Duygu Demir Appointed Curator at The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Demir is appointed as Curator and Research Assistant Professor of Art History, in keeping with the Gallery’s mission within a research university

NYU Abu Dhabi has appointed Duygu Demir to the post of Curator of the university’s Art Gallery, and Research Assistant Professor of Art History. As The NYUAD Art Gallery enters its tenth year of exhibitions and publications, Demir's appointment advances the Gallery's commitment to exhibition-making as a mode of investigation, supporting experimentation in form and concept, and charting new areas of art history.

Demir is an art historian and curator. Originally from Turkey, she was a founding member of SALT, a research-based cultural institution in Istanbul. She earned her PhD from MIT, with funding from both MIT and Harvard University. Prior to joining NYUAD, Demir was Assistant Professor of Art History at Sabancı University.


“Since opening our campus on Saadiyat Island in 2014, I’ve witnessed the UAE’s arts ecosystem develop from a very few venues—though ones of critical importance—to a complex mix, alongside a community that grows in its reputation as a nourishing and welcoming place for artists to develop their practice. What does it mean to be growing a major cultural sector, rooted in this region? Our university’s role in exploring that question has crystallized: in our Art Gallery, in our more free-form Project Space, and in our Reading Room, NYU Abu Dhabi supports creative experimentation and the development of new bodies of knowledge. Duygu Demir brings to this watershed moment in the UAE her very rare combination of scholarly training in non-Western modernism, and her commitment to cultural production through exhibitions and programs, which she did for many years even before proceeding to her PhD. Her work makes a critical contribution to our mission, as we train future generations of museum professionals and art historians, through our work of investigative exhibition-making, and projects with artists from around the globe. I look forward to exciting years of growth ahead, in exhibitions, publications, symposia, and programs for audiences ranging from our local neighbors to arts professionals from around the world—and here, those are sometimes one and the same!” 

Executive Director and Chief Curator Maya Allison

In keeping with The Art Gallery’s mission as a teaching institution and a core catalyst for NYUAD as a locus of intellectual and creative activity, Demir will also support the University’s Arts and Humanities division as a Research Assistant Professor. Her academic research topics include non-Western modernisms, exhibition histories, transnational artistic encounters, and moments of confluence between art and architecture. 

Since her appointment, Demir has been working on a public program titled Curators Talk, a new series of public talks where curators discuss their distinct approaches to curatorial practice. “We want the series to offer a space for dialogue, reflection, and exploration for the art-curious. We will soon announce additional new series to complement our wide-ranging exhibition program,” she said.

Demir was one of the founding team of programmers at SALT in Istanbul. While there, she co-curated several critically acclaimed solo and group exhibitions and accompanying public programs. She also edited two monographic publications, one on conceptualist İsmail Saray (2018) and another for the late polymath Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin, titled I am not a Studio Artist (2011), both published by SALT. In 2011, she co-curated I Decided not to Save the World with Kyla McDonald, a group exhibition which was on view at Tate Modern in 2011 and traveled to SALT in 2012. 

More recently,  she curated 10: Abstractions, Intimations, Ruminations, a survey of art from Turkey made in the last decade, which is currently on view at İMALAT-HANE in Bursa. Last year, she worked on solo presentations of work by Deniz Aktaş and Gözde İlkin, both for artSümer in Istanbul (2022). The video program Projected Architectures had its first iteration at MIT’s Keller Gallery in the fall of 2017. Flow Through, a solo presentation of the work of Turkish-American artist Bahar Yürükoğlu, opened at Arter Space for Art in Istanbul in 2016. Demir’s academic writing has appeared in Art Margins (2014), Thresholds (2018), both from MIT Press, as well as Art Journal (2019). She also writes articles and reviews on contemporary art for various media outlets. She was one of the authors for Art Cities of the Future: Avant-Gardes of the 21st Century (Phaidon, 2013), nominator and contributor for Vitamin D2: New Perspectives in Drawing (Phaidon, 2013) as well as editor of Room of Rhythms–Cevdet Erek (2012, Walther König). She has also written artist entries and essays for various exhibition catalogs, including the 2019 Venice Biennale May You Live in Interesting Times (2019), Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish and Indian Highlights from NYU’S Abby Weed Grey Collection (2019) as well as Altan Gürman (2019) and Passage–Nuri Kuzucan (2023), both published by Arter. 

Demir has a combined BA degree in Visual Arts and Art History from Columbia University in New York, and a PhD from MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning. 

The Art Gallery’s program rotates between historical and contemporary exhibitions from abroad, alongside modern and contemporary art from the region. Books are produced on a regular basis as part of The Art Gallery’s remit in a university research context, including an oral history of the UAE’s avant-garde. The Art Gallery has also been collaborating annually since 2013, with Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) on the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award which serves as a launch pad for artists across the UAE, encouraging new artwork and offering winners insight into professional life as an artist, from commission to exhibition.