The Sphinx Contemplating Napoleon: Global Perspective on Contemporary Art and Difference

19 MAY 2021

Africa Hall, Sharjah, UAE

19 MAY 2021 | 18.00

Global Africa: The State of African Studies in the 21st Century

The Africa Institute is pleased to present its series, Book Conversations, launching summer 2021. The program aims to highlight new books by African and Africanist authors in the fields of humanities, arts and social sciences.

On May 19, 2021 at 6pm (Gulf Standard Time), curator and author of the book The Sphinx Contemplating Napoleon: Global Perspective on Contemporary Art and Difference, Gilane Tawadros, will be joined by Sarat Maharaj, Professor of Visual Art and Knowledge Systems at Malmö Art Academy, Sweden, to discuss her new book. This conversation will be moderated by The Africa Institute Director, Salah M. Hassan.

This talk will be held on Zoom. To register, please visit: REGISTER LINK

Ten author signed copies of the book will be available for purchase at the Africa Hall starting on the date of the book discussion. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, please email with your request to receive further information.

Book Synopsis

Anchored in artistic practice, this vibrant collection of essays and writings spans a period from 1992-2017 and the work of leading artists such as Adel Abdessemed, Richard Avedon, Sonia Boyce, Frank Bowling, Omer Fast, Mona Hatoum, Susan Hiller, Alfredo Jaar, Glenn Ligon and Shen Yuan. A key figure in British and international art, Gilane Tawadros draws difference to the surface, recuperating it as a potentially radical frame through which to understand contemporary art and the everyday world. Playing with forms of writing, from critical analyses to fictional narratives, the book functions as a practice-based meditation on how to write about contemporary art.

Gilane Tawadros

Gilane is a writer, curator and the chief executive at DACS. She was the founding Director of the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva) in London, chaired by Professor Stuart Hall, which, over a decade, achieved an international reputation as a ground-breaking cultural agency at the leading edge of artistic and cultural debates nationally and internationally. She has curated numerous exhibitions and has written extensively on contemporary art. In 2012, she was the first art historian to be appointed to the prestigious Blanche, Edith and Irving Laurie Chair in Women's Studies, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Gilane is Chair of the Stuart Hall Foundation and a Trustee of the Stuart Croft Foundation. In July 202, Gilane was a speaker at The Africa Institute’s John Akomfrah: Film Screening and Talk program.

Sarat Maharaj

Sarat Maharaj was born in South Africa and educated there as well as in the UK. Dr. Maharaj is a writer and curator. He was a co-curator of documenta11 and he curated retinal .optical. visual.conceptual … at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, in 2002, with Richard Hamilton and Ecke Bonk. Dr. Maharaj was also co-curator of Farewell to Postcolonialism, Guangzhou, in 2008, and Art, Knowledge and Politics, at the 29th Bienal de São Paulo in 2010. He was Chief Curator of the 2011 Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Pandemonium: Art in a Time of Creativity Fever, and a peer advisor to the Sharjah Biennial 11 in 2013.

Between 1980 and 2005, he was Professor of History and Theory of Art at Goldsmiths, University of London. Dr. Maharaj was also the first Rudolf Arnheim Professor, Humboldt University, Berlin (2001–02) and Research Fellow at the Jan Van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht (1999–2001).

Salah M. Hassan

Salah M. Hassan is Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences in Africana Studies, and Director of the Institute for Comparative Modernities (ICM), and professor of art history and visual culture in the Africana Studies and Research Center, and the Department of History of Art and Visual Studies, Cornell University. Salah M. Hassan is the Director of The Africa Institute, Sharjah, UAE. He served as the Madeleine Haas Russell Professor, Departments of African and Afro-American Studies and Fine Arts, Brandeis University (2016-2018). Hassan is an art critic and curator, and editor and co-founder of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art (Duke University Press). He currently serves as member of the editorial advisory board of Atlantica, Journal of Curatorial Studies and International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. He also served as consulting editor of African Arts. He authored, edited and co-edited several books including Darfur and the Crisis of Governance: A Critical Reader (2009), and Diaspora, Memory, Place (2008); Unpacking Europe (2001); Authentic/Ex-Centric (2001); Gendered Visions: The Art of Contemporary Africana Women Artists (1997); and Art and Islamic Literacy among the Hausa of Northern Nigeria (1992). He guest edited a special issue of SAQ: South Atlantic Quarterly, titled African Modernism (2010). His book Ibrahim El Salahi: A Visionary Modernist, was published in 2012 in conjunction with the retrospective of the Sudanese artist, Ibrahim El Salahi exhibited at The Tate Modern in London this past summer (July - October 2013) after premiering at the Sharjah Art Museum (in March 2013) in Sharjah, UAE. Most recently, Hassan edited and introduced, Ibrahim El-Salahi: Prison Notebook (New York and Sharjah, MOMA and SAF Publications, 2018). He has contributed essays to journals, anthologies and exhibition catalogues of contemporary art. He has curated several international exhibitions such as Authentic/Ex-Centric (49th Venice Biennale, 2001), Unpacking Europe (Rotterdam, 2001-02), and 3x3: Three Artists/Three: David Hammons, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Pamela Z (Dak'Art, 2004). He also curated several exhibitions for the Sharjah Art Foundation including The Khartoum School: The Making of the Modern Art Movement in Sudan, 1945-2016 (2016-2017), and When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965) (2016). He is the recipient of several grants and fellowships, such as the J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship, as well as major grants from the Sharjah Art Foundation, Ford, Rockefeller, Andy Warhol and Prince Claus Fund foundations. Most recently Hassan has been honored as the 2021 Distinguished Professor by the College Art Association, the oldest and largest scholarly organization for history and criticism of the visual arts.

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