“Every new venture in the world has always got a lot of flak before finding success. I believe the Kochi Muziris biennale also had to bear the brunt of that initial hubbub,” said Hoor al Qasimi, director of the Sharjah Biennial and President of Sharjah Art Foundation. She was in Fort Kochi recently to attend a talk series organised as part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
She says that though Kochi-Muziris Biennale is steeped in controversies, she was pleasantly surprised to see that the event could project its actual purpose. “The elementary objective of the biennale is to portray the local culture of the city or the place where it is being conducted. This biennale could achieve it successfully,” she says. She adds that the biennale could very well exhort the old charm of this city.
Hoor al Qasimi is a practicing artist who took her Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree from Slade School of Fine Art, London, Diploma in Painting from the Royal Academy of Arts, MA in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London.
The curator recollects that she too faced stiff resistance when she wanted to bring forth a change in the character of the Sharjah biennale when she assumed charge as director of the event. “I literally grew up with biennale. After learning much about what is going on in other parts of the world in the art fraternity, I realised that the Sharjah biennial is static. It has not even took a step forward from where it began. Hence I decided to bring forth a substantial change in the character of the event. That’s when the opposition crept in,” she says.
Hoor al Qasimi says that in earlier times biennale was all about representing art from all over the world. “Artists from different countries would come and represent their work of art. A sense of unity was completely absent. Unlike other biennales that happen in different parts of the world Sharjah biennale lacked a common theme. To make it more worse, there were many embassies which sent the works of their ambassadors’ wives. So the scenario as a whole was seeking a change for the better. That’s how the call for improvement came about. But though the change is inevitable, I had to face a lot of disapproval. But that is the only way it can work,” she says. She says that unlike Kerala, Sharjah biennale is not associated with tourism so far. “I do not want people to frequent the biennale just because they came to the country as tourists. I want people to come for the biennale first which in turn help will tourism sector of the country,” says Qasimi.