Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Alia Al-Senussi ─ ‘How the Art World Works - Cultural Strategies’ Middle East and Beyond

Thursday, October 31, 2019

4 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room, 3rd Floor, 111 Thayer Street

Undergraduate workshop with Alia Al-Senussi ('03 AM'04), CMES Scholar-in-Residence.

The Middle Eastern cultural sector has developed rapidly in the 21st century, although not in the way one might think in relation to the wider art world. The use of the term ‘cultural sectors’ is more relevant than using a regional one-size-fits-all classification as individual countries in the region have taken different approaches to the art world. Examining the differences and similarities, this workshop will identify models and consider their strengths and weaknesses in order to understand the ecosystems they operate in within the Middle East as well as within the wider art world—and how these act as mirrors for other socio-economic issues and structures. In particular, we will look at countries which have only recently taken their first steps in writing policies and adopting strategic approaches to culture, such as Saudi Arabia which established a Ministry of Culture in 2018. Trying to identify the challenges that cultural leaders face, the workshop aims to draw attention to the essential elements required for the system to work, and what this means to society in general. In trying to answer these questions, we will refer to more established art worlds and ecosystems, drawing on relevant examples from the Western world amongst others. We will look at how museums, galleries, art fairs, patrons and collectors co-exist and complement each other, and where improvements to this ecosystem of relations could be invited, as well as what this means to politics and political systems.

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.