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Birmingham Museum of Art Appoints Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Wassan Al-KhudhairiThe Birmingham Museum of Art is pleased to announce the appointment of Wassan Al-Khudhairi as its new Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. She will begin work at the Museum on May 5.

“We are thrilled to have Ms. Al-Khudhairi take the lead of our Modern and Contemporary Art collection,” says Gail Andrews, R. Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art. “Her extensive curatorial experience has exposed her to incredible collections and networks around the world. I am confident her international experience will strengthen efforts to expand our global approach to the collection, while her engaging curatorial style will only deepen our relationships within the community.”

Jeannine O’Grody, Deputy Director and Chief Curator added: “Wassan has expressed a deep commitment to curatorial work. Her interest in delving into our existing collection to mine and evaluate it will be critical in determining the future of our Contemporary Art collection.”

Al-Khudhairi was previously Co-Artistic Director at the Gwangju Biennale Foundation in South Korea, where she collaborated on the curation of the ninth edition of the Gwangju Art Biennale. During her tenure, she contributed the exhibition catalogue and a number of essays including Thoughts on Revisiting Histories, an essay for the Gwangju Biennale Roundtable.

Prior to her time in South Korea, Al-Khudhairi served as the Founding Director of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar, which she helped to establish from the ground up. At Mathaf, she spearheaded the development of the institutional vision and strategic plan and initiated the cultivation of community relationships and support of the Museum. Among the exhibitions Al-Khudhairi curated were Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art and Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab, and collaborated with fellow scholars and guest curators on a number of projects.

She has lectured around the world on the subject of modern and contemporary art, specifically related to the Middle East. Other past experience includes positions at the Brooklyn Museum and the High Museum of Art.

Al-Khudhairi holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Georgia State University and a Master of Arts with Distinction in Islamic Art and Archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. She completed the Museum Leadership Institute program at the Getty Leadership Institute at Claremont Graduate University and most recently participated in the Independent Curators International Curatorial Intensive in New York.

Corporate Spotlight

Terry Kellogg, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Terry Kellogg

My Museum: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama aims to improve health and well-being throughout the state by investing in charitable organizations. How do you think your support of the arts improves well-being for the Birmingham community?

Terry Kellogg: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama and The Caring Foundation support initiatives to improve the health, wellness, and education of Alabamians. Health and wellness is more than a healthy body; it’s a healthy mind and spirit, as well. The arts improve the way people feel and interact with the world around them. Supporting the Birmingham Museum of Art and the arts provides opportunities to further enrich the lives of Alabamians.

MM: What do you look for when choosing to invest in a charitable organization?

TK: There are many worthwhile charitable organizations in our communities statewide. We support organizations that positively impact health, wellness, and education throughout Alabama. We ensure that the organizations we support are fiscally responsible and well-managed. We look for organizations and initiatives that improve the lives of Alabamians and meet the mission of The Caring Foundation and our corporate giving goals.

MM: As the number one healthcare provider in the state, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is also a large employer. How do your philanthropic contributions to organizations like the Museum help you recruit and retain employees?

TK: We believe that employees want to work for a company that gives back to the community. And those who care about working for such an employer are more likely to care for the customers who the company serves. One of our Corporate Values is “Give Back to the Community.” We strive to utilize our corporate strengths and resources to positively impact the communities we serve. Giving back to the community is important to our employees. When employees feel good about their employer, they’re more loyal and dedicated to that employer and, most importantly, to their customers.

MM: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has been a longtime supporter of the Museum. Why do you choose to support our organization?

TK: Supporting the Birmingham Museum of Art is a significant way to impact the Birmingham community. By providing educational and cultural opportunities, the Birmingham Museum of Art improves the quality of life for Alabamians. Children who lack the opportunities to travel or experience other cultures and geography can do so through their experiences at the Museum. It provides a unique, multi-dimensional learning opportunity—including art, history, geography, religion, sociology—that cannot be replicated or experienced in quite the same way anywhere else. These factors contribute to elevating Birmingham, and making it a highly desirable city to live and work, attracting a strong workforce and new businesses to our state.

