Omar Kholeif Appointed Senior Curator at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art

It's the latest chapter in the meteoric career rise of the new star curator.

Omar Kholeif
Photo: Eric T. White via Enterteiment

The curator and writer Omar Kholeif has been appointed as senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. He will begin his tenure on November 23, 2015.

Kholeif is currently a curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, where he began working in January 2014.

A tireless curator, writer, editor, programmer, and traveler (possessed of a restless energy not unlike Hans Ulrich Obrist’s), Kholeif is also senior visiting curator at Cornerhouse and HOME, Manchester, and the senior editor of Ibraaz Publishing, a critical editorial platform about the visual cultures from North Africa and the Middle East.

Born in Cairo, Egypt, Kholeif holds degrees from the University of Glasgow and as well as from London’s Royal College of Art, where he graduated with an MA in Curatorial Practice in 2011. Kholeif has recently completed a PhD in curatorial and cross-disciplinary cultural studies at the University of Arts in Zurich.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago<br>Photo: via MCA Chicago

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago
Photo: via MCA Chicago

Kholeif’s rise in the art world has been nothing if not meteoric, accumulating a large number of prestigious positions in a relatively short amount of time. From 2009 to 2013, he was curator at Liverpool’s FACT, a role he combined with the artistic directorship of the Arab British Centre in London. In 2011, he founded the UK’s Arab Film Festival.

In February 2013, Kholeif returned to London to become director and curator at the White Building, a young institution focused on art and technology, before landing the prestigious role of curator at the Whitechapel Gallery less than a year later.

As well as cross-cultural studies, the intersection between art and technology is another main strand of Kholeif’s research, who edited the essay compilation You Are Here: Art after the Internet in 2014.

Cover of You Are Here: Art after the Internet (2014).<br>Photo: via Motto Distribution

Cover of You Are Here: Art after the Internet (2014).
Photo: via Motto Distribution

Some of the artists Kholeif has worked with include Sophia Al-Maria, Jon Rafman, Jamie Shovlin, Anja Kirschner, David Panos, Pedro Reyes, Akram Zaatari, and Lawrence Abu Hamdan, whom he commissioned to create a new work for the 2015 edition of the Armory Show, whose Focus section Kholeif curated.

“I am thrilled to be joining the team at the MCA and to be making Chicago my new home,” Kholeif said in a statement. “I have long admired the museum and the city’s rich cultural history, and I look forward to engaging with its artists and audiences in the years to come. Michael Darling and Madeleine Grynsztejn have built the MCA into a museum of international significance; I am excited to work with them towards a shared vision—bringing the most urgent artistic voices to new audiences both locally and globally.”


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