Dr. Omar Kholeif, FRSA is a writer, curator and cultural historian who has curated more than 100 exhibitions of visual art, architecture and digital culture across six continents. They are the author or co-author of 31 books in 12 languages, which have sold over 100,000 copies in the English language. Omar’s career began as a music journalist at age 17, before moving into the film and tv industry at age 19 in Glasgow, Scotland. They finally settled in the visual arts, where Dr. Kholeif has led inclusive artistic programming for more than a decade.
Kholeif currently serves as Director of Collections and Senior Curator at Sharjah Art Foundation, Government of Sharjah, UAE, where they oversee collection strategy, development and acquisition as well as attendant exhibition programming and touring. Before joining the Foundation, they were 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.
Select curatorial projects include, Unsettled Objects, Sharjah Art Foundation (2021); Art in the Age of Anxiety, Sharjah Art Foundation (2020); To Speak with Many Tongues, Royal College of Art/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 (2019); Cyprus Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale (2015); Focus: Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean, Armory Show, New York (2015) and Liverpool Biennial (2012).
Media outlets including, 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 their work.
They serve on juries frequently, including those for the Film London Jarman Award and the Thoma Foundation Arts Writing Award. Kholeif has also been recognized for their work, with awards from the Graham Foundation and Creative Capital | The Andy Warhol Foundation. They also serve as a consultant editor for Phaidon, the world’s leading art publisher.
In 2014, 2015 and 2016, Kholeif was ranked one of the 100 most powerful people in the art world by Artlyst and Blouin Media Group; one of the 50 most powerful people in the Middle Eastern art world by 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. They were ranked Number 15 by New City in Chicago’s Power 50; they have twice been one of Apollo Magazine’s 40 Under 40 global influencers.
Kholeif has held research and teaching positions at universities such as, the University of Chicago; Hunter College, City University of New York, and the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. They are 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; Chatham House, and AICA, the International Association of Art Critics.
A staunch advocate for Access, Equity and Inclusion, Kholeif regularly works with national and international government bodies on ‘inclusivity’ strategies. This is evidenced in their work as Trustee of Space, London, where they are Chair of Access, Equity and Inclusion and as Ambassador for Mental Health Research UK. Look out for their forthcoming books including, Internet Art: The First Thirty Years (Phaidon, 2022) and Code-Switchers (Sylvia and Cathy, 2022).