MM: What do you enjoy most about your partnership with the Museum?

TK: We enjoy knowing that our support is making a difference in the Birmingham area by providing not only a cultural experience, but a well-rounded educational one, as well. We also enjoy knowing that prospective businesses entertaining an expansion or move to the area will be positively influenced by a visit to the Museum.

Community News News

Partners in Art: UAB and the BMA

By Joanna Wilson, BMA/UAB Curatorial Fellow

This January marked the opening of University of Alabama at Birmingham’s long anticipated Abroms-Engel Institute for Visual Arts. With its striking architecture, state of-the-art lecture and studio spaces, and three beautiful galleries, this building signals the University’s deep commitment to supporting and fostering a vibrant art community in Birmingham. The AEIVA’s communal mission was highlighted by the organization of its inaugural exhibition, Material Evidence: Art in Search of Identity and Representation, which was the fruitful result of several collaborations. The BMA happily accepted UAB’s invitation to curate a contemporary show for the AEIVA with works drawn from Birmingham private collections; with more support from discerning collectors than we had space to include, Material Evidence was truly a community effort.

My involvement in the planning and execution of Material Evidence is the result of yet another successful collaboration. For the past four years the BMA has offered a competitive twelve-month curatorial fellowship that provides valuable, in-depth career training and experience to one UAB Art History graduate student each year. As the current UAB/BMA Curatorial Fellow, I was keen to contribute to this new joint endeavor. By offering me the opportunity to tackle as much curatorial responsibility for AEIVA’s collaborative inaugural exhibit as I was prepared to take on, the BMA was stating their faith in an existing partnership with UAB, as well as their commitment to expanding that partnership. I would never have been selected or prepared for BMA’s curatorial fellowship if not for the UAB Art History faculty and staff’s excellent instruction and commitment to my success. Similarly, I could never have met the challenges associated with a show like Material Evidence if not for the Museum providing me with an immersive learning environment where Museum-wide support and guidance supplied me with the tools necessary for this highly demanding and equally rewarding curatorial experience.

There were only a few months between the conception of what was an untitled project for UAB and the opening of Material Evidence. In those months I had the incredible opportunity to visit art collections all over the city, gaining inspiration from the wealth of great work I encountered, as well from the insights of each collector. One of the most challenging aspects of this project was taking the very long list of potential works available for the show and editing it to a checklist of forty cohesive pieces. There is an incredibly diverse array of contemporary art in Birmingham, and deciding how to convey some of that variety and range, while still communicating something meaningful and coherent, was an exercise in creative determination. In the end, the theme we chose to unite the exhibit was inspired by the very diversity that initially made the decision difficult. What better theme than the complex shades and variations of “Identity” to understand the diverse works coming from 33 artists, 14 countries, and 17 collections?

To see another collaboration between BMA and UAB, be sure to visit the upcoming exhibition at AEIVA, After “Sosaku Hanga”: Creativity and Modernity in Japanese Prints of the 1960s and 1970s (June 5–July 17, 2014), in conjunction with BMA’s Shin Hanga: Japanese Prints from the Early Twentieth Century, which will be on view outside of our Asian galleries.


Art Matters: A Changing “Target”

Since its arrival on the grounds of the Museum, John Scott’s Target has enlivened the environment with its bright colors and fanciful shapes. In its position by the auditorium entrance, it naturally attracts viewers; however, the sculpture has faded over

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Spotlight on the Collection

April 2014: Ganesha

Ganesha, 10th century. Cambodian, Angkor style. Sandstone. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles B. Crow, Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. William A. Grant, Jr., 1978.73

Ganesha, 10th century. Cambodian, Angkor style. Sandstone. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles B. Crow, Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. William A. Grant, Jr., 1978.73

Ganesha, Cambodian, 10th century

In Hinduism, the god Ganesha both places and clears away obstacles. He appears frequently in all walks of Hindu life: by the roadside, in household shrines, in temples and shops, and inside covers of books. His elephant head makes him instantly recognizable.

