E-Issue 07 –– AUH
Winter 2023-24

January 29th, 2024

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in Abu Dhabi/Dubai
  3. Cover Interview: Shaikha Al Ketbi on Darawan
  4. Rapport: Public Art in the Gulf and a Case Study of Manar Abu Dhabi
  5. Hashel Al Lamki’s Survey Exhibition Maqam Reflects on a Decade of Practice in Abu Dhabi
  6. “You Can’t Stand on a Movement”: Michelangelo Pistoletto Interviews Benton Interviewing Pistoletto

Winter/Spring 2024

Curators Interview May 14, 2024
AUH Embracing Change through an Open System: Maya Allison and Duygu Demir on “In Real Time” at NYUAD Art Gallery

About ––

    What We Do
    Editorial Board

Interviews ––

    Selected Archive

Open Call ––

    E-08 Seoul

Newsletter ––

Chronological Archive ––

    Selected Archive

Artist Interview November 18th, 2016
AUH Raed Yassin in Abu Dhabi

Editorial March 1st, 2018
AUH Abu Dhabi Is The New Calabasas

Exhibition Listing May 22nd, 2018
DXB Christopher Benton: If We Don't Reclaim Our History, The Sand Will

Artist Interview June 15th, 2018
TYO An Interview with BIEN, a Rising Japanese Artist

Artist Interview July 17th, 2018
TYO Rintaro Fuse on Selfies and Cave Painting

Artist Interview August 28th, 2018
BER Slavs and Tatars: “Pulling a Thread to Undo The Sweater”

Artist Interview September 1st, 2018
NYC Shirin Neshat In Conversation with Sophie Arni and Ev Zverev

Artist Interview September 1st, 2018
PAR Hottest Spices: Michèle Lamy

E-Issue 01 –– AUH/DXB
Summer 2020

August 1st, 2020

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in the UAE
  3. Pop(Corn): Hashel Al Lamki
  4. Tailoring in Abu Dhabi
  5. Rapport: Dubai
  6. Michael Rakowitz From the Diaspora

Fall/Winter 2020-21

Artist Interview August 23rd, 2020
LHR/MCT Hanan Sultan Rhymes Frankincense with Minimalism

Artist Interview August 24th, 2020
DXB Augustine Paredes Taking Up Space

Artist Interview August 26th, 2020
AUH Sarah Almehairi Initiates Conversations

Market Interview August 28th, 2020
AUH/DXB 101 Pioneers Ethical and Curious Art Collecting

Exhibition September 1st, 2020
DXB Alserkal Arts Foundation Presents Mohamed Melehi

Market Interview September 4th, 2020
DXB Meet Tamila Kochkarova Behind ‘No Boys Allowed’

Artist Interview September 7th, 2020
DXB Taaboogah Infuses Comedy Into Khaleeji Menswear

Artist Interview September 10th, 2020
LHR/CAI Alaa Hindia’s Jewelry Revives Egyptian Nostalgia

Curator Interview September 14th, 2020
UAE Tawahadna Introduces MENA Artists to a Global Community

Exhibition Review September 24th, 2020
MIA a_part Gives Artists 36 Hours to React

Artist Interview September 27th, 2020
AUH BAIT 15 Welcomes New Member Zuhoor Al Sayegh

Market Interview October 14th, 2021
DXB Thaely Kicks Off Sustainable Sneakers

Exhibition Review October 19th, 2020
DXB Do You See Me How I See You?

