It’s an emotional exploration of the art world: which are the most frequently asked questions when it comes to art? Artists, curators, gallerists, museum directors, art collectors and more give thoughtful and deeply personal answers to our queries, while shedding light on the contemporary art scene – and offering a glimpse into its future.
Adel Abidin: I always see it as an equation that goes as follows:
Artist + Artwork = Curator = Exhibition space = Art dealer and collector. The Artist is always the starting point of it. He/she is the one who holds the idea and the physical presentation of the work that the curator, exhibition space, dealer and collector depend on. This process happens in such a structured equation; it’s a loop.
Basel Dalloul: The art world is an ecosystem of interdependent players. Artists and collectors (including but not limited to: foundations, museums and cultural institutions), being the two main players. Dealers, gallerists and curators being conduits. Today, however, new media and more savvy artists are opening new conduits to art. The artists themselves are beginning to realise that they need to take a more active role in marketing themselves and making collectors aware of their existence and that of their work. Social media is becoming a good platform for artists to reach potential collectors.
Hormoz Hematian: The process can be described as follows: it begins with education centers, then inspiration of the artist from his or her own heritage. Then there’s the creation of the artwork at the artist’s or in artist-run spaces, the presentation of the artwork at a venue such as an art center, biennial or art fair and the acquisition of the artwork by a third party, usually an auction house. After that, the artwork becomes part of a public collection, where it contributes to the well-being of the public and becomes heritage.
Manuel Rabaté: It is an ecosystem in which various sizes of public and private actors, creativity sources and commerce come together. It is a multidimensional world. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of many large flagships developing in a big movement happening in the UAE. We create stability for other smaller institutions, the lesser-seen actors that contribute to the art world such as contractors, art insurers, experts, designers. We’re participating in pushing this ecosystem.
Michael Jeha: The art market can be divided into the primary and secondary market. The primary market is when an artwork is sold for the first time and is led by artists and galleries, who identify, nurture and represent artists. The secondary market is when an artwork is already owned and is being re-sold, which is led by auction houses and dealers. One of the key roles of an auction house is to provide established artists with access to a global audience, internationalising the demand for these artists.
Nadim Karam: It could be as complex as the structure of the universe!
Nayla Tamraz: Howard Becker used to talk about the art worlds, Bourdieu preferred the concept of sphere. Therefore, there are worlds that coexist in what we will call, quite widely, the Art World. Basically, three spheres structure this vast world: the museum, the art criticism and the market. These spheres interact with each other, while having their own logic, rules and functioning.
Omar Kholeif: The art world is many things to many people. It is a hustle, a dance, a dream; it is a place where discursive ideas can be exchanged and hidden histories are shared, told and untold.
Samia Halaby: Sadly we artists are at the bottom of the heap while the whole heap would not exist without us.
Till Fellrath and Sam Bardaouil: The art world has no structure. It functions in an unregulated global system of power, money, vanity on the one hand, and of idealism, skills and knowledge on the other.
(from left to right)
Adel Abidin was born in Baghdad in 1973. He moved to Helsinki, Finland, in 2001 and has lived there since. Abidin joined the Finnish Art Academy in 2003 to pursue a Master’s degree in art. During that time, he switched his practice from full-time painter to multimedia artist, and since 2004 he has pursued a career as a video and installation artist.
Abidin’s art uses various media, such as videos, video installations, multimedia sculptures, sound-based installations, photography and paintings, to explore contemporary issues. His main point of departure is always linked to the intention to explore the complex relationship between visual art and politics and identity. Using a sharp palette of irony and humour, he creates works that explore different social situations while dealing with elusive experiences and cultural alienation.
The artist uses his cross-cultural background, as an Iraqi artist living in Helsinki, to create a distinct visual language often laced with sarcasm and paradox, while maintaining an ultimately humanistic approach. This sarcasm used is nothing but a medium of provocation to serve the purpose of extending the mental borders of the artwork beyond the limits of the exhibition space. Abidin is particularly interested in creating opportunities to prolong the discussions beyond artwork by enabling the audience to convey mental elements from the work into their daily life. He always finds the words “politics” and “identity” to be more than a terminology or a path that we travel in, as they unfold to other concepts like discrimination and mass media manipulation.
