International canvas

Challenging, provoking, questioning, dealing with issues of identity construction, national and cultural affiliations, globalism, displacement, artistic freedom... that’s what Laurie Ann Farrell looks at in artwork when she curates. Farrell is executive director of exhibitions for Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), which operates galleries in the US, France and Hong Kong.

By Raziqueh Hussain

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Fri 16 Apr 2010, 9:46 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:22 PM

“The exhibitions department at SCAD is designated as an academic and educational entity. We host multiple artists throughout the year who stage exhibitions, give lectures, and make class and studio visits as a means of enriching the SCAD educational experience and preparing students for creative careers in the arts,” she explains.

Winning the Abraaj Capital Art Prize with artist Kader Attia added an extra feather in her cap. “A competition like this brings an international mix of curators and artists together. New relationships are forged in the region, and awardees learn more about the local art scene and bring new works to Dubai — that leaves a lasting impression,” she says.

From 1999 to early 2007, Farrel was a curator of contemporary art at the Museum of African Art in New York City. In 2004, she began researching and working on a large-scale North African and Middle Eastern art exhibition with Marilu Knode (who was then the senior curator at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art). “Our goal was to present new and recent works by a range of artists from the region’s cultural capitals as well as artists of various diasporas still connected to their cultural and political homes. Just as our project seemed to be getting off the ground, we both made professional transitions and have had to postpone what promised to be a groundbreaking exhibition,” she says.

Farrel is not willing to characterise the current global interest in Middle Eastern art as a sudden boom. “There have been many successful artists coming out of the region who have developed successful international careers and have exhibited broadly to great acclaim... Kutlug Ataman, Hussein Chalayan, Shirin Neshat and Walid Raad are a few names that come to mind,” she says, adding, “Biennials in Cairo, Istanbul and Sharjah along with the presence of commercial entities such as Christie’s have also raised awareness about art activities and the market in the region. The internet, too, has helped close some of the information gaps and helped educate viewers about the context, aesthetics and cultural conventions existing across the diverse populations of the Middle East.”

Also, the region is getting more informed about the West and vice-versa in terms of artists. “All this visibility has elicited a range of responses conditioned by a variety of factors including an individual’s level of education and ability to understand cultural sensitivity. Unfortunately, we may always encounter “us”/“them” dichotomies when it comes to outsiders looking into another region, so we can only hope that the resultant statements are informed and carefully considered.”

Farrel believes in being true to your vision to attain any goal in life. “If you are an artist you should challenge yourself to believe in that inner creative voice. And you must express that voice in as many ways as you can.”

More news from