Exhibition October 22nd, 2020
TYO James Jarvis Presents Latest Collages at 3110NZ

Exhibition Review October 22nd, 2020
AUH Ogamdo: Crossing a Cultural Highway between Korea and the UAE

Book Review October 28th, 2020
DAM Investigating the Catalogues of the National Museum of Damascus

Exhibition Review November 13th, 2020
Kanye Says Listen to the Kids: Youth Takeover at Jameel Arts Centre

Exhibition Review November 16th, 2021
DXB Melehi’s Waves Complicate Waving Goodbye

Exhibition Review November 19th, 2020
DXB Spotlight on Dubai Design Week 2020

Exhibition Review November 21st, 2020
DXB 101 Strikes Again with Second Sale at Alserkal Avenue

Exhibition Review
November 23rd, 2020

AUH SEAF Cohort 7 at Warehouse 421

Exhibition Review December 9th, 2020
SHJ Sharjah Art Foundation Jets Ahead on the Flying Saucer

Curator Interview January 25th, 2021
DXB Sa Tahanan Collective Redefines Home for Filipino Artists

Exhibition Review February 21st, 2021
GRV MIA Anywhere Hosts First Virtual Exhibition of Female Chechen Artists  

🎙️GAD Talk Series –– Season 1 2020

November 1st, 2020
1. What is Global Art Daily? 2015 to Now

November 16th, 2020
2. Where is Global Art Daily? An Open Coversation on Migration as Art Practitioners

November 29th, 2020
3. When the Youth Takes Over: Reflecting on the 2020 Jameel Arts Centre Youth Takeover

December 20th, 2020
4. Young Curators in Tokyo: The Making of The 5th Floor

January 27th, 2021
5. How To Create Digital Networks in The Art World?

E-Issue 02 –– NYC
Spring 2021

February 21st, 2021

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in NYC
  3. Pop(Corn): Zeid Jaouni
  4. You Can Take The Girl Out Of The City
  5. Rapport: NYC
  6. Kindergarten Records Discuss The Future of Electronic Music
  7. Sole DXB Brings NY Hip-Hop To Abu Dhabi
  8. Wei Han Finds ‘Home’ In New York
  9. Vikram Divecha: Encounters and Negotiations

Spring/Summer 2021

Exhibition Review March 3rd, 2021
DXB There’s a Hurricane at the Foundry

Exhibition Review March 7th, 2021
AUH Re-viewing Contrasts: Hyphenated Spaces at Warehouse421

Curator Interview March 21st, 2021
DXB Permeability and Regional Nodes: Sohrab Hura on Curating Growing Like a Tree at Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition March 28th, 2021
DXB Alserkal Art Week Top Picks

Exhibition Review April 1st, 2021
DXB A ‘Menu Poem’ and All That Follows

Exhibition Review April 5th, 2021
DXB A Riot Towards Landscapes

Exhibition April 16th, 2021
RUH Noor Riyadh Shines Light on Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Art Strategy

Artist Interview April 26th, 2021
CTU/AUH/YYZ Sabrina Zhao: Between Abu Dhabi, Sichuan, and Toronto

Exhibition Review April 27th, 2021
TYO BIEN Opens Two Solo Exhibitions in Island Japan and Parcel

Artist Interview April 28th, 2021
DXB Ana Escobar: Objects Revisited

Exhibition May 9th, 2021
LDN Fulfilment Services Ltd. Questions Techno-Capitalism on Billboards in London

Artist Interview May 11th, 2021
BAH Mihrab: Mysticism, Devotion, and Geo-Identity

Curator Interview May 20th, 2021
DXB There Is A You In The Cloud You Can’t Delete: A Review of “Age of You” at Jameel Arts Centre

Market Interview May 26th, 2021
TYO Startbahn, Japan’s Leading Art Blockchain Company, Builds a New Art Infrastructure for the Digital Age

Exhibition June 11th, 2021
TYO “Mimicry of Hollows” Opens at The 5th Floor

Exhibiton Review June 20th, 2021
AUH “Total Landscaping”at Warehouse 421

Artist Interview June 30th, 2021
OSA Rintaro Fuse Curates “Silent Category” at Creative Center Osaka

Exhibition Review August 9th, 2021
DXB “After The Beep”: A Review and Some Reflections

