Dr. Omar Kholeif, CF FRSA, a writer, curator, and cultural historian, is Director of Collections and Senior Curator at Sharjah Art Foundation, 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-colonial, and critical race theory, Kholeif’s research has explored histories of performance art; the visual experience of mental illness; the interstices of social justice, as well as the aesthetics of digital culture.
The curator of over 100 exhibitions of art, design and architecture; they are the author or editor of 31 books, which have been translated into 12 languages. Widely acknowledged 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 Sharjah Art Foundation, Kholeif oversees collection strategy, development and acquisition as well as relevant exhibition programming and touring. Before their arrival, Kholeif held numerous senior curatorial 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 FACT, Liverpool; Head of Art and Technology at Space, London and Founding Director, UK Arab Film Festival.
They have served as 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, as well as the 7th Liverpool Biennial.
Media outlets including, The New York Times, BBC, Financial Times, The 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 educator and researcher, they have held research and teaching positions at the University of Chicago; Hunter College, City University of New York, and the Ruskin School of Art, 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.
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, a manifesto in the making (2021); Internet Art: The First Thirty Years (Phaidon, 2022) and Code-Switchers: The Art of Being Invisible (forthcoming, 2022).