Founders of Moving Museum Join Art Basel Cities as Consultants, Putting Their Roving Exhibition Project on Hold

The entrance to The Moving Museum exhibition in Istanbul.

Simon Sakhai, the co-founder of the itinerant institution the Moving Museum, announced in an email that operations of the roving exhibition series have stopped for the time being, and that he and his co-founder, Aya Mousawi, have joined Art Basel Cities as consulting strategists.

“In so many respects, Art Basel Cities was the opportunity to explore all of the same themes and questions we were trying to answer with the Moving Museum, but on a much bigger scale, and the mobilization of so many additional stakeholders beyond what was possible in our own capacity,” Sakhai said in the email, which was obtained by ARTnews. “With the introduction of all the social and political events, it was also a moment to ask us what it means to produce culture in a world that was beginning to question the homogenizing trends of globalization, and how diversity could somehow be the antidote that brings us closer together in the end.”

In the email, Sakhai said that the two have “put major Moving Museum projects on hold,” and emails sent by a reporter to the press contact address listed on the website bounced back. But some smaller scale aspects of the organization’s programming will continue—anthologies developed alongside the Arts Council England will still be available, and this summer the organization partnered with Praksis Oslo to present a work by Jeremy Bailey.

And at some point in the future, the Moving Museum could return to its model of bringing museum-scale exhibitions to different cities, Sakhai said in a separate email to ARTnews

We are currently redeveloping our concept internally with an aim towards re-introducing our City projects again, bigger in scale, with a more dynamic format and impactful program that addresses the art world of tomorrow and—key—reaches a broader audience,” he said. 

Aya Mousawi and Simon Sakhai.

The pivot put to an end a nomadic endeavor that was started in 2012 by Sakhai, who had previously worked at a London gallery and the U.S. State Department, alongside Mousawi, who was a curator at the independent arts initiative Edge of Arabia. The duo received plenty of attention during their run—the Financial Times noted in a profile that “the pair could be poster children for today’s global contemporary art world.” The Moving Museum’s first pop-up opened in May 2013, in Dubai, where the artist Michael Rakowitz served the lost cuisine of Iraqi Jews in an unopened mall. Their next show, the following October, was more ambitious: an exhibition in an abandoned office building on the Strand in London during Frieze that spanned 35,000 square feet and featured over 200 works by more than 30 artists.

A year later, they filled an 80,000-square foot venue in Istanbul, the Sishane Otopark, with work by artists such as Hito Steyerl, Jon Rafman, Amalia Ulman, and Hannah Perry.

The Art Basel Cities kicks off next year in Buenos Aires, where programming will be headed up by Cecilia Alemani. The main slate of events will take place in September 2018, but starting this November, Art Basel will have an outpost in the city, where staffers can begin outreach for next year’s festivities.

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