David Elliott is a curator, writer, broadcaster and museum director primarily concerned with modern and contemporary art. Elliott was Director of the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, England from 1976–96, Director of Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden from 1996–2001, the founding Director of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan from 2001–06 and in 2007, the first Director of Istanbul Modern, Turkey. From 1998–2004, he was President of CIMAM (the International Committee of ICOM for Museums and Collections of Modern Art) and in 2008, he was the Rudolf Arnheim Guest Professor of Art History at Humboldt University, Berlin.
Elliott is a cultural historian whose main interests concern contemporary art, Russian avant-garde and the visual cultures of central and eastern Europe, Asia and the non-western world from the late nineteenth century. Beginning in the early 1980s, he formulated a series of pioneering exhibitions in one of the first programs to integrate non-western culture with contemporary art. He has published a large number of books, articles and catalogues on these subjects and has curated many exhibitions. He has also written extensively about the present-day role and function of museums and contemporary art.
Exhibitions he has conceived or worked on include: ‘Art and Power: Europe under the Dictators 1930–1945’ (1995); ‘Wounds: between democracy and redemption in contemporary art’ (1998); ‘After the Wall: art and culture in post-Communist Europe’ (1999); ‘Organising Freedom: Nordic art of the ’90s’ (2000); ‘Young Video Artists’ Initiative’ (2002); ‘Absences’ (2002); ‘Happiness: a survival guide for art and life’ (2003); ‘Africa Remix: contemporary art of a continent’ (2004); ‘Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Where is Our Place?’ (2004); ‘Follow Me! Chinese Art at the Threshold of the New Millennium’ (2005); ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto’ (2005); ‘Tokyo-Berlin/Berlin-Tokyo’ (2005); ‘Bill Viola: Hatsu-Yume [First Dream]’ (2006); ‘From Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic’ (2007); ‘Time Present, Time Past: Highlights from 20 Years of the International Istanbul Biennial’ (2007); and ‘The Quick and the Dead: Rites of passage in art, spirit and life’ (2009).