Photograph by Nick Harvey
Rose Issa is a curator, writer and producer who has championed visual art and film from the Arab world and Iran for nearly 30 years. She has lived in Iran, Lebanon, France and, for the last 25 years, London, where from her project space in Great Portland Street she showcases upcoming and established artists, and produces exhibitions and publications with public and private institutions worldwide.
Through curating numerous exhibitions and film festivals, she introduced for the first time to Western audiences many of the artists who have since become stars of the international scene, including: Chant Avedissian, Ayman Baalbaki, Shadi Ghadirian, Monir Farmanfarmaian, Bahman Ghobadi, Hassan Hajjaj, Farhad Moshiri, Abbas Kiarostami, Rashid Koraichi and Nja Mahdaoui among many more.
Rose Issa was guest curator for numerous private and public institutions: the Beirut Exhibition Center (2010-11); the Bluecoat Arts Centre, Liverpool (2010); Tate Britain, London (2008); European Parliament (2008); the State Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow (2007); the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (2007); ING Bank, Geneva (2007); the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2006); the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin (2004); The CCCB (Contemporary Cultural Centre), Barcelona (2003); IFA - Institut fur Auslandsbezeihungen (2002-3), Germany; Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam (1996-1997); the Barbican Art Centre (2001, 1995); and The Leighton House Museum (ongoing, since 1992).
She has also collaborated with the CAB Art Centre, Brussels (2013); the Boghossian Foundation, Brussels (2012); the Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane, Australia (2009); Paul Klee Museum, Bern (2009); and Belvedere Museum, Vienna (2009).
Rose also advises public and private art institutions on their loans and acquisitions
of contemporary artworks from the Middle East, including The British Museum; the Imperial War Museum; The Museum of Mankind; the Victoria and Albert Museum;
The Written Art Foundation, Wiesbaden; The National Museums of Scotland; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Smithsonian Institution (Sackler/Freer Gallery and National Museum of African Arts); the World Bank, Washington DC; and The National Gallery of Jordan. She was a Jury member for the National Pavillions at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003).
Founder of Beyond Art Production, Rose publishes monographs and comprehensive catalogues addressing the current concerns and trends of the visual arts scene from the Arab world, Iran and Turkey. Recent titles include: Raeda Saadeh: Reframing Palestine (2012), Farhad Ahrarnia: Canary in a coal mine (2011), Ayman Baalbaki: Beirut again and again (2011), Selma Gurbuz: Shadow of My Self (2011), Omid Salehi: a photographer’s journey through Iran (2011), Fathi Hassan (2010), Parastou Forouhar: Art, life and death in Iran (2010) and Maliheh Afnan: Traces, Faces, Places (2009).
Rose has also co-published the two major overviews on contemporary photography from the Middle East: Arab Photography Now (with Kehrer Verlag, 2011) and Iranian Photography Now (with Hatjie Kantz, 2008).
Film from the Arab World and Iran
In 1982 Rose Issa launched the first-ever Arab Film Festival in Paris and worked with the Delegations Etrangères at the Cannes Film Festival (1983-1985).
For a further 26 years until 2008, she curated Arab and Iranian film seasons in Britain and abroad. She was special advisor to The Berlinale (2003-2007); the International Rotterdam Film Festival (1996-2002); the London International Film Festival (1987-2003); and The British Film Institute (1988-1995). She also curated Arab and Iranian film seasons at The National Film Theatre (“Hollywood on the Nile”, 2003; “Art and Life: The New Iranian Cinema”, 1999; “First Arab Film Festival”, 1987); the Barbican (“Unveiled Lives: Women and Iranian Cinema”, 2001; “Melodramas, Comedies, and Mysteries: North African Film”, 1995).
In addition she curated a season of Iranian films for Britain’s Channel 4 (2005) and collaborated with them on “Cinema Iran”, a series of documentaries on Iranian cinema. She also realised the documentary, “Moving Pictures: Tunisian Women Film Directors”, for BBC2 TV (1995).