Hassan Sharif (b.1951, Bandar Lengeh, Iran – d.2016, Dubai, United Arab Emirates) 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 discipline or singular approach, 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 U.A.E.
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, themes that he continued to explore throughout his practice. 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, he 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. He manifested this interest through his use of ordinary materials, and incorporated cotton, textile, metal, cord, plastic, and everyday objects to create a variety of works that reflected contemporary concerns such as consumerism, manufacturing, and commercialization of handicrafts.
Hassan Sharif 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 travels to KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany, and Malmö Konsthall, Malmö, Sweden, in 2020.
Sharif was a founding member of the Emirates Fine Art Society and of the Art Atelier in the Youth Theater and Arts, Dubai. 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 the 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 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, United Arab Emirates (2017); Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar (2016); the Sharjah Biennial (2015); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015); New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2014); Fundação Casa França-Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil (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; M+ Museum, Hong Kong; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar; Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah, U.A.E.; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Sittard Center, The Netherlands; and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., and Guggenheim, New York. Sharif’s work was on view at the Sharjah Art Foundation 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 and first featured at The National Pavilion United Arab Emirates at the 56th Venice Biennale, Italy. The Estate of Hassan Sharif is also represented by Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai, and GB Agency, Paris.