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Founder of Agial Art Gallery and Leading Expert in Modern and Contemporary Arab Art

Saleh Barakat A leading expert in Contemporary Arab art, Saleh Barakat founded Agial Art Gallery in 1990 in Beirut. Barakat actively participates in the building of major collections of Modern and Contemporary Arab art. He has curated several pan-Arab exhibitions, including the Ninth Francophone Summit in Beirut and the 2003 World Bank Summit in Dubai. Barakat recently co-curated the first national pavilion for Lebanon at the 52nd Venice Biennale. Barakat serves on the steering committee of the Arts Centre at the American University of Beirut and is a founding member of the Kinda Foundation, which is dedicated to the promotion of Contemporary Arab artistic expression. He was nominated a Yale World Fellow in 2006 and in October 2007 delivered the lecture, ‘Similar and Different: Perspectives from the Modern art of the Arab world’, at Princeton University and The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York.

Cultural Landscapes Manager, Historic Environment Department,
Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage.

Mark Beech Prior to joining the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) in 2006, Dr Mark Beech spent 12 years working for the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS). He has been involved in some of the major palaeontological and archaeological discoveries made in Abu Dhabi during the past decade, including the discovery of the 2.54-metre-long elephant tusk from Ruwais (dating back 6 - 8 million years to the Late Miocene period); the excavation of 7000-year-old Neolithic period settlements on Dalma and Marawah island, and the excavations of the Nestorian Christian church and monastery on Sir Bani Yas island. Dr Beech has conducted archaeological fieldwork and research in the UK, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Pakistan. Dr Beech has a Masters degree in Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy from the University of Sheffield, and a PhD from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York.

Nasser D Khalili Professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology, The School of Oriental and African Studies.

Doris Behrens-AbouseifProfessor Doris Behrens-Abouseif received her PhD from the University of Hamburg and her Habilitation from the University of Freiburg, Germany. She taught Islamic art at both universities, as well as at the American University in Cairo before joining The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 2000. Her research covers Islamic art, aesthetics, architecture and urbanism, social history and waqf studies (foundations and trusts) in the Arab World, mainly Egypt and Syria, as well as the decorative arts of Islam, mainly metalwork. Professor Behrens-Abouseif’s latest publication, ‘Cairo of the Mamluks: A History of Architecture and its Culture’, displays the multiple facets of Mamluk patronage, providing a succinct discussion of 60 monuments built in Cairo by the Mamluk sultans. The book forms an essential reference work for scholars and students of the art and architecture of the Islamic world, art historians and scholars of late medieval Islamic history.

Head of the Islamic Department, Sotheby's.

Edward GibbsEdward Gibbs was appointed Head of the Islamic Department at Sotheby's in 2003 from his previous role as Director of Islamic art courses at Sotheby's Institute. A graduate of Cambridge University, and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Gibbs lectured for five years at the University of London. He has also lectured at the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Academy of Fine Arts, Honolulu. His work as an archaeologist in the Middle East has included excavations at Homs citadel, Syria, and on Marawah Island, UAE, as part of the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS). Gibbs has published on Mamluk ceramics and has completed a catalogue raisonné of the Iznik collection at the British Museum. As well as producing two catalogues of Islamic Art for Sotheby's every year, he oversees sales of Modern and Contemporary Arab and Iranian Art.

Professor Emeritus from the University of Venice, Founder-Editor of Islamic Art

Ernst J Grube attended the Schiller-Gymnasium and then the Free University in Germany, from which he obtained his doctorate in 1955. In 1958, he was offered a research-grant at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; in 1959 he joined the Department of Near Eastern Art; and in 1962 he was appointed Curator of the newly-established Department of Islamic Art. At the same time he taught Islamic Art, as an Adjunct Professor, at Columbia University. In 1972 he moved to Italy and was appointed Chair of Islamic art history at the University of Venice in 1977, from which post he retired in 1988. Since then, his considerable research has primarily occupied his time; books and book-length articles include an initial corpus of illustrated manuscripts of the animal-fables known as ‘Kalilah wa Dimna’; a catalogue of the early pottery in the Nasser D Khalili Collection; an annotated bibliography of the iconography of Islamic art and an iconographical examination of the painted decoration of the ceilings of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo. He is also the founder, and editor, of the ‘Islamic Art’ journal, which has appeared since 1981.

Reader in Islamic Art and Archaeology, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

Reader in Islamic Art and Archaeology at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, Dr Geoffrey King has taught there since 1989. He is currently an archaeological adviser to the Republic of Somaliland and is conducting research on Islamic architecture in Iran and on the trade and art of the Indian Ocean. He studied at SOAS for his MPhil and his PhD in Islamic Art and Archaeology and has also directed the British team excavating the late Islamic port site at Julfar (Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE). In 1991 he was appointed Academic Director of the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS) by HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, conducting surveys and excavations on the islands of Sir Bani Yas, Marawah, Dalma and other islands off the UAE coast. He has most recently undertaken an excavation of a Roman period/late Islamic site at Al-Wakra in Qatar and has published extensively in academic journals and broadcast on the BBC. His publications include ‘The Historical Mosques of Saudi Arabia’ and ‘The Architectural Tradition of Saudi Arabia and its Neighbours’.

Curator, Nasser D Khalili Collection.

Nahla NassarNahla Nassar graduated from the American University in Beirut with a degree in Fine Arts and Archaeology. She has worked at the Khalili Collection since 1988 and is currently the curator and registrar. She is a major contributor to the catalogues of the Collection and a member of the editorial board. She has planned and organised many of the collection’s exhibitions, including the recent, highly successful, ‘Arts of Islam - Treasures from the Nasser D Khalili Collection’, which was shown in Sydney at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia and at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She is currently working on the catalogue of the large group of sitarahs for the Ka‘bah and the Prophet’s Mosque in the Nasser D Khalili Collection.

Professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology, Université de Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne).

Alastair NorthedgeAlastair Northedge is Professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology at the Université de Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne). Previously he was a Maître de Conférences at Université de Paris IV (Paris-Sorbonne) between 1991 and 1998. He received his PhD from The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and his dissertation, ‘Qal'at Amman in the Early Islamic Period’ was published as ‘Studies on Roman and Islamic Amman’ in ‘British Academy Monographs in Archaeology’. Northedge has participated in the rescue excavation at Ana, Iraq, which was published as ‘Excavations at Ana’, and he is also the author of the ‘Survey of Samarra’. The first volume of the final publication, the ‘Historical Topography of Samarra’ appeared in 2005, and the second, the ‘Archaeological Atlas of Samarra’ in 2006. Recent fieldwork has been in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan

Senior curator, Department of the Middle East, the British Museum.

Venetia PorterBorn and raised in Lebanon, Venetia Porter studied Arabic and Persian at the University of Oxford where she also did an MPhil in Islamic art. Her doctorate from the University of Durham is on the medieval history and architecture of Yemen. Porter has worked at the British Museum since 1989 and is responsible for its collections of Islamic art, focusing on the Arab world and Modern Middle Eastern art. Her research and publications have covered areas such as Islamic ceramics and tiles, Islamic coins, aspects of medieval Yemen, modern Middle Eastern art and Islamic seals and amulets. She curated the exhibition, ‘Mightier than the Sword: Arabic script Beauty and Meaning’, which was held at the Potter museum, University of Melbourne and at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur in 2004. In 2006 she curated ‘Word into Art’ at the British Museum which was then shown in Dubai in 2008. Her publications include ‘Islamic Tiles’ and ‘Word into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East’.

Specialist in Islamic Calligraphy and the Arts of the Book.

Nabil Safwat Dr Nabil F Safwat is a celebrated author, broadcaster and lecturer on Islamic art history. Safwat studied fine arts and art history in the US, and received his PhD in Islamic art history from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. His published works include ‘The Art of the Pen’, ‘The Harmony of Letters’, and ‘Golden Pages’. In addition to these, he is currently working on two publications, one on Qur'anic manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford University and the other related to Arab Painting.

Artist Calligrapher.

Wissam Shawkat Born in Iraq, Shawkat has been practising calligraphy since he was 10 years old. Entirely self-taught through closely observing and studying the calligraphy of the masters, he has won many local and international competitions such as the Commendation Prize of the International Calligraphy Competition (IRCICA) in Istanbul, 2002; First Prize at the Visual and Audible Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition, Sharjah, 2003 and Second Prize in Jali Thuluth style at the Al-Burda International Calligraphy Competition in Abu Dhabi 2006. Shawkat has participated in various local and international exhibitions such as ‘Nasamat Min Baghdad’ in Italy, 2000; ‘Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition’ in Denmark 2007; ‘Sharjah Days’ in Vienna, 2007 and the 2007 ‘Arabic Calligraphy Exhibition’ in Germany. His pieces have been purchased by several museums and private collections around the world. He also works as a senior designer and consultant on brand identity design and Arabic typography, as well as calligraphy design with global branding and advertising agencies.

Editor, Islamic Art

Eleanor Sims earned a doctorate in Islamic art history from the Institute of Fine Arts in New York in 1973. Between 1978 and 1983 she organsed an international loan exhibition to celebrate the 1400th year of the Hijra; called ‘The Heritage of Islam’, it travelled throughout the US and was seen in Washington DC, Houston, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. Since 1983, she has been researching and writing on Islamic painting and also editing the journal ‘Islamic Art’, together with Ernst J Grube. She has also published a volume on the themes of Iranian painting, ‘Peerless Images’ and ‘The Persian Book of Kings: The Windsor Castle Shahnama of 1648’, with the late B. W. Robinson and Manijeh Bayani. Forthcoming are ‘Visions of the Past: History and Epic Paintings from Iran and Turkey’ (part of the catalogue of the Nasser D. Khalili Collection), and a contribution to a study of the Wellcome Institute Horoscope of the Timurid prince Iskandar-Sultan.

Senior Curator, Middle Eastern collection, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Tim StanleyThe Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), is home to one of the most significant collections of Islamic art in the world, and Dr Tim Stanley has been responsible for the redevelopment of the V&A’s principal display of art from the Islamic Middle East. Stanley joined the V&A in July 2002 from the Nasser D Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, also in London, where he was Deputy Curator. In his research Stanley has specialised in the arts of the book, including topics such as calligraphy, the illumination of copies of the Qur’an, and lacquer bindings. Most recently, he was the principal author of ‘Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East’, and he co-wrote and co-edited ‘The Making of the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art’.

Independent Scholar, Islamic Art.

Rachel WardRachel Ward was a curator at the British Museum from 1983 to 2000 before becoming Director, then Vice-President, of the Royal Asiatic Society in 2002. She has lectured extensively for museums, universities, auction houses, private art history courses, various societies and as a tour guide. Ward is the author of several books on Islamic metalwork amongst other subjects. Books include ‘Süleyman the Magnificent’ (co-authored with J.M. Rogers); ‘Islamic Metalwork’’; ‘Gilded and Enamelled Glass from the Middle East’, (as editor) and numerous articles. Ward is currently working on a ‘Catalogue of the Arab Metalwork in the British Museum’.

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