Dr. Omar Kholeif (EGYPT/UK) is a curator, writer, editor, platform initiator/organiser, and sometime filmmaker based in Chicago and London. A specialist in modern and contemporary art, Kholeif is also a scholar on contemporary artist film, video and emerging technology, with a particular focus on politics, narrative and geography in a global context.
Kholeif currently holds the post of Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Previously, he was Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, Senior Curator at Cornerhouse and HOME, Manchester and Senior Editor of Ibraaz Publishing.
Kholeif has curated over a 100 exhibitions, commissions, and programmes internationally.
He writes widely for the likes of The Guardian, Art Monthly, Wired, Mousse, Film International, frieze and Artforum International, and is the author or editor of over twenty books of prose, fiction and criticism. Kholeif holds degrees from the University of Glasgow (MA), Screen Academy Scotland (MA), The Royal College of Art, London (MA) and a PhD from the University of Reading and the University of the Arts, Zurich.
Previously, Omar was Curator at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Liverpool, the UK’s national centre for the support, commission and exhibition of artist film, video and new media, where he commissioned and curated major projects by Akram Zaatari, Pedro Reyes, Anja Kirschner and David Panos, Semiconductor, and Ahmed Basiony, among others. He has also been Artistic Director at the Arab British Centre, London, where he founded Safar: The Festival of Popular Arab Cinema, the award-winning film festival held at the ICA, London.
He was the founding Director and Artistic Director of the UK’s Arab Film Festival and Safar: the Festival of Arab Cinema, and continues to curate programmes of Arab film internationally. Formerly, he was a co-curator for Abandon Normal Devices and the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art, where he was a co-curator for the 2012 edition and an adjunct curator of the 2010 edition.
Kholeif was also Senior Editor of Ibraaz, the leading critical forum for visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East. He was also a co-founding editor of Portal 9: Stories and Critical Writing About the City — a bi-annual journal focusing on urbanism and architecture.
Past board seats and initiatives include: no.w.here, London, and the editorial board of Documents of Contemporary Art for MIT Press, Cambridge, MA and Whitechapel Gallery, London. He has been a juror for the Film London Jarman Award, an advisor to the Sundance Lab, a juror for The Line, East London’s iconic public art walk, a juror for the Irish Pavilion at Venice, and on the jury of New Vision Film Award at CPH:DOX, to name a few such commitments.
Major international projects include, the national representation for Cyprus at the 56th Venice Biennale, Focus: Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean at the Armory Show, New York, the Abraaj Group Art Prize at Art Dubai, UAE, Focus: Beyond Territory at Abu Dhabi Art, and After Acceleration, the V-A-C Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale.
He is a Churchill Fellow, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA).
In 2014, 2015 and 2016, Kholeif was named 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 by Artsy; and, a ‘game changer’ by GQ, who listed him as one of the most influential figures in British culture working today.