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.
Aaron Cezar: My role is to create space, to create opportunities.
Andrée Sfeir-Semler: I’m in constant conversation with the artists we represent. The gallery is like the backbone of their practice in a way, as we offer them all kind of support in order for them to create and fulfill their potential.
Ashkan Baghestani: Part of our role is to develop and expand tastes through our auctions, public exhibitions, lectures, articles, interviews, the list goes on. We try to introduce new artists, whether they are young or old, to a broader audience and internationalise our regional artists, in order to give them the right platform, by introducing them to new galleries and collectors.
Basel Dalloul: To encourage, support and preserve our established and emerging artists throughout the Arab world and beyond.
Hormoz Hematian: We only deal with the presentation of the artworks and representing the artist in the best possible way. It includes assisting with archiving, production and network sharing.
Michael Jeha: This is more something for galleries and is primarily their role.
Nayla Tamraz: I do see my role more as somebody approaching the artistic practices as an interesting object, since these practices help me understand the era in which I live. I would like to think that, in return, my practice as an art critic would help think them, problematize them. My place is more on the side of the discourse that we could build on and around art, here and now. Of course, this discourse can feed these
practices, it can also influence them, may question them. But this is not the idea. The main purpose, I think, is to conceive them as objects that give shape to our contemporaneity and that allow us to think it.
Omar Kholeif: My role is in supporting artists to realise their ambitions, nurturing their work over a period of time through sustained conversations and by including their work in thoughtful exhibitions that represent their works well.
Ramin Salsali: A collector has to be in dialogue with the artist and with the galleries. It is a mutual learning and understanding progress. Some artworks have been the result of intellectual and even emotional exchange between artist and collector.
Till Fellrath and Sam Bardaouil: It is one of the most important tasks of contemporary art curators, and at the same time the most delicate and challenging one. A good curator facilitates creative expression and combines empathy with clarity of vision.
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Aaron Cezar is the founding director of Del¢na Foundation, where he both curates and develops its interrelated programme of residencies, exhibitions and public events. He has overseen the physical expansion of Del¢na Foundation into Londonís largest host of international residencies. He is also Advisor-at-Large at Art Jameel, one of Del¢na Foundation’s Strategic Partners. Independently and through Del¢na Foundation, Cezar sits on numerous boards, committees and advisory groups.
Andrée Sfeir-Semler is an art historian who founded her eponymous gallery in Germany in 1985. Twenty years later, in 2005, she opened a second gallery in Beirut, transforming a defunct factory into the ¢rst white cube space in the Middle East. She studied history and history of art at the American University of Beirut as well as at the Sorbonne University in Paris under Pierre Bourdieu. She earned her PhD in 1980 at the University of Bielefeld. Sfeir-Semler Gallery has been representing artists who concentrate in their practice on conceptual and minimal art. Since 2003 the gallery has focused on contemporary art from the Arab World and has been instrumental in launching and developing the careers of numerous artists from the region.
Ashkan Baghestani, Sothebyís Head of Sale and Contemporary Arab and Iranian Art Specialist. Ashkan Baghestani joined Sotheby’s Middle East Department in 2012 focusing on the Contemporary Doha auctions and developing this increasingly important art platform, including the April 2013 Contemporary Art Doha sale which realised $15.2 million and established the highest price for an auction in the Middle East region, with records set for nine artists, including the record price for a living Arab artist, Chant Avedissian. His in-depth knowledge of the market for Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern and Iranian works, his fluency in Persian, French and English, and his contacts in the region have been invaluable in cultivating this important collecting field at Sotheby’s. He constantly travels across the Middle East region, participating in Sotheby’s numerous travelling exhibitions across the region such as Jeddah Art Week, Saudi Arabia and Dubai Art Week Travelling Exhibition, UAE.
Mr. Baghestani grew up in Geneva, Switzerland and has travelled extensively to study and work in Paris, New York and London. Before joining Sotheby’s in the summer of 2012, he studied Design and Management at Parson’s New School for Design, in the United States in 2009, earning a BBA Degree and followed later with a diploma in Middle Eastern Art from Sotheby’s Institute in 2011. He actively worked for the Jameel Prize at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
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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.
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.
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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).
Ramin Salsali started his collection at the age of 21 and has been developing it ever since. Born in Tehran in 1964, he studied economics, strategic management and marketing with a focus on industry design in Germany and England. Parallel to his studies he founded a specialised consulting company for innovative and green technologies for application in the ¢eld of the petrochemical industries. Later, he entered into real estate development with particular focus on the preservation of historical buildings. For the last 12 years, his vision to share his passion for art with the public has been the moving force to establish a museum. In April 2011, Ramin Salsali decided to open his private museum in Dubai realising a long-term dream. Salsali Private Museum (SPM) opened its doors on the 11.11.2011. SPM is the ¢rst Private Museum for contemporary art in the region in which Salsali’s collection of over 800 pieces of painting, photography, video art, sculpture and installation is showcased. SPM also hosts the collections of guest collectors and travelling exhibitions from around the world. Salsali’s mission is to contribute to the development of art, culture and creative communities, support artists and promote the culture of collecting by encouraging individuals, families and corporations to collect art and share it with the public. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai has recognised and honoured Ramin Salsali as Patron of the Arts for the consecutive years, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 for his sustained support of the art community in Dubai.
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 99
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