Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present
February 7–June 11, 2023


Bahar Behbahani, Garden of Desire, 2023
Water, soil, handmade seed papers, etching on paper

Conceived by the late Okwui Enwezor and curated by Hoor Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present (SB15) reflects on Enwezor’s visionary work, which transformed contemporary art and established an ambitious intellectual project that has influenced the evolution of institutions and biennials around the world.

Bahar Behbahani was born in Iran and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York: a very concise label. But what is packed within that barebones tagline is a complex life, one that has been uprooted and transplanted into an entirely different environment, with its consequent advantages and disadvantages, its disruptions and resettlements, its triumphs and sorrows, its shocks to the system. It is not surprising, then, that Behbahani’s projects resound with themes of memory, loss and adaptation, with reality and dreams. And it seems equally inevitable that her central, multi-tiered motif for the past several years has been the Persian garden, one that she has re-tooled to suit her own syncretic imagination. In Behbahani’s envisioning, it is a brilliantly protean habitat, encompassing the aesthetic, the poetic, the philosophical and psychological, the political, social and the ecological, furling together past, present and future.

—Lilly Wei
Lilly Wei is a New York-based art critic, independent curator and journalist.