AT THE time of her death at the age of 50, Carol Brown was at the height of her career, as Head of Art Galleries at the Barbican Centre in London. Her professional collaboration for more than 25 years with art institutions, curators and artists from Africa, Central America, China, Iran and the Far East brought a huge number of colleagues who became her friends, admiring her professionalism, absence of ego, her generosity of spirit and her respectful attitude towards other cultures.
Brown's great curiosity about other countries' aesthetics and perspectives on art and life made her a great traveller, researcher and exhibition organiser. An open-minded and open-hearted scholar, she was diligent with getting the facts straight and approached every subject with great enthusiasm and drive. Her very British modesty about her knowledge and influence made me admire her even more.
I discovered in her a great travel companion in our trips to the Middle East, particularly in Egypt in 1993 to prepare the Barbican exhibition "The Art of African Textiles: technology, tradition and Lurex" (1995), co-curated with John Picton. Other research trips to Africa resulted in the "African Photography" exhibition in 1999, which featured the work of Seydou Keita. Our visit to Iran in 1999 and 2000 led to a joint collaboration as co-curators of "Iranian Contemporary Art" (2001). A supportive curator, who never became angry, tired or annoyed, she saw everything in a positive light and would shrug off any unpleasant incidents and leave them forgotten.
With enthusiasm and passion she discovered new artists on her research trips including Chant Avedissian in Cairo as well as unknown craftsmen and tentmakers such as the late Salah Ed-Din el Ozy, from whom she commissioned a gateway in cotton applique. Rather than having a traditional religious blessing appliqued to the gateway, we chose instead a poem by Abou Nawas, a late eighth- century Iraqi poet, that read: "Say it to the one who knows it all, You might have learnt something, but many things have slipped you by." This work, and the Avedissian piece were later acquired by the Museum of Mankind in London.
Brown was an expert at talent spotting; she had a good eye, and did not care if artists were established or not - the quality of the work justified its inclusion in an exhibition. She predicted the current Turner Prize candidate Yinka Shonibare 10 years before everyone else; his installation in her "African Textiles" exhibition was later acquired by the Saatchi collection. …