Omar Kholeif leads new Global Visions Initiative

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Omar Kholeif leads new Global Visions Initiative
Omar Kholeif Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

CHICAGO, IL.- Launched as a pilot program in 2016, Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, officially announces the launch of the Global Visions Initiative, a program to develop the museum's global reach by supporting exhibitions, acquisitions, and curatorial activities focused on contemporary artists from the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

In alignment with the Global Visions Initiative, Anne Kaplan, Chair of the MCA Board of Trustees, has announced the addition of Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi (سلطان سعود القاسمي) to the MCA's Board of Trustees. Al Qassemi was elected at the June 26, 2017, MCA Board meeting. "We are thrilled to welcome Sultan Al Qassemi to the MCA Board," said Kaplan. "He brings an incredible expertise as a leader in global art, culture, and philanthropy and through his work at the Barjeel Art Foundation, he is an important collector of contemporary art. His knowledge and experience moves us toward our important goal of being a global museum and representing diverse perspectives for our audiences."

Sheikh Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is based in the United Arab Emirates and is founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, an independent initiative to build a publicly accessible art collection in the UAE contributing to the development of the Arab region art scene. Al Qassemi is also a prominent commentator on Arab affairs, both as a writer for publications such as the Financial Times, Guardian, and the Globe and Mail, as well as Twitter, where his tweets during the Arab Spring became a major news source and were named one of the best Twitter feeds of 2011 by TIME magazine. Al Qassemi was a Director's Fellow in the MIT Media Lab (2014-16) and a practitioner-in-residence at the Hagop Kevorkian Center of Near East Studies at New York University (2017), where he offered a special course on politics of Middle Eastern art. He continues to write and tweet about the Arab world from his home in Sharjah, UAE, and gives lectures internationally.

The Global Visions Initiative is led by the MCA's Manilow Senior Curator Omar Kholeif who has recently been named the MCA's Director of Global Initiatives in addition to his responsibilities as Senior Curator. In his new role, Kholeif leads the Global Visions Initiative and oversees all of its activities, including research and mentorship opportunities for the museum and creating a dialogue across various regions. Kholeif will work with newly named co-chairs of the initiative, Al Qassemi and Ambassador Louis Susman. "I am thrilled to be leading the Global Visions Initiative with the support of our extraordinary co-chairs whose expertise and experience I trust and value," said Omar Kholeif. "Together, I believe we have the potential to re-shape art history and make the MCA the most global and forward-thinking contemporary art museum in North America."

The MCA is committed to building a major platform for its global curatorial team to collect, exhibit, educate, and support the work of artists internationally. The Global Visions Initiative is a groundbreaking program to help the museum and its curators re-map the history of contemporary art since 1945 in light of a more complex art historical understanding of global movements of artists across generations. Through this initiative, the MCA will be able to present the daring artistic voices who may have been previously marginalized or peripheral and introduce them in a museum context for US audiences for the first time.

The Global Visions Initiative has already played a major role in funding important exhibitions on Michael Rakowitz, Otobong Nkanga, and Basim Magdy, along with an upcoming group exhibition in 2019, Many Tongues: Art, Language, and Revolution in the Middle East and South Asia, all curated by Omar Kholeif. Kholeif has also been instrumental in securing several new acquisitions from artists from the Middle East including a key work by the Arab-German artist Marwan, Untitled (Das Knie), (1967); a painting by one of the Iran's most important artists, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Group 4 (2012); and a film by Berlin and Jerusalem-based artist Jumana Manna, A Magical Substance Flows Into Me (2015).

Omar Kholeif has been the Manilow Senior Curator at the MCA since fall 2015. He is a writer, curator, and editor whose work focuses on the intersection of art, politics, urbanism, and emerging technologies. He has curated or co-curated numerous exhibitions and projects internationally including the Abraaj Group Art Prize, the Liverpool Biennial, Focus: Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean at the Armory Show, and the Cyprus Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, as well as major programs at the ICA and Tate Modern in London. His upcoming exhibitions at the MCA Chicago include the first US museum retrospective of the work of Michael Rakowitz, the group show I Was Raised on the Internet, and co-curating this year's exhibition We Are Here for the MCA's 50th anniversary.

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