Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Alia Al-Senussi ─ The Art World Ecosystem: Politics, Morality and Controversies

Friday, November 1, 2019

2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Leung Conference Room (110), Watson Institute Stephen Robert Hall, 280 Brook Street

In conversation with Alia Al-Senussi, Residency at CMES. Part of the the Islam and the Humanities initiative.

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.

Center for Middle East Studies

Alia Al-Senussi (’04, ’03 A.M.) is a visiting scholar in Middle East studies at Brown University. She is a cultural commentator interested in connecting people and ideas. Alia graduated from Brown University magna cum laude in 2003 with a double concentration in international relations (honors) and Middle East studies. She holds an A.M. in political science from Brown University (2004) and an MSc in Law, Anthropology and Society from the London School of Economics (2005). In 2019, she received her PhD in politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Her doctoral research examines the nexus of institutions of power, national identity and art & 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 patron and dedicated supporter of the arts, Alia is an active member of the contemporary art world, acclaimed for her work that has a special focus on young patronage in arts and culture in the Middle East. She holds a variety of non-profit board and committee positions which promote young patronage of the arts in London and collecting in the Middle East.