Hassan Sharif (1951–2016) was born in Bandar Lengeh, Iran and lived and worked in Dubai. Recognized as a pioneer of conceptual art and experimental practice in the Middle East, Sharif's artworks surpass the limits of any single discipline, encompassing performance, installation, drawing, painting, and assemblage. Beginning in the late 1970s, he worked as a cultural producer and facilitator, moving between roles as artist, educator, critic, activist, and mentor to contemporary artists in the United Arab Emirates.
After familiarizing himself with the ideas of Dada and Fluxus art during his studies in the early 1980s at Byam Shaw School of Art in London (now Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design), Sharif created performance-based works that engaged with repetition, landscape, and the body. Sharif first incorporated weaving into his art making process as a part of his Objects series (1982–2016) as a means of critically exploring the increasing modernization and industrialization occurring in the U.A.E.
An acute awareness of his environment led Sharif to embrace constant experimentation and a variety of materials. In his body of work focused on experiments and semi-systems, he utilized the grid to draft constructivist structures. Sharif aimed to create art that was linked to society and spoke to universal aspects of daily life, using everyday objects to critically reflect contemporary concerns such as consumerism, manufacturing, and the commercialization of handicrafts.
Hassan Sharif’s work was recently featured in a two-person exhibition, The Art Library: Manal AlDowayan and Hassan Sharif, at Misk Art Institute, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Hassan Sharif: Woven, a publication released in both Arabic and English, was published on occasion of the show (2023). The artist’s work was the subject of a 2017 retrospective, Hassan Sharif: I Am The Single Work Artist, curated by Hoor Al Qasimi at the Sharjah Art Foundation, which traveled to the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany (2020); Malmö Konsthall, Sweden (2020); and the The Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporaine de Saint-Étienne Métropole (MAMC+), Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France (2021).
Sharif was a founding member of the Emirates Fine Art Society and of the Art Atelier in the Youth Theater and Arts, Dubai, U.A.E. In 2007, he was one of four artists to establish The Flying House, a Dubai institution for promoting contemporary Emirati artists. The first Emirati to have his work shown in Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, Sharif was also among the selected artists to represent the U.A.E. during its first national pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. In 2011, Sharif was the subject of a retrospective exhibition, Hassan Sharif: Experiments & Objects 1979-2011, curated by Catherine David and Mohammed Kazem and presented by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage/Platform for Visual Arts, U.A.E. His work has been shown in recent exhibitions including, Viva Arte Viva, 57th Venice Biennale, Italy (2017); The Creative Act: Performance • Process • Presence, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. (2017); But We Cannot See Them: Tracing a UAE Underground, 1988-2008, New York University Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. (2017); Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar (2016); the Sharjah Biennial, U.A.E. (2015); Whitechapel Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2015); New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY (2014); Fundação Casa França-Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2014); and the International Centre of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia (2012), among others. Sharif’s artwork is included in the collections of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; M+ Museum, Hong Kong; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar; Sharjah Art Foundation, U.A.E.; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, U.A.E.; Sittard Center, The Netherlands; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.; and Guggenheim, New York, NY. Sharif’s work was on view at the Sharjah Art Foundation in 2016 as part of the exhibitions Do It, curated by Hoor Al Qasimi and Hans Ulrich Obrist, and 1980–Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates, curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, which was first featured at the Emirati Pavilion during the 56th Venice Biennale, Italy in 2015. The Estate of Hassan Sharif is also represented by Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai, and GB Agency, Paris.