Introduction to Global Art

Middle East and North Africa

  • Zilkha Auditorium

Past Event

This event was on Thursday 26 February, 10am - 6pm Friday 27 February, 10am - 7pm Saturday 28 February, 10am - 5pm

Join us for an intensive three day course as we take an in-depth look at one of the most fascinating and historic art scenes in the world. An Introduction to Global Art: Middle East and North Africa will focus on the artistic traditions, institutions, networks and ideas from these regions, which have framed a generation of artists and redefined the international art world.

Lead by Omar Kholeif, Curator, Whitechapel Gallery, and an expert panel of guest speakers, you will learn about the local histories of the region and address ideas around faith, displacement and myth through the work of key artists from Etel Adnan, Mona Hatoum to Wael Shawky.  You will engage in lively discussion and debate about the aesthetics of conflict and the contested space of art in politics, as well as learning about patronage and the cultural infrastructure of the regions, including institutions, collections and biennales.

Join Omar Kholeif, Curator, Whitechapel Gallery, and speakers: artist Zineb Sedira, Dr Venetia Porter (British Museum), Vassilis Oikonomopoulos (Tate’s Middle East  North Africa Acquisitions Committee – MENAAC),  Daniella Rose King (writer, curator),Maryam Eisler (philanthropist), Dr Anthony Downey (Director, Contemporary Art,  Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and Editor in Chief, Ibraaz), Sultan Al Qassemi (scholar, columnist, commentator) Aaron Cezar (Director, Delfina Foundation) and Ben Rawlingson-Plant (Partner, Brunswick Arts) among others, for a rich programme of talks, informative discussions, debate and guided field trip in London to learn about this remarkable regions.

To find out more information about the course, please email

Course Programme

Thursday 26 February, Whitechapel Gallery (10-7pm)
Cultural Backdrop

Introduction by curator and course chair Omar Kholeif, who will contextualise what will be addressed, within historical, social background and identify key central historic and contemporary figures.
Dr Anthony Downey (Director, Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and Editor in Chief, Ibraaz) leads a session examining the issues encountered when artists represent conflict in their work. Specifically, we will explore the legacy of Lebanon’s civil war on art practices across the region.

Daniella Rose King (writer, curator) leads a session on the work of Wael Shawky: reinterpreting faith, truth, myth and history.

Sultan al Qassemi (scholar, columnist, commentator) looks at the new major institutional developments in the Gulf and transient platforms such as the Sharjah Biennial, Art Dubai etc.

We end the first day at writer, collector and philanthropist Maryam Eisler’s house with an introduction to patronage in the regions.

Friday 27 February, British Museum, Tate Modern, Delfina Foundation (10am – 6pm)
Artists and Collections

We meet at the British Museum with curator Dr. Venetia Porter who takes us behind the scenes of the collection and archive to explore links between modern and contemporary art from the regions.

We travel to Tate Modern for a talk by Vassilis Oikonomopoulos (Assistant Curator, Collections International Art) who talks through the strategy behind the Collection’s acquisition, research and objectives within an international context.

We end the day with a talk and drinks at Delfina Foundation with Director Aaron Cezar.

Saturday 28 February, Whitechapel Gallery (10am – 5pm)
Public Perceptions and beyond

We start the day with a screening and Q&A with French-born London-based artist Zineb Sedira, whose film, installation and object-making explores ideas of mobility, memory and transmission.

We are joined by Ben Rawlingson Plant (Partner, Brunswick Arts) who will look at the changes in and current perception and media interpretation of Middle Eastern art since 2005, with special focus on Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

We will look at contemporary Arab identity within the context of the exhibition with Ted McDonald-Toone (expert on the intersection of geopolitics, art and the history of exhibitions). We close the course with an informal open table discussion with final thoughts with course leader and chair, Omar Kholeif.