E-Issue 03 ––TYO
Fall 2021

October 1st, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in TYO
  3. Pop(Corn): Nimyu
  4. Ahmad The Japanese: Bady Dalloul on Japan and Belonging
  5. Rapport: Tokyo
  6. Alexandre Taalba Redefines Virtuality at The 5th Floor
  7. Imagining Distant Ecologies in Hypersonic Tokyo: A Review of “Floating Between the Tropical and Glacial Zones”
  8. Ruba Al-Sweel Curates “Garden of e-arthly Delights” at SUMAC Space
  9. Salwa Mikdadi Reflects on the Opening of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arab Center for the Study of Art

Fall/Winter 2021-22

Market Interview October 6th, 2021
RUH HH Prince Fahad Al Saud Discusses Saudi Arabia’s Artistic Renaissance

Exhibition October 7th, 2021
RUH Misk Art Institute’s Annual Flagship Exhibition Explores the Universality of Identity

Curator Interview October 15th, 2021
IST “Once Upon a Time Inconceivable”: A Review and a Conversation

Exhibition Review October 16th, 2021
AUH Woman as a Noun, and a Practice: “As We Gaze Upon Her” at Warehouse421

Exhibition Review February 11th, 2022

Artist Interview February 26th, 2022
TYO Akira Takayama on McDonald’s Radio University, Heterotopia, and Wagner Project

Artist Interview March 10th, 2022
DXB Prepare The Ingredients and Let The Rest Flow: Miramar and Zaid’s “Pure Data” Premieres at Satellite for Quoz Arts Fest 2022

Exhibition March 11th, 2022
DXB Must-See Exhibitions in Dubai - Art Week Edition 2022

Exhibition Review March 14th, 2022
DXB Art Dubai Digital, An Alternative Art World?

E-Issue 04 –– IST
Spring 2022

March 15th, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in IST
  3. Pop(Corn): Refik Anadol
  4. Rapport: Istanbul
  5. Independent Spaces in Istanbul: Sarp Özer on Operating AVTO

Spring/Summer 2022

Curator Interview March 21st, 2022

Market Interview March 28th, 2022
DXB Dubai's Postmodern Architecture: Constructing the Future with 3dr Models

Exhibition April 23rd, 2022
HK Startbahn Presents “Made in Japan 3.0: Defining a New Phy-gital Reality”, an NFT Pop-Up at K11 Art Mall

Exhibition May 6th, 2022
Istanbul’s 5533 Presents Nazlı Khoshkhabar’s “Around and Round”

Artist Interview May 13th, 2022
“We Are Witnessing History”: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian On Their Retrospective Exhibition at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Artist Interview June 13th, 2022
DXB “Geometry is Everywhere”: An Interview and Walking Tour of Order of Magnitude, Jitish Kallat’s Solo Exhibition at Dubai’s Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition June 21st, 2022
DXB Art Jameel Joins The World Weather Network in a Groundbreaking Response to Global Climate Crisis

Exhibition June 27th, 2022
What’s On in the UAE: Our Top Summer Picks

Curator Interview July 9th, 2022
IST Creating an Artist Books Library in Istanbul: Aslı Özdoyuran on BAS

E-Issue 05 –– VCE
Fall 2022

September 5th, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in VCE
  3. Pop(Corn): UAE National Pavilion
  4. Rapport: Venice
  5. Zeitgeist of our Time: Füsun Onur for the Turkish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale
  6. GAD’s Top Picks: National Pavilions
  7. Strangers to the Museum Wall: Kehinde Wiley’s Venice Exhibition Speaks of Violence and Portraiture
  8. Questioning Everyday Life: Alluvium by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian at OGR Torino in Venice

Fall/Winter 2022-23

Market Interview June 28th, 2022
How Pearl Lam Built Her Gallery Between China and Europe

Exhibition November 11th, 2022
“Atami Blues” Brings Together UAE-Based and Japanese Artists in HOTEL ACAO ANNEX

Exhibition December 2nd, 2022
TYO Wetland Lab Proposes Sustainable Cement Alternative in Tokyo

Artist Interview December 9th, 2022
DXB Navjot Altaf Unpacks Eco-Feminism and Post-Pandemic Reality at Ishara Art Foundation

