Sarah Johnson

Dr. Sarah Johnson is curator of the Middle East and North Africa collections. Her research centres on modern and contemporary art from the Middle East, with a particular focus on Iraq, as well as on early Islamic objects, with a focus on metalwork. Her other research interests include intellectual histories of modernism in the region and provenance histories of Middle Eastern objects in museums.


Sarah wrote her PhD on modern art in twentieth-century Iraq at the Freie University in Berlin, where she pieced together the practice of the artist Hafidh Druby. As part of her PhD research, she had fellowships in Beirut at the Orient-Institut and in Lisbon at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Previously, she was a curator of Islamic collections at the British Museum in London, where she worked on the modern and contemporary collections from the Middle East and assisted with the curation of the inaugural exhibition at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. She also worked as a researcher in the curatorial department at the Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, D.C., where she helped to organize the permanent galleries of ancient Iran and the travelling exhibition, Roads of Arabia. She received her M.Phil. in Islamic art and archaeology from the University of Oxford in 2014 and a Bachelor's degree in art and archaeology from Princeton University in 2010.

Selected publications

  • 2020. ‘Tracing Constellations: Belonging and Exile in the Practice of Walid Siti,’ Walid Siti (Monograph). Kehrer Verlag.
  • 2020. ‘Impure Time: Archaeology, Hafidh Druby (1914-1991), and the persistence of  representational art in mid-twentieth century Iraq (1940-1980),’ Arab Studies (2020).
  • 2017. "‘Return to origin is non-existence’: Al-Mada’in and Perceptions of Ruins in Abbasid Iraq" International Journal of Islamic Architecture, 6:2 (2017), 257-283.