Sara Raza the former Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator for the Middle East and North Africa has curated exhibitions of visual art art and culture for over a decade (2004-2018) internationally, in both an independent and institutional capacity, for museums, festivals and biennials, focusing on global art practices from Asia and the Middle East. She has also curated a number of public programmes of artist talks and symposia to accompany her projects.
Punk Orientalism, The MacKenzie Art Gallery, Saskatchewan, Canada, November 2018-Feburary 2019 (group show). The exhibition brings together 15 diverse artistic voices that actively embrace non-conformity and resistance. The exhibition focuses on the spaces and places associated with the former Soviet Union, which officially dissolved in 1991, highlighting societies both directly & indirectly subsumed by the former USSR, or functioning as its ‘client states.’ The exhibition uses the theme of non-conformity, the “punk” rejection of state authority, to investigate & explore a changing society & its evolving norms from a non-EuroAmerican centric perspective. Exploring the regions of former Soviet possessions in Central Asia & the Caucasus, as well as drawing attention to the USSR’s complex relationship with the Arab world, Iran & Turkey. Featuring artists Aikaterini Gegisian, Ala Younis, Ali Cherri, Babi Badalov, Erbossyn Meldibekov, Ergin Cavusoglu, Farhad Ahrarnia, Inci Eviner, Mustafa Hulusi, Slavs & Tatars, Shahpour Pouyan, Taus Makhacheva, Rokni Haerizadeh, Nazgol Ansarinia and Vyacheslav Akhunov.
Fateh Al Moudarres: Colour, Extensity & Sense, Mathaf Modern Arab Museum, Doha, Qatar October 2018-Feburary 2019 (solo show). Presenting a revisionist lens into the studio practice of the influential late Syrian modernist this compact exhibition examines al-Moudarres’s works within the context of his creative engagements with two disparate yet interconnected pathways: Surrealism and Sufism.
In a Tempesta dal Paradiso, April-June 2018, Galleria d’Arte Moderna Milano (GAM). Marking the final exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. Curated by Sara Raza, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Middle East and North Africa, in collaboration with Paola Zatti, Chief Curator, and Omar Cucciniello, Curator, Galleria d’Arte Moderna. The presentation at GAM features the works of the following artists: Lida Abdul, Abbas Akhavan, Kader Attia, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Ali Cherri, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Rokni Haerizadeh, Susan Hefuna, Iman Issa, Gülsün Karamustafa, Hassan Khan, and Ahmed Mater.
But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum April-October 2016 (group show). Through painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, and video, But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa presents a spectrum of artistic voices and critical concerns from a rapidly evolving region. Interwoven with questions around the Middle East and North Africa’s colonial histories, the exhibition investigates themes such as movement, migration, architecture, and the process of uncovering hidden ideas or “conceptual contraband.”Participating artists include: Abbas Akhavan, Kader Attia, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Ali Cherri, Ori Gersht, Mariam Ghani, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Rokni Haerizadeh, Susan Hefuna, Iman Issa, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Hassan Khan, Mohammed Kazem, Ahmed Mater, Zineb Sedira, and Ala Younis.
A Drop of Sky 3rd YARAT Public Art Festival June – August 2015 (group show) with artists Ergin Cavusoglu, Wafaa Bilal, Nazrin Mammadova and Farhad Farzaliyev and Open Air Cinema programme with Shezad Dawood, Larissa Sansour, Vahid Vakilifar and Deniz Uster. As well as an education programme developed with AA Visiting School and architects Omid Kamvari and Kasper Ax.
Mohammed Kazem: Raw Data (1999-2013), Maraya Art Centre November 2013 – January 2014 (solo show) curated by Sara Raza of leading Emirati artist Mohammed Kazem presented as a retrospective digitalised cuboid. Designed to function as an alternative mid-career retrospective Kazem worked with AUS to create a specific programme based upon over 14 year’s worth of GPS readings to create a conceptual collation of his practice, which focused on the navigation of the everyday.
