Curating the Middle East in America: A Roundtable Discussion
Time: 02/04/2016, 12:30 PM—2:00 PM Location: Washington 5, Exhibition Level
Co-chairs: Sarah-Neel Smith, Maryland Institute College of Art & Jessica Gerschultz, University of Kansas
Organizer: Nada Shabout
Mitra M. Abbaspour, Independent Curator and Scholar
Kimberly Masteller, Nelson-Atkins Museum
Valerie Hillings, Abu Dhabi Project, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
In step with the globalization of artistic canons, recent curatorial efforts in the U.S. have sought to engage general museum audiences with modern and contemporary art from the Middle East and Islamic world. Thematic exhibitions and reinstallations of permanent collections confront established curatorial divisions which have often relegated art of the “Middle East” to the past while suggesting that artists in Europe and North America are at the helm of modern and contemporary art. In offering new narratives to various publics, curators have the opportunity to query regional and trans-regional artistic strategies and networks, as well as historicize and decenter museum practices and the disciplinary perspectives that upheld them. This session brings into conversation U.S.-based curators whose work investigates issues of locality, historicity, inclusion/exclusion, abstraction, and contemporaneity with a focus on artworks produced in the Middle East and its diasporas. Panelists may reflect on the problematic posed by constructs such as region and period, expectations for artwork to serve as a “bridge” or dialogue between cultures and religions, negotiations with donors and sponsors or across curatorial departments, the involvement and perspectives of artists, and larger questions of modernism as articulated in the Arab world, Iran, and Turkey.