Dr. Omar Kholeif CF FRSA (EG/SU/UK) is an author of prose and poetry; an artist of lyric and performance; a curator in the physical and the virtual sphere; a cultural historian of the academy and its peripheries, and a broadcaster who explores the public’s understanding of the internet and its relationship to art, culture, and social justice. Kholeif currently serves as Director of Collections and Senior Curator at Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), UAE. Initially trained as a political scientist, Kholeif’s career began as a music writer, researcher, and producer of documentaries in the UK broadcast sector. Over the last 17 years, they have been vested in the picture palace of museums and the public sphere. Concerned with emerging technologies and narratives of colonialism, ethnicity, and race, Kholeif’s work often focuses on marginalised histories, the visual expression of mental health, the application of justice, and the mutable nature of the image in the digital age.
The curator of over 60 exhibitions exhibitions of visual art realized on six continents; they are the author/co-author or editor of over thirty books, which have been translated into 12 languages. Widely recognised for their prolific and exploratory output, Kholeif has been called a “Game Changer” by British GQ and has been listed as a 40 under 40 Global Influencer on three different occasions by international cultural magazine, Apollo.
At SAF, Dr Kholeif oversees collection strategy, development and acquisition as well as exhibition programming, conservation, and partnership opportunities. Previosly, Dr. Kholeif held leadership posts, including, Manilow Senior Curator and Director of Global Initiatives at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago; Curator at Whitechapel Gallery, London; Senior Curator at Cornerhouse and HOME, Manchester; Curator at Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT), Liverpool; Head of Art and Technology at SPACE, London and Founding Director, UK Arab Film Festival (now Safar Film Festival), the UK’s only continuing film festival devoted to Arab and African cinema.
Kholeif have served as a Curator for the Time, Forward!, 58th Venice Biennale; co-curated the 14th Sharjah Biennial: Leaving the Echo Chamber; the Manchester International Festival; the Cyprus Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale; the 2015 Armory Show, New York; served as Curator for Abu Dhabi Art, Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi (2015-ongoing), the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2012-14), as well as the 7th Liverpool Biennial.
Media outlets including, The New York Times, BBC, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, GQ, The Economist, The Art Newspaper, Vice, The New Scientist, among others, have profiled Omar and their work. Kholeif has also been recognized for their scholarship, with awards from the Graham Foundation and Creative Capital | The Andy Warhol Foundation.
A professor of fine art, art history and the politics of visual culture, they have held research and teaching positions at the University of Chicago; Hunter College, City University of New York; Northwestern University, Evanston, IL and the University of Oxford. Kholeif is a member/fellow of organizations including, the RSA; WCMT; ICOM; CIMAM; AICA USA; IBA; ACASA; AMCA; CAA; AAH and MESA. They sit on the College Art Association (CAA) committee for the Art Journal Award for Distinction.
A critical advocate and spokesperson on inclusion strategies, Kholeif advises a number of organisations on their access policies. Kholeif is a Trustee of SPACE, London, where they are Chair of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; an Ambassador for Mental Health Research UK and Global Ambassador for the Leslie Lohman Museum, New York. They are a founding director of the broadcasting platform, artPost21. Their book, Internet_Art: From the Birth of the Web to the Rise of NFTs is published by Phaidon in 2023. You can catch Dr. O’s alter-ego on the artPost21 Podcast.