Nabila Abdel Nabi Q + A

November 26, 2018Q + A

Curator Nabila Abdel Nabi is a fan of Hieronymous Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Nabila Abdel Nabi is curator of Karla Black’s first solo exhibition at The Power Plant which is running in Toronto until December 30. PIA is one of its funders.

Curator Nabila Abdel Nabi is a fan of Hieronymous Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

How did you decide to work with Karla Black?

Karla is an incredible artist whose work is constantly challenging the ways we think about the material, colour, space and also about the various disciplines that her work comes up against such as painting, performance and installation, while she maintains that it is first and foremost sculptureThe Power Plant is committed to showing a diverse range of voices and practices within the contemporary landscape and Karla Black is one of the most interesting artists working today – to encounter and experience her sculpture is an immersive, multi-sensory experience. As with all our programming, we try to create a balance between an international and local exhibition program, and we felt it was important to bring her work into conversation with local artists and audiences and vice versa.

What has been the most interesting part of working with Black?

Karla Black, 2017. Installation view: L’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, 2017. Courtesy the artist and Courtesy Galerie Gisela

It has been awe-inspiring to watch her process, which is incredibly labour intensive and largely solitary – the way that she brings together dissonant materials and somehow bring them into seamless conversation, completely shifting the way we view them and the spaces she places them in.

When did you know you’d have a career in art?

When I first set eyes on an Edward Hopper painting – I was so moved and just thought, I would love to feel this passionate about what I do every day.

What was your first successful creative act?

Writing a short text on David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash that arguably got me into college

How do you begin your day and what are your habits?

There’s that first coffee to get to the second coffee before I can start my day… But really, very often when I get to the office I love to spend a couple minutes in the morning by the lake; there’s nothing like large bodies of water to help one gain some perspective.

Which artists do you admire most?

Artists who can get you to question and think differently about the world we are living in today.

Which artists do you like, that would surprise people?

Hieronymous Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

How did you learn there was a career in curation?

My third year of college I actually interned at the MCA Chicago in a department that wasn’t exhibition-related and grew very curious about the work of the curatorial department and exhibition making itself, and working with living artists.

What three art shows have influenced you over your career?

Lygia Pape’s A Multitude of Forms at the Met Breuer in 2017 was an influential show for Nabi.

The Marrakech Biennale: Not New NowLygia Pape at the Met Breuer, Magiciens de la terre at the Centre Pompidou.

Which is more important, the process or result? Why?

I would argue each is equally important, in the result is the resonance, in the process is the learning experience.

What is your favourite colour? Your least favourite colour?

It’s been purple since day one; more of a Tyrian purple rather than a lilac

How do you procrastinate?

Netflix, reading recipes for things I will probably never make myself but will try to get friends to, and a lot of Clarice Lispector these days .

What is your favourite work of art?

That’s so tough…I don’t think I can narrow that down.

Who would you want to create your portrait?


What do you do if you need inspiration?

Visit different museums, galleries, exhibitions or step away entirely and head to the beach if possible.

What do you like to do when not curating?

Spend time by large bodies of water, ideally the Mediterranean.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

When we’ve created a space for artists to bring their vision to fruition, and we’ve been able to accompany them on that journey so they feel their practice has advanced or they’ve been able to create something.

What advice do you have for aspiring curators?

Try everything, as much as you are able. I’ve worked in the commercial sphere, on the editorial side of things, before eventually realizing what I wanted to devote myself to. Even if your path eventually diverges from those you were on, those experiences will always be meaningful – the art world is a multifaceted ecosystem and it is enriching to know how it all comes together.

How did you hear about Partners in Art?

Through The Power Plant and the wonderful support they have given to shows here and across Canada.

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