Artist Interview January 8th, 2023
TYO Shu Yonezawa and the Art of Animation

Artist Interview January 19th, 2023
NYC Reflecting on Her Southwestern Chinese Bai Roots, Peishan Huang Captures Human Traces on Objects and Spaces

Exhibition Review February 9th, 2023
DXB Augustine Paredes Builds His Paradise Home at Gulf Photo Plus

Artist Interview February 22nd, 2023
DXB Persia Beheshti Shares Thoughts on Virtual Worlds and the State of Video Art in Dubai Ahead of Her Screening at Bayt Al Mamzar

E-Issue 06 –– DXB/SHJ
Spring 2023

April 12th, 2023

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in the UAE
  3. Pop(Corn): Jumairy
  4. Rapport: Art Dubai 2023
  5. Highlights from Sharjah Biennial 15
  6. Is Time Just an Illusion? A Review of "Notations on Time" at Ishara Art Foundation
  7. Saif Mhaisen and His Community at Bayt AlMamzar

DXB Christopher Joshua Benton to Debut Mubeen, City as Archive at The Third Line Shop in Collaboration with Global Art Daily

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9. Salwa Mikdadi Reflects on the Opening of NYU Abu Dhabi's Arab Center for the Study of Art

By Nada Ammagui

Published on October 1st, 2021

        New York University Abu Dhabi recently announced the opening of alMawrid: the Arab Center for the Study of Art (ACSA) in January 2021, a research center dedicated to the rewriting of regional art historical narratives to be more inclusive and representative of local perspectives.

A much-anticipated and long-overdue academic endeavor, the ACSA is the first research center of its kind in the world. AlMawrid—which means “the source” in Arabic—aims to reevaluate research methodologies and art historical pedagogies about the Arab world, from within the Arab world. AlMawrid is dedicated to “developing new frameworks for the study of the visual arts” of the Arab world by archiving and digitizing primary documents, currently either unavailable to researchers or difficult to access.

In doing so, alMawrid advances current scholarship and provides innovative pedagogical tools to academic institutions around the world. AlMawrid is headed by Salwa Mikdadi, Associate Professor of Practice of Art History and alMawrid Director and Principal Investigator. Mikdadi will be overseeing two initial research projects: the history of Arab art institutions; and the region’s exhibition history.

Shamoon Zamir, Professor of Literature and Visual Studies, is a Co-Principal Investigator at alMawrid and leads the Akkasah Photographic Archive project. May Al-Dabbagh, Assistant Professor of Social Research and Public Policy, serves as the third alMawrid Co-Principal Investigator and heads Haraka: Experimental Lab for Arab Art and Social Thought. Al-Dabbagh’s project aims to contextualize aesthetic, cultural, and intellectual production in the Arab world by investigating social movements and knowledge flows in the region.

Akkasah, a previously-established archive at NYUAD and Professor Zamir’s brain-child, collects and preserves primary photographic materials from artists and art historians to build an accessible and comprehensive visual archive. Akkasah will provide resources to researchers in the region who are interested in tracing historical and contemporary photographic practices in the MENA region.

“The main lesson I learned is don’t postpone; this is beyond urgent. In a region that is challenged with instability, there are many archives that are in danger of being lost completely or dispersed beyond reach.”

- Salwa Mikdadi

As a three-time student of Professor Mikdadi’s, I had heard much talk of alMawrid’s development over the years and, in particular, of the urgency of its creation to help preserve and promote the rich artistic history of Western Asia and North Africa. When the Center was finally announced, I knew I had to reach out to Salwa to learn more about how alMawrid finally came to be and what we could expect to see from this project in the coming years.

In our conversation, we discussed the inspiration behind alMawrid, its role in contributing to local and global academia, and the importance of collaboration within the Center. As our interview came to an end, I was yet again reminded of the unwavering commitment to and passion for celebrating Arab art that Salwa—undoubtedly one of the foremost scholars in the field and one of the most connected individuals to Arab artist communities and movements—carries out through her work.

