Omar Kholeif (PhD, MA) is a writer, curator, and editor based in Chicago and London. The author and editor of over a dozen books, Kholeif publishes widely on contemporary art and culture for publications including The Guardian, Artforum, Art Monthly, Wired, Mousse, and Frieze. His writing has also appeared in: Poetry Magazine,Film International, Springerin, Monopol, Art Review, Scope, The Advocate, Huffington Post, Afterimage, Art in America, ArtPapers, Camera Obscura, Camera Austria, Variety, Contemporary Practices, The Happy Hypocrite, Jaadliyya, Sight and Sound, PopMatters, Transnational Cinemas, and Rhizome, among others.
Kholeif has been featured and profiled by media organs including The Financial Times, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Daily Telegraph, GQ, The BBC (Print, Radio and TV Broadcast), The National, Canvas, Elephant, Harper’s Bazaar, Al Jazeera, MTV, and Resonance FM, among others. He was a founding editor of Portal 9, a journal of critical writing about art and the city, published in Beirut, Lebanon, and served for 3 years as Senior Editor of Ibraaz, the leading journal of art and visual culture in the Middle East.
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. His writing has been praised in the press by Douglas Coupland, Patti Smith, David Lynch, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Alice Rawsthorn and Peter Webber, to name a few. His forthcoming books include, Goodbye World! (Sternberg Press, 2018) and The Artists Who Will Change the World (Thames and Hudson, 2018, with a preface by Douglas Coupland), as well edited volumes for the Museum of Contemporary Art and University of Chicago Press, such as Michael Rakowitz: Backstroke of the West (2017), I Was Raised on the Internet (2018), Many Tongues: Art, Language, and Revolution in the Middle East and South Asia (2018), and, with Teju Cole, Otobong Nkanga: Drawings.
Dr. Kholeif has curated over 100 exhibitions, commissions and special projects internationally, including the Cyprus Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, The Abraaj Group Art Prize, and Focus: Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean for the Armory Show. He has worked collaboratively on projects including the 2012 Liverpool Biennial and on exhibitions at Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool, ICA (London), and Beirut (Cairo). A historian of visual culture in its broadest terms, Dr. Kholeif is a specialist in contemporary art and media, and is considered by many to be one of the leading thinkers on the art and culture of the Middle East and North Africa as well as on issues surrounding art and technology. He currently holds the post of Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago) and also maintains his position as Senior Curator at HOME (Manchester) and as Guest Curator for the Manchester International Festival, where he is working on a major survey on the art of David Lynch. In 2016, Kholeif was the Arthur and Carol Kaufman Goldberg Visiting Professor at Hunter College, New York.
Previously, Kholeif was Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery (London), where he organised major projects and exhibitions with Fiona Banner, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and Emily Jacir, among others. At Whitechapel, he also curated Imperfect Chronology, a major survey of Arab art from the modern to the contemporary period, and Electronic Superhighway, a historic survey of art’s relationship to the Internet, from 1966 to the present day.
Kholeif was also previously Senior Curator at Cornerhouse (Manchester), where he curated major projects by Sophia Al-Maria, Joana Hajdithomas and Khalil Joreige, and James Richards. He also co-curated the inaugural three-year exhibition program for HOME (Manchester) and has
served as curator and artistic director for numerous institutions and festivals dedicated to the art and visual culture of the Arab world.