Sara Raza is an award winning international art curator and writer based in New York City where she founded the curatorial studio Punk Orientalism in 2019 through which she works on exhibitions, education projects and publications in Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, creating an important cultural bridge with the US. Sara is a member of the faculty at the School of Visual Arts for the MA Curatorial Practice Program and the MA graduate program for the New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. She is a specialist on global curatorial knowledge, with an academic and professional interest in performance based practices and architectural art history. Between 2015-18 she was the Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Middle East and North Africa based at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where she led the third and final phase of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative established the MENA collection and curated the exhibition But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa, which debuted in New York (April-October 2016) and traveled to the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan (April-June 2018). Sara is a member of the ICP’s (International Center of Photography) international advisory council and an advisor to the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.
Born in 1979 London, UK she earned her MA in Art History and 20th Century Theory and BA (hons) in English Literature and History of Art both from Goldsmiths College, University of London, and pursued studies towards a Ph.D. at the Royal College of Art, London. She is a recognized cultural thought leader and is the recipient of several awards and honors for her work including the 11th ArtTable New Leadership Award for Women in the Arts (2016), finalist for the Walther Hopps Curatorial Award (2015) and the awardee of the Arts Council of England’s Emerging Curatorial Award (2004). She has also been cited as 1 of 40 most influential global arts thinkers under the age of 40 (Deutsche Bank/Apollo (2017), a noted visual cultural expert on post-Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus (Culture Trip 2016), profiled as 1 of 5 leading curators from the Middle East and North Africa by Canvas (2015) and listed as one of 25 Female Curators Shaking Things Up from New York to Munich and Mumbai by Artnet (2015). Sara and her work have been featured in major arts and national press including Artforum, Art Africa, Artnet, ArtAsiaPacicic, BBC, Brownbook, Canvas, Contemporary Practices, Cultured, CNN Style, Harper’s Bazaar, Financial Times, Al Jazeera, Marie Claire, The National UAE, The New York Times, The Observer, Wall Street International and many others.
Sara has curated several international exhibitions and projects for biennials, festivals, and museums including Collateral Events at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); Ergin Cavusoglu’s Middle Eastern debut exhibition at The Pavilion Downtown Dubai (2011); the Central Asian Salon for the 6th Tashkent Biennial at the Art Gallery of Uzbekistan (2011); Shezad Dawood’s first North American solo exhibition at the Plug In ICA, Winnipeg (2010); Practices of Everyday Life, New Image Making in the Middle East and Cult of Personality: Erbossyn Meldibekov and Sophia Tabatadze at ShContemporary, Shanghai (both 2008); and the 2nd Bishkek International: In the Shadow of Fallen Heroes at the Bishkek Historical Museum and Alto Square, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (2005). Raza has also organized exhibitions at institutions including the Maraya Art Centre, where she served as curator from 2011-2014 and commissioned and curated solo exhibitions by Adel Abidin and Mohamed Kazem and inaugurated the Maraya Art Park with a permanent commissioned by Wafaa Bilal, as well as organizing group exhibitions Migrasophia and The Beginning of Thinking is Geometric. In 2018 she curated the thematic solo show Fateh Al Moudarres: Colour, Extensity and Sense for Mathaf Modern Arab Art Museum, Doha, Qatar, and the major touring exhibition Punk Orientalism at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. In 2019 she was selected as the first guest curator for the Rubin Museum of Art’s Year of Power and organized the exhibition Clapping with Stones: Art and Acts of Resistance.
Sara has lectured and participated in panels internationally at Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, Germany; Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; San Jose State University; and Bishkek Historical Museum, Kyrgyzstan; Queen Mary University and Westminster University; Sharjah Biennial March Meeting, United Arab Emirates; Intelligence Squared, United Kingdom, London; the State Museum of History of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, and American University of Sharjah; Casa Arabe, Madrid; Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Boston; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Phillips Collection, Washington, University of Sydney, Australia, the New Museum, New York and New York University, The Whitney Museum of American Art, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Duke University and Nasher Museum, John F Kennedy Center, Washington and NABA University, Milan , Princeton University, New York School of Visual Arts, New York, New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, ING Creatives Dubai, & Artworld Conference at the New York Law School among others.
Formerly, she was the head of education and curator of the 3rd Public Art Festival for YARAT Contemporary Art Space, Baku, Azerbaijan (2014-15), founding head of curatorial programs at Alaan Artspace, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (2011-13), and curator of public programs at Tate Modern, London (2006–8). She was an educational advisor to Edge of Arabia’s CULTURUNNERS US tour (2013–14), as well as an artist adviser for ISCP in New York (2015-18) and founder and director of the artists’ mentoring program for Mana Contemporary’s Campus in New Jersey, Miami and Chicago (2017-19). She has served as a jury member for the 2020 Creative Time Award, 2017 Vilcek Foundation, and the 2014 Akbank Contemporary Artists Prize, for which she also curated the shortlist exhibition.
Sara has been an arts writer since 2002 and is the longstanding desk editor for West and Central Asia for ArtAsiaPacific magazine since 2004, and has written for numerous art journals and catalogues and her writing has been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish. She has several books and artist monographs including Jeffrey Gibson (Denver Museum of Art), Inci Eviner (Istanbul Modern Museum), Diana Al-Hadid (NYU/ Skira), Lida Abdul (Frac Lorraine & 51st Venice Biennial), Informal Architectures (black dog), Reza Aramesh (The Collectors’ Edition), Farhad Ahrania (Rose Issa Projects), Nadia Kaabi-Linke (KunstMuseum Bonn/ Kerber), Asad Faulwell (Zero), Shahzia Sikander (Tufts University). She is the author of the forthcoming Punk Orientalism, which will be published in spring 2022 with black dog press London.