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.
Andrée Sfeir-Semler: It’s very exciting to start with an artist from scratch and see his/her work enter the collections of major museums around the world, or be shown at international exhibitions. We work very hard to push our artists forward, and promote their work. It is not a job, it’s a calling.
Ashkan Baghestani: Linking artists to their stories, discovering never-before-seen artworks or new talents, creating bridges and dialogues, meeting the fascinating collectors and having the chance to discuss their rare life stories and how they acquired those works.
Basel Dalloul: Passion. I love what I do or I else wouldn’t do it.
Hormoz Hematian: The love of the game.
Manuel Rabaté: I don’t get bored, I love the incredible possibilities we have in Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, and I also enjoy the intercultural exchange. It’s always a new experience during events at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The team is intercultural, we have Emirati, we have people from all over the world, I love to say “from A to Z,” from Australia to Zimbabwe, and I admire the beauty that comes from all civilisations, whether it’s the museum members or the visitors. It’s really interesting to be exposed to such a diverse environment.
Michael Jeha: It’s extremely fulfilling to be surrounded by and to have access to an incredibly wide range of art. Helping to ensure that art from the Middle East receives an ever-growing international appreciation is a particular source of motivation, as is working closely with collectors to advise them on works to acquire.
Omar Kholeif: I am interested in telling stories – especially ones that are rarely told, or revealing facets of a given society that at first may not have seemed visible.
Till Fellrath and Sam Bardaouil: Idealism, and a fundamental belief in the universality of art and the equality of all human beings.
Venetia Porter: I love what I do and feel intensely privileged to be working in this world.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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).
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.
Venetia Porter is a curator responsible for the collection of Islamic art, in particular of the Arab World and Turkey, as well as developing the collection of the modern and contemporary art of the Middle East. She was previously curator of Islamic coins in the Department of Coins and Medals. She gained a degree in Arabic and Persian at the University of Oxford, followed by a M.Phil in Islamic Art, obtaining her PhD on “e history and monuments of the Tahirid dynasty of the Yemen 858-923/1454-1517” from the University of Durham. She recently curated the exhibition Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam (2012).
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Frequently Asked Questions in Art #48, page 83
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