MFA Boston Appoints Dr. Nadirah Mansour as Inaugural Assistant Curator of Islamic Art

Position Funded by $2.5 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

BOSTON (July 26, 2022)—The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), has announced the appointment of Dr. Nadirah Mansour as the inaugural Assistant Curator of Islamic Art. Working in collaboration with Islamic communities in the Greater Boston area and beyond, Mansour will draw on the Museum’s collection—among the most important holdings of Islamic art in the country—to create innovative exhibitions, publications and public programs. This new curatorial position—the MFA’s first focused solely on Islamic art—was established through a $2.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative, which was given to the Museum in 2020. Mansour will begin her new role at the MFA on September 1.

“The MFA has one of the oldest and most important collections of Islamic art in the U.S. The Lilly Endowment Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative grant will enable us, for the first time, to fully utilize this collection to engage audiences in thoughtful, productive and respectful conversations around Islam’s manifestations in art, culture and society,” said Laura Weinstein, Ananda Coomaraswamy Curator of South Asian and Islamic Art. “Nadirah’s interests align wonderfully with those of this new position and the MFA in general. She brings to the MFA substantial expertise in the material and intellectual dimensions of Islamic devotion, as well as a real commitment to making art and archival collections accessible and meaningful to the public.”

A scholar focused on Arabic manuscripts and books, Mansour has published widely and serves as co-editor-in-chief of Hazine, an online resource for researchers working in the fields of Islamic and Middle East Studies and cultural heritage. As the McCrindle Curatorial Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Art at the Princeton University Art Museum, she was involved in the development of the exhibition Everyday Allegories, highlighting the contemporary Middle East and North Africa through representations of everyday life, with Mitra Abbaspour. She previously contributed to projects at Akkasah, the Photography Archive  at New York University, Abu Dhabi, and the Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies (IDEO) in Cairo, Egypt. Mansour received her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Princeton University. 

“The MFA’s Islamic art galleries draw important connections between the historical and more contemporary collections,” said Mansour. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue this important work as well as to care for the MFA’s Islamic arts collection and make it accessible to multiple publics.”

The Islamic collection began at the MFA the year the Museum opened its doors in 1876. Today, it is among the most renowned in the U.S. and the world, consisting of about 5,500 paintings, textiles, ceramics, metalwork and glass from 15 countries including Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. In 2019, the MFA unveiled a reinstalled and reinterpreted Arts of Islamic Cultures Gallery, designed to expand how visitors see and understand the diverse arts of Islamic communities.

Critical to Mansour’s new role is a commitment to exploring and representing not only the historical, cultural and aesthetic dimensions of Islamic art but also the religious—promoting the public’s engagement with and understanding of Islam and its relationship to art, culture and society. She will cultivate relationships with a range of community partners that regularly collaborate with the MFA, including the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland and the Center for Arabic Culture in Somerville, and further the Museum’s ongoing efforts to create programs that reflect the experiences and values of visitors, especially of historically underrepresented communities.