We are excited to welcome our new Hugh Kaul Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Wassan Al-Khudhairi, who began her appointment on May 5, 2014. Al-Khudhairi was previously Co-Artistic Director at the Gwangju Biennale Foundation in South Korea, Founding Director of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar, and has held positions at the Brooklyn Museum and High Museum of Art. “Her extensive curatorial experience has exposed her to incredible collections and networks around the world,” says BMA Director Gail Andrews. “I am confident her international experience will strengthen efforts to expand our global approach to the collection, while her engaging curatorial style will only deepen our relationships within the community.”
Don’t miss Wassan’s first lecture in her new role at the BMA, happening at October 2’s First Thursday at 7PM!
MY MUSEUM: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
WASSAN AL-KHUDHAIRI: I was born in Kuwait to Iraqi parents and although I never had the opportunity to live in Baghdad, where my family is from, I have traveled there often as a child. I’ve lived in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, England, California, Georgia, Egypt, Qatar, Korea, and now I’m in Birmingham! Traveling is a big part of my life since most of my family lives overseas, but also because I enjoy the adventure, being in new environments, and challenging my perceptions about the world.
MM: How would you describe your curatorial style?
WAK: Constantly shifting, adapting, and changing. Context and audience are two big things I think about, and I like to find ways to engage audiences and make connections. I often consider how to interpret the world (maybe the world of contemporary art more specifically) from the context of where I am. I want to understand my context and then be a sort of lighthouse, looking beyond and finding ways to interpret it from my position. Taking a multidisciplinary approach, I often try and find alternative ways to engage with art through literature, music, science, and so on. Recently I’ve found myself re-considering the model of the exhibition—I think there can be multiple ways to manifest the research and work that comes from curatorial thinking. Sometimes it takes the form of an exhibition, but other times it could be through a discussion, workshop, program, series, or something totally new.
MM: What is one of your top priorities in your new position?
WAK: My first area of focus is the permanent collection and learning what we have. But I also want to think about new ways to present our collection, as well as develop a strategy for the direction we will take for expanding our collection.
MM: What are you most excited about for your move to Birmingham?
WAK: I’m excited about exploring Birmingham, its restaurants and different neighborhoods. I’m also looking forward to traveling around Alabama and visiting other cities in the state. I’m most looking forward to driving down to the beach this summer!
MM: Why do you like Modern and Contemporary Art?
WAK: I like the opportunity that artworks present—great works of art create opportunities to think about things in a new way, whether they challenge your existing ideas, confirm your thoughts and experiences, or just allow you to contemplate new thoughts. Contemporary art can often be a great tool for talking about the world we live in, our past, present, and future. Sometimes it can be challenging and present itself in new forms (installation, video, sound), and I like that constant flux that it often occupies.