Unwinding the history of the UAE

Historic consciousness in the UAE and in the other GCC states goes back only a few centuries, at most; this is how far back most prominent Emirati families can reliably trace their genealogy.

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What happened in these lands before the advent of Islam is as alien to the current population, as if it had happened on another continent. Continue reading

A visit to the National Museum of Riyadh

The National Museum of Riyadh is a very interesting museum designed by the Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama (figs 1 & 2). It was inaugurated in 1999. It is located on the grounds of the Murabba Palace that was built by King Abdul Aziz in 1936/37 north of what was then Riyadh, a small and congested walled city. Many of the buildings of this palatial complex that fell into disuse in the early 1950s have been beautifully restored, and together with the gardens that surround them they form one of the only large public spaces in Riyadh (figs 3 & 4). Many people come here to stroll, picnic and watch other passers-by. Continue reading

My plans for establishing a contemporary art department at the ethnographic ‘Tropenmuseum’ in Amsterdam

The Tropenmuseum was looking for a contemporary art curator, and I applied. They asked me what I would do were I to get my job. As with the vacancy of director for De Balie (see below, in Dutch) I got through to the last round but ultimately didn’t land the job (the main reason being that they thought I didn’t have a sufficiently solid theoretical basis in art history). However since I enjoyed writing these plans, and thinking about how a ‘stuffy’ old ethnographic museum that wants to renew its appeal could go about doing it, I’m sharing them with you here: Continue reading