The founding of this research center, an ambitious undertaking in scope and intended impact, is, in a way, the culmination of Mikdadi’s lifelong dedication to supporting artists from the Arab World. Some of Mikdadi’s contributions to the field of Arab art history to date include: co-founding and directing the Cultural & Visual Arts Resource/International Council for Women in the Arts (ICWA) to promote Arab art in the US; curating the first touring exhibition of modern and contemporary female artists from the Arab world and the Arab American National Museum’s inaugural exhibition; curating the first Palestinian pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale; and writing extensive chronologies of art of the MENA region for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

Mikdadi also headed the Arts & Culture Program at the Emirates Foundation, UAE and taught various Museum Studies and Art History courses at Sorbonne-Paris Abu Dhabi and New York University Abu Dhabi, where she continues to teach today. Lastly, Mikdadi serves on the advisory boards of the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, and Darat Al Funun in Amman.

As a student of Arab cultural studies and art history in the UAE, my interview with Professor Mikdadi was of great personal significance. While it was a chance to share information about the founding of alMawrid, with readers our conversation was also an opportunity to learn more about resources and infrastructures that empower young Arab researchers to build upon local cultural production and to incorporate these narratives into global art history.

Whereas in my own research I tend to spend more of my time hunting down archival materials, alMawrid will enable Arab art enthusiasts from around the world to engage with sources on Arab artists, exhibitions in the region, and local art institutions all from a single archive. More importantly, I am extremely excited about the ability of the Center to increase global accessibility to, and thereby interest in, art history of the Arab World from an institution based right here in Abu Dhabi.

The opening of alMawrid signifies much more than the creation of a reference point for archival documents and pedagogical tools; it is the assertion that artistic and cultural movements in Western Asia and North Africa deserve to be narrated from a perspective rooted in the locale in which they were born. Leveraging their decades-long experience in the region and connections that span the continents, Principal Investigator Salwa Mikdadi, with Co-Principal Investigators May Al-Dabbagh and Shamoon Zamir, aims to bring attention to these very narratives from the ground up.

“I look at the study of art as porous; a field that is inherently interdisciplinary. Collaboration is central to alMawrid’s mission.” 

- Salwa Mikdadi

1. Plan for Greater Baghdad by Ala Younis. Photo by Alessandra Chemollo. Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia 3.

Nada Ammagui: My first question is about the title of the Center. What struck me initially is the order of the words in the title; it's the Arab Center for the Study of Art and not, as some might think, something like the Center for the Study of Arab Art. What was the reason behind this wording?

Salwa Mikdadi: Well, alMawrid aims to study art history from a regional perspective while considering the influence of our immediate neighbors—whether Turkey or Afghanistan or other countries from Eastern Africa—that have a long history of trade and cross-cultural links with the region, which is a historical global crossroad.

The Center’s title reflects the diversity of the Arab world, which encompasses Arabs of many ethnic groups. There are many examples of how the respective cultural traditions have influenced modern art, such as the Kabyle of al-Maghreb, among many others. We hope that alMawrid will provide the platform and resources for exploring these exchanges from within the Arab world.

N.A.: It is actually quite intuitive to situate it as an Arab Center, then. The Center is located here in the Arab world while encompassing a geographically broader study of art, in which cultural circles overlap and intersect. And I know that the Center was being planned over a number of years. As a student of yours this was something that came up many times in our conversations. When was the idea for the Center born?

S.M.: It began with a modest archive that I started in the early 1980’s that was referred to as the Database of Arab Artists. It was based on my own research and soon expanded to serve scholars and institutions as a resource on art of the Arab world in the form of a nonprofit called Cultural & Visual Arts Resource/International Council for Women in the Arts (ICWA). This was fifteen years before the internet, when research was limited to library resources, physical archives, and artists on location. At the time, unfortunately, interest in the region’s art was almost nonexistent, which limited funding and research.

