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Sep 11 2020

Sharjah’s Landmark The Flying Saucer Reopens

by Margarita Cheng

Exterior view of The Flying Saucer, Sharjah, in 2020. Courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation.

The Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) announced on September 9 that it has completed renovations of its exhibition venue, The Flying Saucer, in Sharjah. The complex, which has been restored to its original 1970s star-shape with new exterior space and amenities, will open to the public on September 26.

Led by SAF and Mona El Mousfy of SpaceContinuum Design Studio, work began in 2018 to highlight the Brutalist and space-age inspired building’s distinct and original characteristics. Renovations also created an extended outdoor public space, called Platform, for social events and art installations, and an underground Launch Pad which boasts a cafe, library, and a sunken garden. Speaking of the work, SAF director Hoor Al Qasimi added that the renovations “not only preserve its characteristic structure but also restore it for our community as a space for convening, learning and creating.”

The building will reopen with a multimedia installation by Lindsay Seers and Keith Sargent titled Nowhere Less Now[Flying Saucer] (2020), the third iteration of Seers’s Nowhere Less Now (2012– ) series, which combines personal and fictional narratives to question how history is constructed over time. This edition examines the dark legacy of British colonialism, depicting an alien’s landing on Earth as it attempts to understand the world, while drawing upon The Flying Saucer’s architectural space. In combination with the installation, which lasts until December 26, self-guided audio tours will be provided to guide visitors through the history of the building. 

The Flying Saucer’s unique location among residential areas has allowed it to remain in the heart of Sharjah despite its many different iterations. It originally opened in 1978 as a one-stop-shop and restaurant but has transformed over time to a newsstand, a gift shop, and a COOP supermarket. Throughout these changes, the building’s architecture changed with the addition of an annex, partitions, and even a false ceiling. Right before SAF acquired the building in 2012, it served as a fast-food fried chicken restaurant, Al Taza. Minor renovations were performed before the building began its life as an arts center in 2015 when it was first used by SAF for the Sharjah Biennial 12. 

Margarita Cheng is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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