Middle East Studies

In Conversation with Alia Al-Senussi – The Art World Ecosystem: Politics, Morality and Controversies

event poster

Friday, November 1, 2019

2:00 – 3:30 p.m.

Leung Conference Room (110), 280 Brook St.

Free and open to the public

A wide-ranging conversation with Alia Al-Senussi.

The art world is not free from controversies. Those related to artistic expression and pushing the boundaries of creativity provide a forum for exchanging views, developing new ideas and maintaining discourse. However, when it comes to governance, the notion of relativity is less popular. Many institutions have their ‘conduct of behaviour’.  ‘Declarations of interests’ might be required from members of boards at cultural institutions and from those involved in non-executive governance. This is a very complex subject where many elements come into play, including politics and morality, especially when financing and funding are at stake. And of course  – depending on the relevant policies’ advancement – standards can be very different or even non-existent, particularly when it comes to new inexperienced cultural bodies. Yet, controversies in the art world are not exclusive to any one specific country but rather reflect the complexities and tensions in the world at large.


Alia Al-Senussi's ('03 AM'04) research interests are in the political, cultural and societal connections of the arts and arts patronage. In 2019 she received her PhD in Politics from SOAS in the UK. Her doctoral research examines the nexus of institutions of power, national identity, and art and culture, featuring a case study on patronage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Her dissertation explores contemporary visual artists and their contributions towards social change in Saudi Arabia, addressing the nature and structure of power through investigation of current politics and development in the country. It also investigates the challenges, limitations, and opportunities for artists in shaping debates about culture, politics, and power.

A dedicated supporter of the arts, Alia holds a variety of non-profit board and committee positions which promote patronage of the arts in London as well as collecting and patronage in the Middle East.