N.A.: Is this lack of consolidated and digital archives the primary gap that alMawrid aims to fill?

S.M.: There are actually two important gaps to address: access to primary documents; and academic research. The first is the lack of access to a digital archive of artists, art historians, and art institutions, from academic journals and exhibition ephemera to audio and video archives. There are a number of books on the history of art of the Arab world in Arabic, but they’ve never been translated, so there is a general assumption that such scholarship does not exist. The archive can create a space for anyone to access and learn more about these sources.

As for the second gap, study of the region’s art is relatively recent; there are few courses or dedicated area studies programs offered on the region’s art history. However, interest to pursue research in this field is growing. AlMawrid’s research focus will begin with two projects that will help advance scholarship in this area: the histories of Arab Art exhibitions and the histories of Arab Art institutions. Offering access to rare publications will help to support further research and promote advanced scholarship on regional art.

N.A.: We’re still in the early stages of the Center opening, but are there any lessons you learned as you were building the infrastructure for a research center like this one?

S.M.: The main lesson learned is not to lose time. There is an urgency to preserve the archive. In a region beset with wars and conflicts, archives are in danger of being lost or dispersed. We have already lost archives to fires, building bombings, and dispersion. It is common practice to preserve the archives of artists in museum collections or universities. Unfortunately, however, there are few systematic efforts to collect, preserve, and digitize these. So much has already been lost that it’s like picking up the bits and pieces of a puzzle and putting them together.

Another lesson that we’ve learned is that it is our responsibility to digitize the archive in its original format and not to curate it; every document is an important piece of a larger puzzle put together differently by each researcher or academic.

N.A.: How do you think that the Center will contribute not just to collecting the archive of artists and art history, but to creating archival materials about the Center itself, noting what’s been successful, what’s been unsuccessful, and, in that way, creating an institutional memory of alMawrid? This was a topic that we discussed frequently in your course on museums and cultural institutions at NYUAD.

SM: A very good question. The value of institutional memory lies in how it is articulated and who contributes to the narrative. Gathering impressions from all of the staff who work or will work with us in the future is key to recording our history. Recording the versions of the art historical terms, in Arabic and English, typically used in the field of Arab art history and the new terms that replace them is part of our research goals at alMawrid.

N.A.: I can definitely imagine someone down the line writing their senior thesis on alMawrid, looking at how the Center was built and what kind of impact it has had in the field by using primary sources from and about alMawrid. Having documents about the early years of the Center would be really important, especially because it is the first and, so far, only research center like this in the region.

S.M.: I agree; it is important to keep a record today.

2. The first AlMawrid archives library, 2021. Photo: Courtesy of Salwa Mikdadi.

N.A.: You already touched on who will be contributing research, where you mentioned that there are fellowships, residencies, and other opportunities for individuals to work with the Center. Will there be any independently commissioned research projects or will they be more formal research positions?

S.M.: There will be both, full time researchers as well as visiting scholars and collaborations with faculty. Such partnerships already exist currently with several professors. An art historian with the Humanities Research Fellowship for the Study of the Arab World at NYU Abu Dhabi will be exploring the alMawrid archive. There are also several external researchers working on specific archives in different locations, such as Kuwait, the UAE, and other Arab countries. The research plan is already outlined for the next five years; however, external researchers working on their respective archives can still submit proposals for journal articles.

The Center’s collaboration extends to faculty at other universities, art professionals in the UAE and beyond, and art institutions in the region, as well. For instance, more recently, we collaborated with the Sharjah Art Museum, sharing archival data and video interview material for their exhibition and publication. We look forward to collaborating with faculty at other universities. And, of course, it goes without saying that our students will be primary beneficiaries of alMawrid resources.

N.A.: Moving on to the collaborative element of alMawrid, you’ve touched upon how you hope to work with the Arts Center and Art Gallery on campus. How do you anticipate these collaborations taking shape?

