Ayas, Defne

Defne Ayas (b. Istanbul) is Director of Witte de With | Center for Contemporary Art since January 1st, 2012. She heads to Rotterdam from New York, where she has served as a curator of Performa – the visual art performance biennial of New York City – since 2004, and from Shanghai, where she has acted as a co-founding director of Arthub Asia – a contemporary art initiative devoted to art creation and exchange across Asia – since 2007. Ayas was also a faculty member of contemporary art and new media at the New York University in Shanghai for the past five years.
Prior to joining Arthub Asia and Performa, she coordinated the New York-based New Museum of Contemporary Art’s public and new media programming. Ayas has recently served as a curatorial advisor to the 8th Shanghai Biennale (China), and as a publication advisor to the 8th Gwangju Biennale (South Korea) in 2010. Defne Ayas completed De Appel Curatorial Programme in Amsterdam and received her Masters degree from ITP – Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

Participated in:

Camille Henrot – The Beaver Moon

For this new commission, artist Camille Henrot drew two human-like characters and staged them as if involved in domestic activities, reminding us that exhibition spaces are the homes of artworks, and sometimes of artists as well.Read more


Zin Taylor – A Segment of Translation

18.08.15 – 20.09.15

Zin Taylor’s work A Segment of Translation (F. Kiesler’s Mind Form) stems from extensive research into the work and writing of architect, theoretician, set designer, and sculptor Frederick Kiesler (1890-1965). Read more


Bit Rot – Douglas Coupland

Bit Rot is Douglas Coupland’s new book published on the occasion of his eponymous exhibition at Witte de With (11 September 2015 – 3 January 2016). Bit Rot combines new and existing fictional short stories and essays written and compiled by …Read more


Director Defne Ayas co-curator of 6th Moscow Biennale

Witte de With Director Defne Ayas co-curates the 6th Moscow Biennale, a think tank in real time over ten days HOW TO GATHER? ACTING IN A CENTER IN A CITY IN THE HEART OF THE ISLAND OF EURASIA Curators:  Bart De …Read more


Xu Zhen – One of Us Is On the Wrong Side of History!

For One of Us Is On the Wrong Side of History!, Xu Zhen (1977, China) focuses on the visual identity of Witte de With’s past exhibitions as well as its archive of posters. As such, this work brings to light not the artworks shown at Witte de With during the past twenty-five years, but rather the wording and design, which mediated them. The archive is read and revealed as a sprawling visual poem made up of fragments and traces of voices past. In the vein of his Metal Language series, Xu Zhen extracts fonts and layouts from their original contexts and reproduces them using metal chains.Read more


Art In The Age Of…Asymmetrical Warfare

11 September 2015 – 3 January 2016
Opening and Artist Talks: 10 September 2015, 4 pm

‘Art In The Age Of…Asymmetrical Warfare’, the third and final iteration of Witte de With’s year-long focus on the social implications of applied science as recorded through the vector of art, considers the irregular, and often uneven nature of the hybrid battlefield today. Read more


Bit Rot – Douglas Coupland

Throughout the exhibition artist and writer Douglas Coupland shares his thoughts on globalization, terror, the Internet, pop-culture, social media and the resulting accelerated image economy. Taking its title from the phenomenon in which digital data spontaneously and quickly decomposes, Bit Rot creates an associative and visually playful constellation in which memory, loss, fame, violence, destruction, and creation are subjects for contemplation.Read more


Özlem Altin – No story, no

When researching Witte de With’s exhibition history artist Özlem Altin was instantly drawn to Pas d’histoire, Pas d’histoire (No Story, No History) by Joelle Tuerlinckx in 1994. She asks herself how to make Tuerlinckx’ work resonate in her own and whether this personal resonance and reflection could establish a platform that allows new perspectives or readings on how stories and histories are created and displayed?Read more


Character is Fate: Piet Mondrian’s Horoscope

The publication Character is Fate: Piet Mondrian’s Horoscope is an artist book by artist Willem de Rooij that takes as its focus the historical and unique documents of Piet Mondrian’s horoscopes. Works of other artists often play a role within …Read more



On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Witte de With, and following iterations of Lawrence Weiner’s work AS LONG AS IT LASTS in 1993 and 2011, Weiner’s words now aptly articulate the ever-changing modus of operation of the institution.Read more