Dr. Omar Kholeif, FRSA is a writer, curator and cultural historian who has curated more than 100 exhibitions, special projects and commissions globally. At the heart of his work is a mission to change the way that people see and engage with hidden histories in an era of fast-paced social and economic change and hyper-mediated technological evolution.
Kholeif is currently Director of Collections and Senior Curator at Sharjah Art Foundation, where he oversees collection strategy, development and acquisition as well as attendant exhibition, publishing and discursive opportunities. Before joining the Foundation, he was Manilow Senior Curator and Director of Global Initiatives at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Curator at Whitechapel Gallery, London; and Senior Curator at Cornerhouse and HOME, Manchester. He has also served as an artistic director or consultant for numerous international film and art festivals.
Selected curatorial projects include Art in the Age of Anxiety, Sharjah Art Foundation (2020); Time, Forward!, V—A—C Foundation, 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber (2019); David Lynch: My Head Is Disconnected, Manchester International Festival, UK (2019); Focus: Drawing, Tracing and Mapping, Abu Dhabi Art (2019); Cyprus Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale (2015); Abraaj Group Art Prize, Dubai (2015); Focus: Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean, Armory Show, New York (2015); and Liverpool Biennial (2012).
He is the author of over two dozen books and catalogues on modern and contemporary art, many of which focus on the relationship between art and technology or the politics of art in the Middle East. His writing in books, national newspapers, as well as international journals and magazines has been translated into 12 languages, and he has sold more than 100,000 books.
Media organisations such as, The New York Times, BBC, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, GQ, The Economist, The Art Newspaper, Vice, The New Scientist, and others, have profiled his work. He has served on numerous juries, including those for the Film London Jarman Award and the Thoma Foundation Arts Writing Award in Digital Art. Kholeif has also won awards recognising his work, including grants from the Graham Foundation and Creative Capital | The Andy Warhol Foundation.
In 2014, 2015 and 2016, Kholeif was ranked one of the 100 most powerful people in the art world by Artlyst and the Blouin Art Info Media Group; one of the 50 most powerful people in the Middle Eastern art world by both Canvas Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar; one of “8 curators to watch,” in 2015 and “one of the most influential curators of the year” in 2016 by Artsy; and, a “game changer” by British GQ. He was also ranked Number 15 by New City in Chicago’s Power 50, and one of Apollo Magazine’s 40 Under 40 global influencers, on two different occasions.
Kholeif has taught and guest lectured at numerous universities including the University of Chicago, Hunter College, New York, and the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Churchill Fellow, a member of ICOM, the International Council of Museums, CIMAM, International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art, and AICA, the International Association of Art Critics.
Alongside his work in art and culture, Kholeif has a strong interest in public policy and volunteers his time for a variety of humanitarian causes. Over the last decade, a core focus of his time has been dedicated to advocating and fundraising for charities that support mental health research.