S.M.: The Gallery is an amazing resource for faculty and for alMawrid. Their exhibitions and programs are in synergy with our objectives. I am in conversation with Maya Alison, the Founding Director and Chief Curator of the NYUAD Art Gallery, and with Bill Bragen at the NYUAD Arts Center. As a long-time member of its Advisory Committee, the Gallery is a natural partner and another good resource on art of the Arab world. I look forward to working with both Maya Allison and Bill Bragen.

The Center also works closely with the Arts and Humanities Division and their plans for postgraduate degrees. As a research center, alMawrid will contribute to the curriculum and projects of these future postgraduate research programs.

N.A.: Within alMawrid itself, there’s Haraka: Experimental Lab for Arab Art and Social Thought. I’m intrigued by the decision to link these two realms of knowledge: the social sciences and the arts. Yet, it seems to make a lot of sense since art doesn’t exist in its own bubble, separate from the world around it. Was it a decision from the start to have the social thought element at the Center?

S.M.: The intention to partner with faculty was always part of the initial plan. Professor May Al-Dabbagh’s history of engagement with Gulf artists is well known; her research intertwines deeply with art. May will initiate a project that contributes to our understanding of contemporary art practices from within the regional theoretical discourse that frames art production. Al-Dabbagh will “investigate the ideas, interpersonal engagements, cultural production, and knowledge flows emerging from the region to support alternative modes of knowledge production and pedagogy about the Arab region’s societies and history.”

Drawing upon new understandings of Arab and global social thought, Haraka will develop three research projects: ‘Tracing Migrations,’ an oral history research project which documents the lives, careers, and contributions of artists and cultural managers in the GCC region; ‘Teaching Global Social Theory,’ a pedagogy project that reworks the “centers and peripheries” of social theory; and ‘Plurilogue,’ a mobile conversation platform based on engaging artists and social scientists working on the region in Arabic and English.

N.A.: As for Akkasah’s role at alMawrid, will the Akkasah team continue to focus on historical photographs or will they also begin collecting materials that are being created digitally today?

S.M.: Akkasah's already robust documentation processes and high resolution database are quite well-suited for the incorporation of various media created in digital spaces. They have an extraordinary website that contains some of the best documented photographs from the region. The archival process—digitization and documentation with tags and metadata—would be easily adapted to enable the preservation of digital media and would fit well with their current archival practices.. 

Akkasah’s photographic archive continues to grow their collection of documentary and vernacular photography, with several projects focusing on the UAE. Akkasah offers an exceptional opportunity to view high resolution images with documentation and excellent search components.

N.A.: I’m wondering how the digital shift during the pandemic will impact collection practices. We’ve somewhat been pushed, this past year, to accelerate into the virtual world: exhibitions; symposia; conferences; conversations—everything is now online. Do you think that this lack of tangible or physical archive is going to make things more difficult in the collection and preservation process or do you think it makes it easier? 

S.M.: Actually, it doesn’t change much. It just puts virtual access to the archive at the core of our mission at alMawrid. The shift to the digital makes alMawrid’s work even more timely and necessary. The pandemic has created new challenges restricting physical access to the archive. It has certainly disrupted our plans and delayed our work, but, nonetheless, we managed to find alternative ways of working virtually. Researchers continue to identify, evaluate, and acquire archives for digitization and documentation.

N.A.: As for young curators, artists, writers, and art historians, do you recommend they stick to printed publications rather than digital ones? Or would a complete transition to virtual modes of production be fitting during this period?

S.M.: I cannot imagine living without my books; I love to hold a book in my hands. There’s something about being in direct, physical contact with the words on paper. Reading online, on the other hand, seems distant and removed. However, the advantages of e-books and digital libraries are many. They make it possible for students and others to read the electronic versions of publications and I believe that open access to knowledge will transform the traditional format of education.

AlMawrid Center is open to receiving donations of archives, which should be limited to original documents from artists, art historians or art institutions. With a few exceptions, the physical archive is returned to the owner after completing the digitization.