Where did his unique head come from? And what can it tell us about him?

The goddess Parvati gave birth to Ganesha, but his father, Shiva, brought him second life – though with his trademark feature:

Once, when the goddess Parvati wanted to take a bath in the river, there were no attendants around to guard her and stop anyone from accidentally from seeing her. Parvati ordered her son, Ganesha, not to allow anyone to disturb her, and Ganesha obediently followed his mother’s orders.

After a while the god Shiva returned home from a long trip; he did not know Ganesha, since Ganesha had been born while he was away. When he tried to go to the river, Ganesha stopped him. Shiva was furious at this strange little boy he did not know who dared to challenge him. He told Ganesha that he was Parvati’s husband and demanded that Ganesha let him go in. But Ganesha refused to hear him. Shiva lost his patience and had a fierce battle with Ganesha. At last he severed Ganesha’s head with his trident. When Parvati came out and saw her son’s lifeless body, she was very angry and sad. She demanded that Shiva restore Ganesha’s life at once.

Unfortunately, Shiva’s trident was so powerful that it had hurled Ganesha’s head very far away. All attempts to find the head were in vain. As a last resort, Shiva approached the god Brahma, who suggested that he replace Ganesha’s head with the first living being that came his way. Shiva sent his disciples to find and take the head of whatever creature they happened to find asleep with its head facing north. They found a dying elephant; after its death they took its head, attached it to Ganesha’s body, and brought him back to life. From then on, Ganesha was called Ganapati, or “head of the celestial armies,” and was worshipped by everyone before beginning any activity.

A Cambodian artist carved this statue from a single block of sandstone. Ganesha wears the royal attire of the Khmer people, including a crown, elaborate jewelry, and skirt. The solidity of the sculpture reinforces the strength and power of the god’s elephantine nature. Elephants are among the world’s most intelligent species; accordingly, Ganesha is also the god of learning. Many stories stress Ganesha’s wit and intellect.

—Kristi McMillan, assistant curator of education for visitor engagement,
with Dr. Don Wood, curator of Asian art

Join the conversation!

For thousands of years, across time and place, people have used animals – real and imaginary – to represent themselves or their families. Whether in Native American totem poles, European coats-of-arms, African masks, or other artworks that span time and place, people chose an animal to reflect a characteristic they have, a trait they admire, or a quality to which they aspire. Which animal would you choose to represent you? Check out the following links, and join the conversation below!

“Animals in Medieval Art,” Barbara Drake Boehm and Melanie Holcomb, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

“Totem Poles: Heraldic Monuments of Cedar,” Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Artful Animals, Smithsonian Museum of African Art

“Virtual Avatars May Impact Real-World Behavior,” Association for Psychological Science, February 10, 2014

Paul Cézanne: When discussing Delacroix, Cézanne said, “His remains the finest palette in France and nobody in our country has possessed at once such calm and pathos, such shimmering color. We all paint in him.” : Eugène Delacroix, "Medea about to Kill Her Children," 1838. Oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre, Paris.  | Paul Cézanne, "Medea," 1879-1882. Watercolor. Kunsthaus Zürich.

5 Great Artists Inspired by Delacroix

Widely recognized as the “Father of Impressionism,” Eugène Delacroix’s style, featuring dramatic brushstrokes and intense colors, became characteristic for many artists who followed in his footsteps. Take a look at some of the artists who viewed Delacroix as an art

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@_emilypatton saw the installation with a group of friends, and shared some goofy pictures with us!

10 Favorite Instagrams of Quilted Vessel

Since its arrival in December 2013, Craig Wedderspoon’s sculpture installation, Quilted Vessel, has made quite the impression on our visitors! Unlike most of the pieces in our sculpture garden, this work is meant to be interactive, allowing visitors to get up

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5 Things for a Creative Spring Break!

