Dr. Omar Kholeif, CF FRSA is an artist and historian whose work is made manifest as a writer and curator, currently, Director of Collections and Senior Curator at Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF), Government of Sharjah, UAE. Trained as a political scientist, Kholeif’s career began as a journalist and documentary filmmaker before entering into the picture palace of museums. Concerned with the intersections of emerging technologies with post/contra-colonial, ethnicity and critical race theory, Kholeif’s research has focused on histories of performance; the visuality of mental illness; the interstices of social justice and the aesthetics of digital culture.
The curator of over 100 exhibitions of art, design and architecture on six continents; they are the author/co-author or editor of 33 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, Kholeif oversees collection strategy, development and acquisition as well as relevant exhibition programming and touring. Previoisly, Kholeif held numerous senior curatorial and leadership posts, including, Manilow Senior Curator and Director of Global Initiatives at the Museum of Contemporary Art 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).
They have served as a Curator for the V—A—C Foundation, Moscow/Venice; 14th Sharjah Biennial; Manchester International Festival; Cyprus Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale; Armory Show, New York (2015); Abu Dhabi Art, Department of Culture and Tourism (2015-18), 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 their work. Kholeif has also been recognized for their scholarship, with awards from the Graham Foundation and Creative Capital | The Andy Warhol Foundation.
An active educator and researcher, they have held research and teaching positions at the University of Chicago; Hunter College, City University of New York; Northwestern University, Evanston, IL; SAIC and University of Oxford, among others. Kholeif is a member/fellow of the RSA; WCMT; ICOM; CIMAM; Chatham House; AICA USA; IBA; ACASA; AMCA; Mind UK; CAA; AAH and MESA, among others.
A critical advocate and spokesperson on inclusion strategies in the workplace, Kholeif advises a number of third sector organisations on their policies. Kholeif is a Trustee of SPACE, London, where they are Chair of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and is an Ambassador for Mental Health Research UK. Their forthcoming titles include, Internet Art: The First Thirty Years (forthcoming, 2022); The Age of Anxiety 4.0: A Manifesto for Hysterical Worry (2022/23); and Code-Switchers: The Art of Being Invisible (forthcoming, 2022/23).