20211209_activist museum_event

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What does “activism” mean for a curator? How does a specialist, seen as an “authority”, understand her role within the museum – one of the institutions which, according to different American studies, the public trusts the most? How does she deal with the power given to her by her knowledge and what kind of responsibilities does it entail for an organisation at the service of society?

Join us on 9 December, at 6.30pm WET (Lisbon | London) to discuss these questions with Jessica Hallett (curator at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and of the project Power of the Word) and Sussan Babaie (professor at The Courtauld Institute of Art) whom we had the opportunity to hear at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum’s Summer School (Curating as pedagogy: university students and the museum).


Jessica Hallett is curator of the Early Modern Middle East at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon. Her doctoral thesis (Oxford, 1999) gave rise to the exhibition, Iraq and China. Ceramics, trade and innovation, at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian, Washington (2004). Jessica has curated various exhibitions in Lisbon, including Cultures of the Indian Ocean (MNAA, 1998), The Oriental Carpet in Portugal (MNAA, 2007), and most recently, The Rise of Islamic Art, 1869-1939 (CGM, 2019 – awarded APOM Best Exhibition), which looked at Calouste Gulbenkian’s collecting activities in geopolitical context. Her current projects include POWER OF THE WORD, a participatory-curation initiative in the Islamic East Gallery, along with cataloguing Gulbenkian’s renowned carpet collection, with Clara Serra. Hallett has an undergraduate degree in Analytical Chemistry and often brings science as a lens to her work, especially on ceramics, textiles and carpets.

Sussan Babaie (Professor) lectures on Iranian and Islamic Arts at The Courtauld, University of London. She has curated exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and at Harvard and Michigan university museums, and is developing a co-curated exhibition for The Royal Academy. Her research on the early modern period includes topics on architecture, urbanism and urbanity, on transcultural conditions of artistic production, sexuality and sensory aspects of seeing and taste. She also writes on modern and contemporary arts of Iran including on Shirin Neshat (2013 and forthcoming 2021), Slavs and Tatars (2017), and for Honar: The Afkhami Collection of Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art (2017).