By: Madeline Adams, Assistant Curator for Family Programs

With warmer weather, our winter blues (and winter clothes) are packed behind us! School’s out for the week, so we’ve come up with 5 Things for a Creative Spring Break! Each idea is full of FREE fun!

1. Get Outside
Do you have a yard or a park nearby? Find some funny shaped trees and create a “living sculpture” inspired by the shapes. Pick springtime flowers and make a bouquet or a flower crown. Find cool rocks and paint fun designs on them. Inspiration is all around you!

2. Tell A Story
Turn off the TV and create your own illustrated story! Beginning the story is easy: get started by creating characters, actions, and a setting! Write out your storyline, and then illustrate each scene. Pictures can be drawn, painted, or collaged. You may just make your new favorite bedtime story!

3. Find Fun In Art
Create your own scavenger hunt in the Museum! We have plenty of activities for you while you’re here, but Bart the Art Bat challenges you to create your own journey. It’s easy to find something you love in a work of art! For example, look for your favorite colors in art throughout the Museum. How do different artists use them?

4. Play With Your Food!
Feeling hungry after all this fun? Get creative while making your snack! Look at textures, colors, shapes, and more in your pantry. One idea is to bring the beach to you this Spring Break: use oats for sand, an orange for sunshine, and blueberries for the sea! Create a fun scene and then eat it up!

5. See The World
Stay in town, see the world, and learn about different cultures at the Museum! Through art activities, family tours, and Bart’s ArtVenture, we are a great place to come for FREE family fun. Each day will focus on a different collection of the Museum. What will you discover?

Spend your spring break at the Birmingham Museum of Art! Tuesday, March 25 – Friday, March 28, 10AM – 5PM. Family tours each day at 10:30AM and 1:30PM. Click here to learn more.


Chinese culture considers peaches very lucky, symbolizing longevity and good fortune. This bowl from the Qing dynasty (about 1700) certainly shows that the peach has stood the test of time! // Bowl, China, Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), about 1700. Porcelain with overglaze enamels. Gift of Mrs. Helen Hudgens in memory of her husband Mr. James W. Hudgens. 1998.18.

7 Lucky Works of Art

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re highlighting pieces in our collection that bring us luck all year round. Take a look at 7 Lucky Works of Art in our collection, found from cultures across the globe! 1. Qing Dynasty

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5 Things To Know About Holi

Each March, the Museum celebrates Indian culture at our Holi family festival. With live performances, bright colors, and fun activities, it is the perfect way to welcome springtime!

Here are 5 Things To Know About Holi before the big day!

1. It’s a Celebration of Spring.

Holi begins in India on the last full moon of winter. The celebration also prompts spring-cleaning and, for many Hindus, the start of a new year. After the relentless winter we had this year, we couldn’t be happier to welcome warmer weather!

2. It Symbolizes New Beginnings.

Holi is a chance to forgive and forget, reconciling with those we have hurt and who have hurt us. Holi is the time to let the past go, and let love abound!

3. It’s Known for Vibrant Colors.

It is believed that the changing seasons make it easy to catch a cold. In Indian tradition, the bright colors thrown were also medicinal herbs to ward off illness before spring. Today, the colors that are thrown are not herbs, but are just for fun! Anyone who is at the festival is free game to be hit by some color. At the end of each day, everyone is covered in vivid colors to greet the spring season.

4. It Promotes Harmony.

The festival breaks down all barriers of caste, creed, sex, and religion; anything that divides a society is forgotten, as everyone celebrates the festival together. Holi fosters unity and a common bond throughout the country, spreading goodwill and cheer to all.

5. It’s a Party!

More than anything, Holi is the ultimate party. With music, dance, food, and drinks in the streets, everyone stops their usual routine to have some fun. The party begins on the eve of Holi by setting a bonfire, as a symbol of good over evil, and lasts several days.

Join us to learn more and celebrate this weekend! Happy Holi!


Image from the Pravasi Herald, from Holi Festival 2011 at the BMA