Anneka lenssen

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Department of History of Art

University of California, Berkeley

430 Doe Library

Berkeley, CA 94720

Ph.D. in History and Theory of Art, 2014

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture

History, Theory, and Criticism Section / The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture
B.A. in Studio Art, 2001

Kenyon College

Honors: summa cum laude, distinction in major, Phi Beta Kappa
Academic Appointments
2014– Assistant Professor of Global Modern Art, History of Art Department, University of California, Berkeley

Affiliated Faculty, Center for Middle Eastern Studies

2013–2014 Director, Visual Cultures Program, The American University in Cairo
2012–2014 Assistant Professor of Theory, History and Criticism, Department of the Arts, The American University in Cairo
Book Projects in Progress

  • Arab Art in the Twentieth Century: Primary Documents, co-edited with Nada Shabout and Sarah A. Rogers (New York: Museum of Modern Art, under contract for 2017).

  • Being Mobilized: Painting and Populist Politics in Arab Syria, 1930-1967 (in preparation).

Articles/Book Chapters

  • “Making Art In and Beyond Syria: The Radical Politics of the Arabesque, 1936-1952,” Muqarnas: An Annual On the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World 34 (2017), forthcoming.

  • “Articulating the Contemporary,” with Sarah A. Rogers, for A Companion to Islamic Art, eds. Gülru Necipoğlu and Finbarr Barry Flood (Oxford; Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2016), forthcoming.

  • “The Plasticity of the Syrian Avant-Garde, 1964-1970,” ARTMargins 2, no. 2 (June 2013): 43–70.

  • “Muslims to take over Institute for Contemporary Art: The 1976 World of Islam Festival,” MESA Bulletin 42, no. 1 & 2 (Summer/Winter 2008): 40–47.

  • “Travels of the Carpet Myth: Retracing Owen Jones, Ibn Khaldun, and Gottfried Semper,” Thresholds 34 (2007): 70–73.

Encyclopedia Entries

  • “Marwan Kassab Bachi,” “Mahmoud Hammad,” “Nazem Jaafari,” “Louay Kayyali,” “Fateh al-Moudarres,” “Nazir Nabaa,” “Leila Nseir,” “Elias Zayyat,” and “Salat al-Fann al-Hadith al-Alami” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, ed. Stephen Ross (London: Routledge, forthcoming).

Catalog Essays

  • “Exchangeable Realism,” for Postwar: Art between the Pacific and Atlantic, 1945-1965, eds. Okwui Enwezor, Katy Siegel, and Ulrich Wilmes (Munich: Haus der Kunst, 2016).

  • “Distances Greater than Between These Walls: On Ideals and the Constitution of an Audience,” for Arab Art Histories: The Khalid Shoman Collection, eds. Sarah A. Rogers and Eline van de Vlist (Amman: Darat al-Funun, 2014), 93–96 and 137–151.

  • “A Self Without Guarantees: Some Thoughts on Pain in the Work of Aissa Deebi,” Bashir Makhoul | Aissa Deebi: Otherwise Occupied, eds. Ryan Bishop and Gordon Hon (Venice: Al-Hoash, 2013), 104–115.

  • “The Wormholes of Ecology,” for Still Life: Art, Ecology, and the Politics of Change (Sharjah Biennial 8 Catalog), eds. Joseph Wolin and Ismail Al Rifai (Sharjah, UAE: Sharjah Biennial, 2009), 37–44.

Reviews and Critical Writing

  • Hassan Khan, Flow my tears, the policeman said, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, in Artforum International (January 2015): 141.

  • Magdi Mostafa, Townhouse Factory Space, Cairo, in Artforum International (September 2014): 394–395.

  • “Effects without Causes: On Hassan Khan’s First Major Solo Exhibition in Cairo,” in Springerin (Summer 2014): 50-51. Published in German, trans. Thomas Raab.

  • “The View from Doha, Opening Exhibitions at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art,” in Artforum International (January 2011): 102.

  • Ammar al Beik, Colored Earth…Black Chainsaw, Ayyam Gallery, Damascus, in Bidoun 23 (Winter 2011): 175.

  • Tarjama/Translation: Contemporary Art from the Middle East, Central Asia, and Their Diasporas, Queens Museum of Art, New York, for (2010).

  • The Seasons of Tell-Al Hejara, Damascus, in Bidoun 13 (Winter 2008): 122.

Book Reviews

  • Souvenir de Damas / Souvenir from Damascus, by Hussein I. El-Mudarris and Olivier Salmon, in Syrian Studies Association Newsletter XVI, no. 1 (Spring 2011).

  • Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt, by Jessica Winegar, in Arab Studies Journal XV no. 2/XVI no. 1 (Fall 2007/Spring 2008): 225–227.