Abidin has received e Finland Prize for Visual Arts in (2015) and Five Years Grant from e Art Council of Finland in (2013). He was also an Ars Fennica Prize nominee in 2011. Abidin has been invited as a visiting lecturer at various art schools, including the College of Liberal Arts, Oregon State University, Portland, Oregon (2010), the Art Academy of Helsinki, Kuva, (2015), LASALLE College of Arts, Singapore (2016) and the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Santa Clarita, California (2016).
Additionally, Abidin has exhibited his work at various biennales including the Moscow Biennale (2017), the 5th Guangzhou Triennial (2015), the 56th Venice Biennale-Iran Pavilion (2015), the 56th International Art Exhibition-Venice Biennale (2015), the Biennale of Contemporary Art of Bosnia (2013), the 54th Venice Biennale-Iraq Pavilion (2011), the 10th Sharjah Biennial (2011), the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010), the 11th Cairo Biennale (2008), the 4th Gothenburg Biennale (2007), the 52nd Venice Biennale-Nordic Pavilion (2007), and the 5th Istanbul Biennale (2005).
Basel Dalloul founded the Dalloul Art Foundation in 2017 to manage and promote his father’s (Dr. Ramzi Dalloul) vast collection of modern and contemporary Arab art. At over 4,000 pieces it is the largest collection of its kind in private hands. The collection includes but is not limited to paintings, photography, sculpture, video and mixed media art. Dalloul has had a passion for art since he was very young, inspired by his mother and father, both of whom are also passionate about art in all its forms.
Hormoz Hematian founded Dastan’s Basement in 2012 to showcase emerging and experimental Iranian art then followed with Dastan+2, dedicated to established artists and Dastan:Outside, a program of curated pop-up exhibitions throughout town. Together, the three initiatives cover the full spectrum of Iranian contemporary and modern art practices. In addition to an extensive local program of shows, pop-ups and eclectic collaborations, the Dastan group of galleries can be regularly sighted at established international venues such as Frieze New York, Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Dubai and Contemporary Istanbul.
(from left to right)
Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi. Rabaté is a graduate of the Institut d’études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po, 1998), and of HEC Business School (2001). He began his career as a deputy director at the auditorium of the Musée du Louvre from 2002 to 2005. He participated in the creation of new programmes on Islamic Arts in the context of the first performance contract between the French government and the museum for its modernisation. He joined the Musée du Quai Branly as deputy director of cultural development a year before its opening in 2006, then led the launching of the first exhibitions abroad. Rabaté joined Agence France-Museums in 2008, a year after the signing of the intergovernmental agreement between France and Abu Dhabi. He has followed the Louvre Abu Dhabi project from its conceptual phase until its operational implementation as secretary general and acting CEO since 2010. He was appointed CEO of Agence France-Museums in 2013 to set up in Abu Dhabi a multidisciplinary team of museum professionals and follow through the phases of the project realization in collaboration with the major French museums and their UAE partners. In September 2016, Rabaté was appointed director of Louvre Abu Dhabi by the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi. Aside from his duties in the service of museums, Rabaté has also chaired the reflection group Culture & Management, in which he had created the museum department. He has also taught arts and cultural management at various
universities in France and Abu Dhabi.
Michael Jeha is the managing director and deputy chairman of Christie’s Middle East. In his role as managing director of Christie’s Middle East, Jeha is responsible for implementing and executing the firm’s strategic and commercial vision for the region. Christie’s was the first international auction house to open an office in Dubai in 2005 and began holding bi-annual sales the following year. Under his management, Dubai has become a regular and important selling centre on the international auction calendar with the two annual auctions of Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art, achieving sales of over $250 million. Jeha joined Christie’s in January 1999, exactly 20 years ago. Originally Lebanese, Jeha was born in London and studied at the City University Business School.
