Jacobs Social Entrepreneur Fellow

Sarah Rifky


Sarah is a writer, curator, entrepreneur, historian and theorist of art, currently writing her doctoral dissertation on Cultural Infrastructure in Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s. Sarah believes in the radical need to create and protect spaces of imagination, and art practice in Africa, and the world. In 2010, she set up MASS Alexandria, a studio and study space for young artists founded by artist Wael Shawky. She has since continued to be involved with the initiative and serves as an advisory board member. She co-founded Beirut (2012–2015), an art space that “thinks about institution building as a curatorial act.” Beirut, in an effort to bypass the restrictive regulations governing non-profit organizations in Egypt, pledged its non-profit status to an artwork. At Beirut, she initiated The Imaginary School Program, dedicated to rethinking forms of collectivity and civic practice in Egypt following the uprising of 2011.

Sarah was curator of Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art (2009–2010); she was appointed as a Curatorial Agent for dOCUMENTA(13) in Kassel, Cairo and Alexandria (2012). She taught art history and theory at the American University in Cairo in 2010. She also founded CIRCA (Cairo International Resource Center for Art). Sarah has written numerous essays, articles, reviews and different forms of fiction and non-fiction work around art. Her writings have appeared in Art in America, Art Agenda, Bidoun, The Exhibitionist, among others. She is co-editor of Positionen: Zeitgenössische Künstler aus der Arabischen Welt (2013), Damascus: Artists, Tourists and Secret Agents (2009) and author of The Going Insurrection (2012) and Delusions of Reference: In Defense of Art (forthcoming). Since 2015, Rifky has been a doctoral fellow at the History, Theory and Criticism program as well as the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the School of Architecture + Planning at MIT.

Sarah brings her spirited dedication to art, imagination and higher education in Africa, with focus on STEM in the Arts, to the Jacobs network this year.