Defne Ayas (b.1976) is the Director of the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. During her directorship, Witte de With commissioned Dai Hanzhi: 5000 Artists (with UCCA, Beijing, 2014); Moderation(s) by artist Heman Chong (with Spring Workshop, Hong Kong, 2012-2014); The Humans - a theatrical play by writer and artist Alexandre Singh – and its monthly summits Causeries (2012-2013); the AICA award-winning exhibition The Temptation of AA Bronson (2013) as well as the open archive and collection Tulkus 1880 to 2018 by artist Paola Pivi (with Castello di Rivoli and Arthub Asia, 2013-2018). In 2013, Ayas launched Witte de With’s new online platform WdW Review.
Ayas co-founded Arthub Asia in 2007 – an Asia-wide active research and production initiative. Since 2005, she has been been a curator of PERFORMA, the biennial of visual art performance of New York, where she managed the biennial’s collaborative programming and organized projects and programs with an international roster of acclaimed artists, architects, curators and writers. Prior to joining Arthub Asia and Performa, she was the Public Programs Coordinator of New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, especially artists presentations and critical debates relating to contemporary art and new media.
In September 2012, Ayas co-curated the 11th Baltic Triennale (with Benjamin Cook, LUX, in collaboration with artists Ieva Misevičiūtė and Michael Portnoy) to great acclaim, as well as the Istanbul and Bandung city pavilions as part of the Intercity Project of the 9th Shanghai Biennale. In 2015, Ayas curated the Pavillion of Turkey in the 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia. Ayas completed De Appel Curatorial Programme in Amsterdam and received her MA from Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, and her BA in Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia.