Lisa Melandri, executive director of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, announced today that Wassan Al-Khudhairi, currently the curator of modern and contemporary art at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama, will join CAM as its new chief curator. She succeeds Jeffrey Uslip, who left the museum following backlash over a controversial Kelley Walker exhibition which he organized last year. Al-Khudhairi will take up the post on August 1.
“I am so delighted to have the chance to work with Wassan,” Melandri said. “She has extraordinary breadth of experience and global knowledge of the contemporary art world, which is seamlessly balanced with her attention to local and regional communities and audiences. We are grateful to have her vision and abilities at CAM and in St. Louis.”
During her term at the Birmingham Museum, Al-Khudhairi cocurated an initiative called Shift, a temporary platform for social change that served as a satellite space in downtown Birmingham. Previously, she served as founding director of Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar, and coartistic director at the Gwangju Biennale Foundation in South Korea. She has held positions at the Brooklyn Museum, the British Museum, and the High Museum of Modern Art. Al-Khudhairi studied at the Getty Leadership Institute at Claremont Graduate University and received degrees from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and Georgia State University.
“We are experiencing an important moment in museums today,” said Al-Khudhairi. “There is an urgency to think critically about the role and responsibility of art institutions. I am excited to have the opportunity to consider what this means for CAM and St. Louis. I look forward to working closely with the exceptional team at CAM to build and shape an engaging and ambitious program that has roots locally but engages with artists and ideas nationally and internationally.”