- Salwa Mikdadi

N.A.: Do you have any advice to give to young artists as they build up their personal archives? Would you suggest that they donate materials frequently or wait until their archives are more complete?

S.M.: Many artists today diligently document their art and archives, and this is especially true of many young artists. Today, documentation tools support the archiving of different folios more efficiently than manual entries once did. I advise artists to consider the future of their archive and website, and to identify the institutions that can maintain their digital archive in perpetuity so that it remains functional in fifty years. I hope they choose alMawrid!

N.A.: Do you have any announcements you’d like to share with our readers on behalf of alMawrid?

S.M.: Starting in Fall 2021, alMawrid will roll out its programs and launch its website. Other programs to look for are Artist in Residence, an inaugural exhibition, a lecture series, and stories from the archive. Digitization and documentation take time and, depending on the archive, that can sometimes be several months. We ask for patience in the meantime while researchers across the Arab world discover new archives. We also look forward to activating the archive in classes, thus expanding the reach of archival materials to generate new scholarship in the fields of modern and contemporary visual art, art history, photography, cultural studies, sociology, and anthropology.

N.A.: Now I’d like to ask you some questions about yourself. We know that you’re an extremely busy person and that your schedule is full with teaching, meeting people, and presenting your work. How do you stay organized, energized, creative, and motivated when you’re always so busy?

S.M.: No matter how much I try to be organized and plan ahead, establishing a new center means that I am constantly interrupted by a variety of requests and have to work on multiple aspects of the Center’s infrastructure simultaneously. I continue to be driven by my passion for the art and its history. Something like finding the archive of an artist is like discovering a treasure trove of information that leads to new links and unexpected turns in art history. Such a prospect keeps me energized.

AlMawrid is certainly an ambitious project, but I am not alone. My colleagues and collaborators, Professors May Al-Dabbagh and Shamoon Zamir, plan exciting programs and publications, they have been very generous with their time, and they are always available to help and advise. I am fortunate to be based at NYU Abu Dhabi where I receive support and encouragement from university leadership and staff.

I’m also inspired by other researchers—in the classroom and beyond—who dedicate their free time to writing and publishing. Several students of mine have, in the past, selected research topics on the art of this region. Nada, you were the first of my students to take on the extra challenge of dedicating a whole year to an advanced post-graduate research fellowship contributing new knowledge on Arab art institutions. Your seminal monograph on the Sharjah Biennial will be an important contribution to the field and will definitely be archived. These are just some of the things that drive my work.

N.A.: You’re truly an inspiration to us all! Are these activities—archival investigation, reading, teaching—what your ideal day would entail? I’d love to hear a bit about how the perfect day in your life would unfold.

S.M.: First and foremost, I wish I could wake up and there be no more COVID 19, with peace and justice in the world, and that I didn’t have to hear the word “dozen” on the news; “a dozen people were killed,” “dozens of people were killed.” When I hear that, my whole day is ruined. In that case, the ideal day would entail few emails to respond to, time to write and reflect, and the chance to be rewarded with just a bit of leftover time to read an Arabic novel.

N.A.: I agree; that definitely sounds ideal. Is there an artist that has been on your mind lately, whether from the contemporary or modern period?

S.M.: Yes, Lawrence Abu Hamdan. His work is extraordinary, thoughtful and scholarly. From the modern period, I’ve been rereading Inji Efflatoun’s publications and other writings on Inji. I have always respected her activism and admired her art.

N.A.: Last, but not least, if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

S.M.: Well, I’d like to be with my children and grandchildren. Every August, we meet at my home in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have already missed two family gatherings and, with the pandemic, it is still unclear when I’ll be able to travel again.

N.A.: Hopefully you’ll get to see them sooner than later, inshAllah! But for today, that just about wraps up our interview. Thank you sincerely for your time, Salwa. I am so pleased to have gotten to learn more about you and about this incredible accomplishment. You never cease to inspire me and many others in the field with your unbounded enthusiasm and selfless service to Arab art history. We all wish you many more successes.

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