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This spring, the Sotheby’s Institute of Art-New York MA in Contemporary Art curatorial course will be mounting a series of exhibitions at our campus in midtown Manhattan. You’re invited to the opening receptions for our student-curated exhibitions. Learn more about the exhibition series.

PAPER Plains, Tahir Carl Karmali On view May 2-8, 2018

Sotheby’s Institute of Art is pleased to present PAPER Plains, a solo exhibition of Tahir Carl Karmali, curated by Klaudia Ofwona Draber, MA Art Business candidate class of 2018.

On view are Karmali's photographs, sculptures and a sound installation exploring his longstanding interest in migrant identities and the sense of belonging in two recent bodies of work. Displaced consists of four portraits from the first series the artist created upon arrival in New York in 2015 (view video). These formal portraits seek to evoke the feeling of living in an indeterminate space and Karmali disrupts the traditional capturing of the subjects by separating the figure from the background with a translucent plastic backdrop, referencing the lush fabric drapery seen in Baroque portrait paintings. This intervention creates a feeling of fleetingness and the artist seems not to be allowing the viewer to learn more about the subject.

Also on view is a new series of sculptures entitled PAPER:work, which tackles the complexities of identity of African migrants as shaped by nationality, authenticity, documentation and borders. As a migrant Kenyan himself, Karmali uses paper to reference legitimacy and validation: the fragile, large scale, white and grey handmade paper sculptures are created with dissolved and filtered photocopies of the artist’s passport and visa applications. The red rust on the large sheets of paper is reminiscent of the color of the red soil of artist’s homeland. Additional small scale sculptures are embedded with copies of photos and ID documents used during colonial and post-independence eras in Kenya. The works are accompanied by a sound installation of a looped recording of the paper-making process, resembling the oceans as a natural force eroding our ideas around physical borders.

Karmali obtained a Masters of Digital Photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has been a part of numerous prestigious residencies including Triangle Arts Association, Pioneer Works, Trestle and BRIC and in 2017 he was featured in Forbes Magazine as one of the 30 Under 30 Arts & Style personalities Recently he exhibited at Rachel Uffner Gallery in New York City, the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, the Circle Art Agency in Nairobi and the Tacoma Art Museum.

For images and more information please contact

Featured image: PAPER:work, screen, wire mesh and paper, 25'x 4’, 2016. 

Exhibitions are free and open to the public upon preliminary registration from 10 AM to 5 PM.

Exhibition Preview

Displaced, 2015

Glass Sculptures, 2017

PAPER:work Case Landscapes, 2018

PAPER:work Case Landscapes, 2018

PAPER:work Case Landscapes, 2018

PAPER:work Screen, 2017