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Guide to the Salwa Mikdadi Papers AD.MC.022


New York University Abu Dhabi Library

Collection processed by Brad Bauer, Robert Gordon, Muhammad Shehryar Hamid

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on December 18, 2019
eng using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical note

Salwa Mikdadi is an independent curator and Associate Professor of the Practice of Art History at New York University Abu Dhabi, where she researches and teaches courses in the history of modern and contemporary art in the Arab world and offers courses in museum curatorial practice.

Mikdadi is the daughter of Palestinian historian Darwish al-Miqdadi and educator Rabiha al-Dajani, and grew up in Kuwait, where her father was assistant director of education for the nation until shortly before his death in 1961. She earned a bachelor's of arts from the American University of Beirut, where she first became interested in the works of modern Arab women artists, such as Saloua Raouda Choucair and Jumana el-Husseini. Upon her immigration to the United States in the 1972, she was interested in curating exhibitions about the works of such artists, but found instead that she was often asked to create exhibitions about traditional forms of art associated with women, such as embroidery and costume. Her first significant opportunity to stage a comprehensive exhibition of modern women artists from the Arab world came when she was contacted by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC in 1989. Out of these initial contacts came the exhibition "Forces of Change: Artists of the Arab World," which opened at that museum in February 1993, before subsequently travelling to other venues in Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, and Northern California.

In the meantime, Mikdadi had realized that there was a dearth of information on Arab artists, and in researching and assembling information for the exhibition, joined with other scholars and curators to found the International Council for Women in the Arts (ICWA). This non-profit organization, based at Mikdadi's home in Lafayette, California from 1989 to 2006, had as its purpose the creation of a substantial database of information about Arab women artists that could be freely shared with museums and scholars. In collecting a sizable amount of color slides, printed images, brochures from exhibitions, correspondence with artists and other related materials, they soon established themselves as a clearinghouse for publishers, authors, and others seeking images of such art that they could use for illustrations, book cover designs, and other purposes.

With the success of the exhibition "Forces of Change," as well as its resulting catalog, Mikdadi embarked upon other exhibitions of modern Arab art in the United States, such as "Rhythm and Form" (1996-1997), and "In/Visible," in which she selected the works of fifteen Arab-American artists for an inaugural exhibition at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan in 2005. During these years, Mikdadi also frequently consulted on projects in the Middle East, in particular in Jordan and Palestine, and curated the first Palestine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009.

In 2008, Mikdadi relocated to the United Arab Emirates, holding a number of positions in cultural organizations, including the Tourism and Culture Authority of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, where she established a training program for museum professionals. She has also served as a consultant and curator on numerous projects and exhibitions, such as "A Century in Flux" at the Sharjah Art Museum (2018-2023), which highlights works from the Barjeel Art Foundation. She taught at the Sorbonne University-Abu Dhabi in the post-graduate program in Art History and Museum Studies (2010-2014), and served as Executive Director of the Arts and Culture Program at the Emirates Foundation in Abu Dhabi (2009-2012).