Meet Nabila Abdel Nabi: Tate Modern's first curator of Middle Eastern art

The Egyptian-Canadian art historian is helping the Tate step away from national patrimony and towards correcting historical omissions in the art it displays
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Meet Nabila Abdel Nabi: Tate Modern's first curator of Middle Eastern art

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Curators are the unsung heroes of the art world. Assuming the tall order of procuring, managing, supervising, and preserving exhibitions and collections, they act simultaneously as guides and gatekeepers of culture. At Tate Modern, a new wave of curators is taking the helm.

Working to diversify programmes and champion greater gender and demographic representation, Tate Modern has appointed new curators of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian art. The news comes after the museum’s launch of the Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational, an initiative intended to globalise its offerings.

Curating art by the trailblazers from the Middle East is Egyptian-Canadian art historian, Nabila Abdel Nabi. And in short, Abdel Nabi knows what’s up. The seasoned art gallery virtuoso whose searing curations have appeared at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and renowned Al Quoz gallery, the Third Line among other equally impressive spaces across the globe, has the kind of unparalleled eye that has earned her a reputation for being a conscientious curator, known for investing herself in comprehensive research for each of her projects.

“What’s happening now is an expansion of Tate’s existing commitment to keep developing its collections and its programmes beyond western Europe and North America,” says Abdel Nabi. “And to find new ways to explore and discuss this through the framework of the transnational.”

The museum’s idea of “transnational” is an understanding of the way art has influence across borders and beyond its country of origin. With regional artists historically producing work intersected with a variety of transnational ideations, such as pan-Arabism, the Middle East is rich territory to achieve this.

Addressing the centre for Arab and other communities that the city of London exists as, Abdel Nabi says “There’s a diversity of strong, supportive communities in the UK […] and I look forward to Tate increasingly becoming a site where those audiences feel reflected within this institution.”

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