition is originally organised by Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, U.A.E., and curated by Hoor Al Qasimi. The European tour of the exhibition has been organised by Sharjah Art Foundation in collaboration with KW Berlin, Malmö Konsthall and the Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Étienne Métropole. Follow this link for more information on the exhibition.

Exhibition views ©Aurélien Mole and the MAMC+, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Saint-Étienne Métropole