In April 2004, a cultural exchange agreement between the Emirate of Sharjah in the UAE and The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen was signed.
The premises for cultural exchange: two culture and art projects in Sharjah
In 2001, The International Culture Secretariat, which was supervising the Danish Ministry of Culture's and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affair's international cultural exchange programs at the time, chose the painter Dorte Dahlin and Rector Else Marie Bukdahl to head up a cultural exchange project between Sharjah in The United Arab Emirates and Denmark. Both Dorte Dahlin and Else Marie Bukdahl have sometimes led and sometimes taken part in a number of large-scale art and culture projects in Sharjah; the same can be said about the other co-workers from the Danish contingent who have taken part and who will be taking part in projects on the cultural exchange agreement's agenda.
When the cultural exchange agreement was hammered out in 2002, both the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called attention to the importance of fortifying the cultural collaboration with the Arab world that Denmark has been engaged with since the eighteenth century. The selection of Sharjah as a collaborative partner is primarily due to the circumstance that this particular one of the Arab Emirates is markedly attentive to cultural interests in the UAE. Sharjah is especially renowned for its open attitude to art and culture and for its energetic efforts in promoting a dialogue between the Arab and the European cultures. In addition, a large number of prominent artists, poets and scientist are working in this one of the Emirates. Many of them hail from other Arab countries, including Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Morocco and Algeria – and also from Iran.
The cultural agreement was contracted with The Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah in 2002, but due to the disquieting circumstances of antagonism in Iraq, the official signing ceremony did not transpire until April 2004.
The cultural agreement builds further upon the following premises, which will be presented as succinctly as possible:
As the sole Danish artist to do so, Dorte Dahlin exhibited her work at the 4th International Biennial in Sharjah. Her participation resulted in the realisation of the following projects, which eventually came to serve as the premises for the cultural agreement:
1. Overlaps. North-Southeast. Sharjah, UAE, February 15 – March 15, 2000. Exhibition, lectures and workshops.
Sharjah's Department of Culture and Information served as the promoter and the host of Overlaps. Working closely with this administrative organ and with Else Marie Bukdahl, the artist Dorte Dahlin organised this exhibition, which constituted the first presentation of Danish art in the United Arab Emirates. Twenty-one Danish artists, architects, poets and scholars took part. Among them were three people with an Arab background, who contributed with lectures and simultaneous translations of speeches, broadcasts and interviews on television and in the newspaper. In connection with the exhibition, a catalogue in English and Arabic was published, which presented the materials of the exhibition, a text about Søren Kierkegaard written by Niels Jørgen Cappelørn and translations of Danish poetry.
Lectures were held at both The American University and Sharjah University. A workshop that was held out in the desert was also arranged.
2. The 5th International Biennial in Sharjah, April 17-27, 2001.
Dorte Dahlin, who served as the official commissioner for the Danish delegation at the Biennial in Sharjah, brought a trio of Danish artists - Øivind Nygård, Stig Brøgger and Annemette Larsen – together with the artists' group, Superflex. At EXPO in Sharjah, this composite group of visual artists built up an interactive Internet-based TV-studio, as "a democratic platform", which was named Moon Channel (see www.superchannel.org.). The different programs could – via the Internet – be accessed in all countries. They presented a large number of the artists from east and west that were exhibiting at the biennial and a series of different features from the cultural and societal life in Sharjah, as well as interviews with students from the universities.