Defne Ayas (b.1976) is the Director of the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam as of 2012.
During her directorship, Witte de With commissioned Dai Hanzhi: 5000 Artists (with UCCA, Beijing, 2014); Moderation(s) by artist Heman Chong (with Spring, Hong Kong, 2012-2014); The Humans - a theatrical play by writer and artist Alexandre Singh – and its monthly summits Causeries (2012-2013); the open archive and collection Tulkus 1880 to 2018 by artist Paola Pivi (with Castello di Rivoli, 2013-2018) as well as the award-winning exhibition The Temptation of AA Bronson (2013). In addition, Ayas launched Witte de With’s new online platform WdW Review (www.wdwreview.org).
While in Shanghai (2005-2012), Ayas co-founded Arthub Asia in 2007 – an Asia-wide active research and production initiative.
Ayas remains a Curator-at-Large of New York-based PERFORMA, where she has organized projects with an international roster of acclaimed artists, architects, curators, and writers, and where she directed biennial’s architecture, writing and print programs since the biennial's first edition in 2005.
In September 2012, Ayas co-curated the 11th Baltic Triennale (with Benjamin Cook, LUX, in collaboration with artists Ieva Misevičiūtė and Michael Portnoy) to great acclaim, as well as the Istanbul and Bandung city pavilions as part of the Intercity Project of the 9th Shanghai Biennale.
She is a Board member of the Rijksakademie (Amsterdam); an advisory board member of PAC (Milan), Jan Van Eyck Academy (Maastricht), Collectorspace (Istanbul), SAHA (Istanbul), Protocinema (Istanbul) and Art Review Asia (Beijing); and a curator at large of Spring Workshop (Hong Kong). Ayas has taught at New York University between 2006-2012 and has lectured at Columbia University, New York, the Tate Modern, London, the Museum for Chinese Art, New York, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong, de Balie, Amsterdam, and Art Basel among other institutions. A patron of ArtInternational, Istanbul, she served on the jury of various fairs including Art Rotterdam, Art Brussels, and Artissima, Turin.
Ayas occasionally contributes to publications such as Yishu Journal, A Prior, Mousse and Creative Time Reports, and was nominated for ICI¹s Independent Curatorial Vision Award in 2012.