Nadim Karam is an artist and architect working from Beirut-initially trained in architecture at the American University of Beirut then earned a doctorate in architecture from the University of Tokyo, Japan. He has recently finished building his own workshop, A.MUSE.UM in the Lebanese mountains, which will be also used as a platform for art, research and exhibitions. With Atelier Hapsitus, the pluri-disciplinary group he founded in 1996, he has realised temporary and permanent urban interventions in cities worldwide such as Prague, Beirut, Melbourne, Tokyo, London, Kuwait and Yerevan, using public art as an instrument for urban stimulation. Based on a crossfertilisation of disciplines and nationalities, the 20-year-old practice has a multidisciplinary composition, which feeds into the experimental nature of its work. He has held academic positions in Tokyo and Beirut, gives lectures internationally and has published several books.
(from left to right)
Nayla Tamraz is a Lebanese writer, curator, researcher, and professor of literature and art history at Saint Joseph University in Beirut where she has also been, from 2008 to 2017, the chair of the French Literature Department and where she created, in 2010, the MA program in art criticism and curatorial studies that she currently heads. She also organized several events including the symposium LittÈrature, Art et Monde Contemporain: Récits, Histoire, Mémoire (2014, USJ, Beirut). In parallel, she leads a career as an art critic and a curator. In this context, she co-curated the exhibition Le Secret (Espace Ygreg, Les Bons Voisins, 2017) in Paris and curated the exhibition Poetics, Politics, Places that took place in the Museum of Fine Arts of Tucum·n in Argentina, in the frame of the International Biennale of Contemporary Art of South America (BienalSur, 2017). Her research is about the issues related to the comparative theory and aesthetics of literature and art in their historical context, which brings her to the topics of history, memory and narratives in literature and art in post-war Lebanon. Her current research explores the relationship between poetics and politics as well as the representations associated to the notion of territory.
Omar Kholeif is an Egyptian-born, British writer and curator. He is co-curator of Leaving the Echo Chamber, the 14th Sharjah Biennial and Time, Forward! e V-A-C Foundation Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale. He is also a guest curator for Abu Dhabi Art and the Manchester International Festival, as well as a visiting tutor at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. Kholeif has held curatorial positions, including Manilow senior curator and director of global initiatives at MCA Chicago; curator at Whitechapel Gallery, London; senior curator at Cornerhouse and HOME, Manchester; curator at
FACT, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, Liverpool; founding artistic director of the UKís Arab Film Festival and senior editor at Ibraaz Publishing. He has curated or co-curated major international projects including the Cyprus Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale; FOCUS: Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean at the Armory Show, New York; and the 2012 Liverpool Biennial. e author and or editor of over 20 books and catalogues on art, Kholeifís recent books include Goodbye, World! Looking at Art in the Digital Age (Sternberg Press) and The Artists Who Will Change the World (ames and Hudson, both 2018).
Samia A. Halaby was born in Jerusalem, Palestine in 1936. She is a visual artist, writer, scholar and activist. Now, rounding out her sixth decade as an active painter, she continues to explore abstraction and its relationship to reality. She has exhibited in galleries, museums and art fairs throughout the US, Europe, Asia and South America. Her work is housed in private and public collections around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum (New York and Abu Dhabi) and the Institut du Monde Arabe. Halaby has authored and contributed to a number of books, notably: Liberation Art of Palestine (2001), Drawing the Kafr Qasem Massacre (2016) and Growing Shapes: Aesthetic Insights of an Abstract Painter (2018). She is the subject of two monographs and numerous reviews.
Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath are founders of the multidisciplinary curatorial platform Art Reoriented in Munich and New York, chairmen of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation in Hamburg and a≤liate curators at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. Bardaouil and Fellrath have jointly curated numerous critically acclaimed exhibitions at renowned museums and institutions worldwide, and have held teaching positions at universities including the London School of Economics and New York University. They are award-winning authors with contributions to academic journals, books, newspapers and art magazines. They are currently preparing their international thematic exhibition Walking through Walls opening in September 2019 at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. For the upcoming 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia they are curators of the National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates.
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Frequently Asked Questions in Art #48, page 74
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