Fellowships, Grants, and Awards

  • Getty Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2016–2017

  • Margaret B. Ševčenko Prize in Islamic Art and Culture, awarded by the Historians of Islamic Art Association to the best unpublished essay by a junior scholar, 2014

  • Social Sciences Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship (SSRC IDRF, Cairo-Rome-Paris-Damascus), 2010–2011

  • International Chapter P.E.O. Sisterhood Scholar Award, 2010–2011

  • Fulbright U.S. Student Grant, Damascus (with Critical Language Enhancement Award), 2009–2010

  • MIT-CCA Collection Research Grant, Canadian Center for Architecture, Montreal, 2009

  • MIT Hyzen Travel Grant: Damascus, Summer 2008

  • MIT Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture Travel Grant, Damascus, 2007 and 2008

Teaching Grants

  • Instructional Improvement Grant, Center for Teaching and Learning, UC-Berkeley, 2014–15

  • Faculty Research Grant, The American University in Cairo, Spring 2014, for two exhibition publications in conjunction with AUC_LAB series: Malak Helmy: Lost Referents of Some Attraction (Revolver, 2015) and Hassan Khan: Dreams & Music (Revolver, forthcoming 2016). Co-grantee and co-editor with Kaya Behkalam.

Courses Taught


HA 290 The Ethics of Abstraction, co-taught with Julia Bryan-Wilson (graduate seminar), Spring 2016

HA 192M Transnational Avant-gardes (undergraduate lecture), Spring 2016

HA C121A Introduction to Islamic Art (undergraduate lecture), Fall 2015

HA 290.1 The Cold War Contingent (graduate seminar). Spring 2015

HA 190M Mosque Lamps and Electric Hearts: Modern Art and the Middle East (undergraduate

lecture). Spring 2015

HA 192M Global Surrealisms (undergraduate seminar). Fall 2014
The American University in Cairo

ARTV 410 Contemporary Issues in Arab Art (undergraduate seminar). Fall 2012, Fall 2013

ARTV 315 Art Theory (undergraduate seminar). Fall 2012, Spring 2014

ARTV 213 Introduction to Visual Culture (undergraduate lecture). Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Spring


Lectures and Presentations
Conference Papers

  • “Method of No Market: Cases from the Socialist Front,” Future Fields: ‘Global’ Methodologies and Art of the Middle East, Kahn Institute, Smith College, March 31–April 2, 2016.

  • “Surrealism without Fetishes? The Arab-Islamic Reading of Automatic Images, 1946-1952,” The Surreal World, The American Comparative Literature Association, Harvard University, March 17–20, 2016.

  • “Op Art on the Other Shore: Masking Vision in the Revolutionary Mediterranean,” Geometric Abstraction, Op, and Kinetic Art in Transnational Perspective, College Art Association Annual Conference, Washington D.C., February 3–6, 2016.

  • “Extending Painting in Syria, Algeria, and Morocco c. 1965,” Before the Contemporary: Arts, Institutions, Revolutions, Northwestern University, May 28–9, 2015.

  • “Unmapping Surrealism in the Arab World,” Rethinking Historical Space, NYU-Abu Dhabi, May 19–21, 2015.

  • “Lines of Dissolution: Arab Nationalism and Abstraction in Syria, 1936-1952,” Abstraction and Totality, College Art Association Annual Conference, New York, NY, February 13–16, 2013.

  • “The Plasticity of the Syrian Avant-Garde, 1964-1970,” The Longevity of Rupture: 1967 in Art and Its Histories, Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey Conference, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, June 1–2, 2012.

  • “All Rights Reserved for the Authors: The Drawings and Aesthetic Distributions of Fateh al-Moudarres circa 1962,” Arab Modern Art: Objects, Histories, and Methodologies, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar, December 16–17, 2010.

  • “Pseudo-Fragments of Heritage: Michael Rakowitz’s ‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist’,” Spaces and Visions, Historians of Islamic Art and Architecture Biennial Symposium, Philadelphia, October 16–18, 2008.

  • “Conscientious Objection in the Making of the Martyr Omar al-Mukhtar,” What Object, MIT Research-in-Progress Conference, April 3–4, 2008.

  • “London’s Arab Renaissance,” Art Without History?: Evaluating ‘Arab’ Art, Middle Eastern Studies Association Annual Meeting, Montreal, November 17–20, 2007.

Invited Talks

  • “Sight/Sensation: Global Modernism in the Middle East,” Theories and Methods for the “Global” Modern, The City College of the City University of New York Art Department Symposium, April 8, 2016.

  • “Material Disclosures: Medium in Arab Art circa 1950,” Department of Art History, University of North Texas, October 1, 2015.

  • “Surreality and Possession in the Modern Art of the Arab East,” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UC-Berkeley, March 5, 2015.

