Sabiha Al Khemir

Exhibiting Islamic Art: From Doha to Dallas

Sabiha will speak about her unusual and wondrous journey with Islamic art which has connected far away times and places in her life. As a Tunisian who discovered and studied Islamic art in London, Sabiha came to learn more about her own culture from outside it. Feeling at home in both East and West, she celebrates the commonalties as well as the differences between cultures. Islamic art’s particularities and idiosyncrasies have much to offer in fostering understanding and bridging cultural gaps. In our current geo-political reality (and especially for more than a decade) the pressing need for cultural bridging has been in great part, behind her driving force to communicate what touches her most in what has come to be known as “Islamic art”. She will speak about her various exhibition projects with their complexities, and the nature of sharing Islamic art especially in Western contexts. She will discuss her approach as reflected in the creation of concepts, the story telling of curating, the organization of space, the objectivity and subjectivity of object choice, as well as the nature of Islamic art audiences. Explaining what singles out each exhibition project and how particular contexts play a role in shaping a message, she will highlight works of art to discuss what objects can tell us about both the idiosyncrasy and universality of aesthetics. Through specific examples of Islamic art, she will illustrate the unveiling of beauty, the key to accessing a bigger picture, a different way of seeing the world that is particular to Islamic culture, itself a mixture of many cultures. In her work Sabiha weaves the personal with the professional, using her own experience of growing up in Islamic culture to create an experience of the essence of Islamic aesthetic.

Image: Jug fragment (filter) Earthenware Egypt, Fatimid, 11th century

Sabiha Al Khemir

Scholar and Curator

Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir was born and brought up in Tunisia and obtained her Ph.D from London University. She is a renowned expert in Islamic art, a novelist, and artist, whose work is concerned with cultural bridging. She was the Founding Director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. In 2012, she was appointed the first Senior Advisor for Islamic Art at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), supporting the museum in building partnerships with art institutions around the globe. She is Distinguished Professor of Islamic art at the O’Donnell Institute, University of Texas, Dallas. She has developed numerous exhibitions of Islamic art and authored their publications, including From Córdoba to Samarkand at the Louvre Museum, Paris (2006), Beauty and Belief, Brigham Young University Museum, Utah, USA (2012), Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World which premiered in Seville, Spain (2013) and was presented at the DMA (2014), Spirit and Matter (2015) at the DMA, Fables Across Time: Kalila and Dimna at the National Museum, Bahrain (2015), the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (2016), and the American Folk Art Museum, New York (2017). She was instrumental in bringing the Keir collection on a long term loan to the DMA, where she has curated a new gallery dedicated to Islamic art (opened 2017). Her illustration work includes Le nuage amoureux, The Island of Animals, Fables Across Time: Kalila and Dimna (bilingual: Arabic and English). Her fiction work includes The Blue Manuscript, and The Absent Mirror. She is president of the SAK Foundation, a non profit organization, which focusses on cross cultural creative projects. She lives in New York City.