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Sharjah Biennial director dismissed, exhibition to be reviewed

Sharjah Biennial director dismissed, exhibition to be reviewed

Artistic Director's departure comes at a time when some art installations are at the centre of controversial debate in the decade-old Sharjah Biennial.

April 6, 2011 11:10 by

Artistic Director Jack Persekian has been dismissed from his post, following orders from HH Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, Kipp has learned.

Persekian’s swift departure comes at a time when a specific collection within the exhibition has been gaining notoriety among visitors, with some describing it as “offensive” and “culturally insensitive”.

A representative from the Sharjah Biennial Office told Kipp that an official statement is being drafted and “will soon be publicly announced”.

Initially rumoured to have been shut down, event organisers have confirmed with Kipp that the event, which opened on March 16, will continue to run until its scheduled closing on May 16.

Twitter and Blackberry Messenger posts in the UAE’s art circles have reportedly been ablaze with comments, mostly in Arabic, against Persekian’s decision to include the art pieces in the Sharjah Biennial.

Event organisers did not confirm which art pieces have caused controversy. However photographs of art installations and t-shirts printed with Arabic and English phrases that are said to contain sexually explicit descriptions of religious figures have been connected to the dismissal.

The National spoke to Persekian, from his home city of Jerusalem, where he received the phone call about this dismissal. “It was foolish of me, I had not looked at it carefully because I couldn’t, there were so many works and so many things to produce – films and books and publications and videos, a million things I didn’t go through. I’m not in the habit of checking everything, and people just didn’t like what they saw in that work and took it out on me personally,” he said, declining to reveal which work caused his dismissal but that it had already been removed from the show.

Already in its 10th anniversary, the Sharjah Biennial was opened by HH Sheikh Al Qasimi, who toured the different pavilions during his visit.

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