Now Exhibitions

Sahar Khoury: Umm

Wex Commissioned Project

Installation of four sculptures made of metal and ceramics resting on a divided wood and granite floor. White beams and soffit are visible.

Umm features an assemblage of sculptures that draws on familial and global histories, time keeping, and memory’s ever-evolving form in response to the present.

Reflective of her training as an anthropologist, Khoury’s works incorporate a range of techniques and media—ceramic, metal, glass—as well as cast-off materials and objects. This exhibition features a Wexner Center–commissioned assemblage of off-kilter, semi-abstract sculptures inspired by music and food, which Khoury uses as symbols of inclusion, exclusion, and transformation. You’ll encounter a kebab wind chime, a neon night-light holding Palestinian olive oil, and a 20-foot-tall radio tower that marks the hour by playing a recording of Khoury’s aunt singing at an Arabic family party. The exhibition also features new dimensional tile plinths that were realized through a partnership with Cerámica Suro in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The exhibition title translates to mother in Arabic, and it is also a reference to the iconic Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum (c. 1904–75)—world-renowned for her vocal range, impassioned performances, and improvisational prowess. Kulthum became a symbol of pan-Arab unity and was described as both Egypt’s fourth pyramid and the mother of Arabs. For over four decades, Kuthum’s live concerts were broadcast throughout the Arab world on the first Thursday of each month.

In that spirit, the Wexner Center has commissioned an original score UMM / AL ATLAL by multidisciplinary artists Esra Canoğulları (aka 8ULENTINA) and Lara Sarkissian, cofounders of CLUB CHAI (2016–2021), that will play from Khoury’s radio tower on the first Thursday of every month during the exhibition’s run.

Missed first Thursday? UMM / AL ATLAL can be streamed on SoundCloud.

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Autumn 2023 Gallery and Learning Guide

"I have always reacted to my environment and used it as a catalyst."
Installation of four sculptures made of metal and ceramics resting on a divided wood and granite floor. White beams and soffit are visible.

Installation view of Sahar Khoury: Umm at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Works commissioned by the Wexner Center. 

Upright, four-tier multicolored sculpture with ornaments, including text, beads, cages with radios, and ceramic bell, with ceramic pita curtain.

Installation view of Sahar Khoury: Umm at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Works commissioned by the Wexner Center. 

Green curtains surround a white window frame attached to the wall. A pair of sunglasses is affixed to the wall, roughly centered in the frame.

Sahar Khoury, Untitled (the audience), 2023 (detail). Soda-fired ceramic, glazed and unglazed ceramic, bronze, powder-coated steel, steel, fabric, and wood. Dimensions variable. ​Commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts. Installation view at the Wexner Center.

Three-level sculpture of conjoined metal tables. Camel neon light in glass vase full of olive oil at top. Olive oil bottles rest on the tables.

Sahar Khoury, Untitled (Palestinian olive oil nightlight), 2023. Powder-coated steel; neon; Plexiglas; glass; and Palestinian olive oil, single village edition, Burqa-Nablus, 2022, 100 x 24 x 24 in. ​Commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts. Installation view at the Wexner Center.

Interior view of a square, four-tier multicolored sculptural tower. A silver, reflective  sphere is visible in the center.

Sahar Khoury, Untitled (radio tower with accessories), 2023 (detail). Plastic, steel, soda-fired ceramic, glazed and unglazed ceramic, anchoring resin, waxed plaster, cast glass, animal cages, wax, radios, FM transmitter, party light, timers, glass, clock, and sound, 238 1/8 x 133 3/4 x 41 7/8 in. Commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts. Installation view at the Wexner Center.

Transparent charm made of glass spelling UMM. The charm is placed on a deep blue background.

Sahar Khoury, UMM, 2023. Cast glass and steel, 14 x 14 x 1 in. Courtesy of the artist. Commissioned by the Wexner Center. Photo: Robert Divers Herrick.

A cluster of tall and narrow sculptures of numbers with unique bases are placed on the floor in front of a white wall.

Sahar Khoury, Untitled (1948/1995, 1953/1979), 2017. Papier mâché, steel, concrete, and ceramic; dimensions variable. Installation view at the Luggage Store, San Francisco. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Becca Barolli. 

Sculpture with 15 small, white ceramic dogs stacked in a pyramid sits on a cement plinth in a pool. The sculpture's reflection is visible in the water.

Sahar Khoury, Untitled (15 Esthers in pyramid on bone relief plinth), 2019. Glazed ceramic, resin, concrete, and steel; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Charlie Villyard.

Two dried eggplant sculptures hang on two rungs of a deep cherry-red hat rack. A bulky chain is hanging on the left side of the rack.

Sahar Khoury, Untitled (Eggplant charms in five stages on illusion cherry powder coated stand), 2021 (detail). Steel, glazed ceramic, and bronze; 70 x 12 x 12 in. Private collection. Courtesy of the artist and Canada, New York. Photo: Annie Turpin. 

A sculpture with a blue, cage-like base supports a TV tray with a sculpture on top. The multicolored word Orientalism hangs like a charm in the front.

Sahar Khoury, Untitled (Orientalism charm with TV tray), 2020-22. Steel, powder coated steel, ceramic, cement, wire, paper, and textile mâché; 66 1/2 x 37 x 23 1/2 in. Courtesy of the artist and Canada, New York. Photo: Robert Divers Herrick.

Colorful, ceramic wall work of a portion of a Persian rug featuring motifs that include a woman and bird. Spikey, comb-like striations border the work.

Sahar Khoury, Untitled (Upper left corner of our living room rug), 2021. Pigmented paper textile mâché, glazed ceramic, wood, and resin; 41 1/2 x 33 x 3 in. Collection of Dave Weber and Renu Agrawal, San Francisco. Courtesy of the artist and Rebecca Camacho Presents, San Francisco. Photo: Robert Divers Herrick.

More about the artist

Sahar Khoury chevron-down chevron-up

Sahar Khoury was trained as an anthropologist and worked for years on community-based research projects concerning structural vulnerability within Latinx migrant-labor communities. Based in Oakland, California, she developed her practice in the Bay Area’s queer community during late 1990s and early 2000s making works for music shows, theater performances, and street protests. In the Bay Area, Khoury has exhibited work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA, where she was a recipient of the SECA Art Award); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; Oakland Museum of California; Wattis Institute; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA); and diRosa Center for Contemporary Art. Her work is in the collections of the de Young Museum in San Francisco, BAMPFA, and SFMOMA. Learn more on Sahar Khoury’s website.

Sahar Khoury: Umm is organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts and curated by Curator of Exhibitions Lucy I. Zimmerman, with support from Curatorial Assistant Jonathan Gonzalez and Curatorial Intern Bethani Blake.

Canada Gallery
Rebecca Camacho Presents

Bill and Sheila Lambert
Carol and David Aronowitz
Crane Family Foundation
Mike and Paige Crane 

American Electric Power Foundation
Mary and C. Robert Kidder 
Bill and Sheila Lambert

Adam Flatto
PNC Foundation

Ohio Department of Development
Greater Columbus Arts Council
The Wexner Family
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Ohio Arts Council
Ohio State’s Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme
The Columbus Foundation
Nationwide Foundation
Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease

Mike and Paige Crane
Axium Packaging
Nancy Kramer
Ohio State Energy Partners
Ohio History Fund/Ohio History Connection 
Larry and Donna James
Bruce and Joy Soll
Jones Day
Alex and Renée Shumate


Now Exhibitions

Sahar Khoury: Umm