The Beginning of Thinking is Geometric, Maraya Art Centre July – September 2013 (group show) curated by Sara Raza, featuring 13 artists including collaborations and collectives concerned with thinking sciences, over pragmatic and prosaic investigations into geometry and origins in contemporary art. Artists include: Sarah Al Abdali, Sarah Abu Abdallah, Ebtisam Abdulaziz, Farhad Ahrarnia, Zeigam Azizov, Fayçal Baghriche, Ala Ebtekar, Basmah Felemban, Fatima Al Qadiri & Alex Gvojic, Mobius Design Studio & Faysal Tabbarah, Hayv Kahraman, Nasir Nasrallah and Jamal Tayara-Baroudy.
Rhizoma (Generation in Waiting) 55th Venice Biennial May- September 2013 (group show) organised by Edge of Arabia with lead curator Sara Raza, an exhibition of 27 emerging Saudi Arabian contemporary artists from an underground network, exploring new aesthetics and new media practices.
Wafaa Bilal: The Hierarchy of Being, Maraya Art Park, Sharjah, UAE March – 2013 (solo show) curator of the Maraya Art Park with a sculpture exploring the impact of art and Islamic science on contemporary thinking and photographic practices.
Adel Abidin: Blueprint, Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, UAE March – June 2013 (solo show) major solo show of leading Iraqi-Finnish contemporary artist exploring the intersection between art, commerce and identity within a post-Arab Spring context.
SoftPower Alaan Artspace, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October- December 2012 (group show) Alaan Artspace inaugural exhibition SoftPower curated by Sara Raza is an exhibition that offers an insight into an exciting art movement that is brewing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It brings together the voices of three visionary female artists emerging artists Sarah Abu Abdallah and Sarah Mohanna Al-Abdali and leading Saudi artist Manal Al-Dowayan.
Migrasophia (migration + philosophy), Maraya Art Centre Sharjah, UAE March – May 2012 (group) ‘Migrasophia’ is the first curatorial exhibition and public programme to be staged at the Maraya Art Centre in the emirate of Sharjah. The exhibition’s takes its inspiration from Azerbaijani contemporary artist and philosopher Zeigam Azizov who In 2000 coined the term ‘Migrasophia’ as the study into the complex relationship between migration and philosophy following the collapse of the former USSR in 1991. Artists include: Lida Abdul, Zeigam Azizov, Babi Badalov, Farhad Ahrarnia, Erbossyn Meldibekov, Slavs and Tatars, Galim Madanov & Zauresh Terekbay, Said Atabekov, Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev, Ergin Cavusoglu, Karen Sargasyn, Reza Aramesh, Sonia Balassanian, Sophia Tabatadze, Koka Ramishvilli, Taus Makhacheva and Diyor Razaikov. Curated by Sara Raza.
6th Tashkent Biennial: Quotations from Daily Life, October 2011 *Winner of Jury Biennial 1st Prize (group) Central Asia’s only contemporary art biennial, the Tashkent Biennial celebrates its 6th edition to mark the 20th year anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence. This year’s installment is themed Artist & Society and comprises over 100 international artists including guest curated Quotations from Daily Life a group exhibition that explores beauty, fate and chance within the practices of featured artists: Lida Abdul (Afghanistan), Taus Makhacheva (Dagestan), Farhad Ahrarnia (Iran), Almagul Menlibayeva (Kazakhstan), Ergin Çavuşoğlu (Bulgaria/Turkey) and two brand new commissions by Babur Ismailov and Diyor Razaikov (Uzbekistan) among others.
Ergin Cavusoglu: Dust Breeding, The Pavilion, Downtown Dubai October 2011 – January 2012 (solo show) of London based Turkish-Bulgarian artist at The Pavilion Downtown Dubai presenting a work inspired by the work of Marcel Duchamp and resulting in an interactive vinyl perspective floor drawing. The artwork functions as a manipulation of perspective and space and also provides an interesting commentary on issues of real estate and labor.