  • “Creative Solidarity in the Global 1980s: Arab Art Networks,” Contemporary Art Working Group, UC-Berkeley, November 18, 2014.

  • “The Medium,” A Ghost Without A Host Is A Guest exhibition closing, Beirut (gallery), Cairo, Egypt, June 19, 2014. Essay version available online:

  • “A Loud Cry That Doesn’t Ask for Help: Avant-gardism in the Syrian State,” Interdisciplinary Seminar, Cooper Union School of Art, New York, NY, October 15, 2013.

  • “The Correspondent,” ‘On Publications’ Series, 98Weeks Project Space, Beirut, Lebanon, March 12, 2011.

  • “Surrealism without Surrealists: Reviving the Unconscious in Arab Modern Art,” Darat al-Funun, Amman, Jordan, February 22, 2011.

  • “The Archival Turn in Contemporary Art,” AllArtNow foundation, Damascus, Syria, February 18, 2011.

Guest Speaker/Critic

  • Discussant, Annual Dissertation Workshop, American Institute for Maghrib Studies, at UC-Berkeley, October 2015.

  • Lecturer for Art History, online course Letters & Science W1: Exploring the Liberal Arts, UC-Berkeley, summer 2015.

  • Moderator, The State of the State, session with Fawwaz Traboulsi and Khaled Hourani, “March Meeting,” Sharjah Biennial 12, May 2015.

  • Guest lecture, “Networked Practices: the Arab Avant-Garde of the 1970s” for Modernism, 1960-present, UCLA, Prof. Natilee Harren, April 2015.

  • Panel Discussant, “Hydrarchy and Globalism,” closing symposium for Hydrarchy: Power, Globalization and the Sea, Fine Arts Gallery, San Francisco State University, March 2015.

  • Guest critic for Staged Photography, UC-Berkeley Department of Architecture, Prof. Jean-Paul Boudier, December 2014.

  • Visual Arts panelist, Alternative Models of University Education in Egypt Symposium, Adad/Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, Egypt, April 2014.

  • Guest lecture, “Art and Authoritarianism: Syria, 1960 to present,” for Art and the Middle East, Northwestern University, Prof. Hannah Feldman, October 2007.

Conferences and Symposia Convened

  • Conference Committee: Abstraction Unframed, NYU-Abu Dhabi and Barjeel Art Foundation, United Arab Emirates, May 22–25, 2016.

  • Panel Co-Organizer (with Kirsten Scheid): A Re-Located Politics: Making Art Elsewhere than the Nation, Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, October 12, 2013.

  • Conference Committee: The Longevity of Rupture: 1967 in Art and its Histories, American University of Beirut, June 1–2, 2012.

  • Conference Committee: Arab Modern Art: Objects, Histories, and Methodologies, Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar, December 16–17, 2010.

  • Panel Co-Organizer (with Rhonda Saad): Pirated Politics: Contemporary Art, Artists, and the Postproduction of the Middle East, Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, Boston, November 24, 2009.

  • Co-organizer (with Christina Knight): “Watching my Stories: a Discussion of Blackness, Queerness, and Video Art with Kalup Linzy and Tavia Nyong’o,” in Bring Your Own: Voices of the Contemporary at the Carpenter Center lecture series, Harvard University, March 18, 2009.

Professional Service

  • Editorial Board, ARTMargins, 2014–

  • Peer reviewer: ARTMargins; International Journal of Islamic Architecture; German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).

  • Treasurer, Association for Contemporary and Modern Art of the Arab world, Iran, and Turkey (AMCA), 2010–2012.

  • Lead Researcher for Syria, “Archive Map” project, part of Speak, Memory Symposium, Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, October 28–30, 2010.

University/Departmental Service


Faculty Advisory Committee, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2016–

Steering Committee, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2014–

Curriculum Committee, History of Art, 2014–

Head Undergraduate Advisor, History of Art, 2015–

Undergraduate Advisor, History of Art, 2014–2015

The American University in Cairo

Chair, Search Committee, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, 2014

Arts Department Directors Committee, 2013–2014

Sharjah Gallery Committee, 2013–2014

Arts Department Concerts Committee, 2012–2014

Other Experience

  • Member, Art Architecture History Assembly,, 2013–

  • Invited Participant, “4-day workshop for researchers in modern and contemporary Arab Art,” sponsored by Makan Art Space, Amman, Jordan, November 19–22, 2011.

  • Co-coordinator, “An Evening With… Lecture Series,” Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT, 2007–2008.

  • Curatorial Intern, Sharjah Biennial 8, Sharjah, U.A.E., March 27–April 7, 2007.

  • Board President, Mobius Artists Group, Boston, MA, 2003–2006.

College Art Association

Middle East Studies Association

Historians of Islamic Art Association

Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey


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