Erbossyn Meldibekov: Lost Paradise, Art Hong Kong May 2011 (solo show) in conjunction with Rossi & Rossi of leading Kazakh artist Erbossyn Meldibekov for Art Hong Kong that explores the juxtaposition between art, architectural and monumental changes in Central Asia following the collapse of the USSR.
Shezad Dawood: A Mystery Play, Plugin ICA, Winnipeg Canada November 2010 – Jan 2011 (solo show) Canada, co-curated with Anthony Kiendl showcasing a remake of Buster Keaton’s epic Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) – a project which was created during Plug In’s 2010 Summer Institute in the form of “a mystery play” where both the legendary magician and escapologist Harry Houdini and the Devil make guest appearances all the while incorporating the city’s rich theatrical history.
Erbossyn Meldibekov: The (Dis)Order of Things, Rossi & Rossi, London August – September 2009 (solo show), first UK solo show of internationally renowned contemporary Kazakh artist Erbossyn Meldibekov, curated by writer and curator Sara Raza adapts its title from the French thinker Michel Foucault’s seminal text The Order of Things (Les mots et les choses), published in 1966, the exhibition’s title is a play on the social, cultural, economic and political upheavals in the post-Soviet landscape of Central Asia and Kazakhstan.
Practices of Everyday Life: New Image Making in the Middle East, ShContemporary, Shanghai, September 2008 (group show) including Reza Aramesh, Yael Bartana, Ergin Cavusoglu & Konstantin Bojanov, Shanghai, China September 2008
Cult of Personality: New art from the former Post-Soviet, ShContemporary, Shanghai, September 2008 (two person show) Erbossyn Melidibekov and Sophia Tabatazde.
2nd Bishkek International, Bishkek: In the Shadow of Heroes, October 2005, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan co-curated with Muratbek Djumaliev and Gulnara Kasmalieva. For the first time the Bishkek International Exhibition of Contemporary Art is held under the tribune of the “Alato” Central Square. The underground rooms, with the total area of 1000 square meters, have been in desolation for the last 15 years, having become a shelter for homeless. These are the rooms, from which the representatives of the Communist nomenclature used to come up to review the troops and to which they would return after the celebration. One more feature of this place is the topographical concurrence with the destroyed casemates of the former KGB building. Behind the tribune until the year 2003 stood the statue of Lenin, and now at the same pedestal towers the statue of “Freedom.” Program also included the Asian premiere of Iranian filmmaker Mitra Tabrizian’s “The Predator,” at the Bishkek Historical Museum, Bishkek.
Contemporary Collection, South London Gallery, London, May-July 2005 (group show) including YBA artists Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucus, Damien Hirst and others.
Depth of Field: Images from Lagos and London, South London Gallery, London, March-June 2005 (group show). Artists’ collective, Depth of Field (DOF), live and work in Lagos, Nigeria, a vast urban sprawl and home to 13 million people, Lagos is projected to be the third largest city in the world by 2025.
The Video Lounge, South London Gallery, London, Mar-May 2005 including Lida Abdul, Tirdad Zolgadr and Solmaz Shahbazi and others.
ShowCASe Preview: 17 British Artists, South London Gallery, London (group show) including Maria Marshall, Shahin Afrasiabi, Shezad Dawood, Hayley Newman, Jemima Stehli, Mark Titchner, Matt Calderwood and others, November 2004.
Dreams and Trauma: Contemporary New Media Art from Israel and Palestine, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (Winter 2005), including Guy Ben Ner, Emily Jacir, Yael Bartana and others.
J’Accuse: Henrik Plenge Jacobsen, South London Gallery, London (Winter 2004) (solo show), based upon an open letter to the French President penned by Emile Zola in favour of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer in the French army who had been convicted of treason. Zola’s letter exposed Dreyfus’s trial as a highly anti-Semitic cover-up in which many high-ranking French officials were implicated.