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 assume you are asking about the money to produce my work. I consider myself very fortuitous to have been living in Finland. Art support there is extremely abundant. The grant system there has helped and encouraged a lot of artists to create and implement their ideas. I myself have managed to receive grants to execute my works and of course I also have patrons who are interested in funding my projects.
Andrée Sfeir-Semler: I initially moved to Germany to continue my studies. When I finished my PhD, I was offered a gallery space in Kiel, and decided then and there to start! I’ve always wanted to be close to art production and to follow through the development of careers over time. I opened an independent gallery space rather than working with a museum or in the academic field because I wanted to assist living artists and support them in developing their careers.
Ashkan Baghestani: My driving force has always been a passion for the region’s history and the socio-political context of the art scene– fed by motivation, dedication, listening, seeing, exploring and remaining curious!
Hormoz Hematian: Completely by accident.
Mahmoud Obaidi: I don’t know.
Manuel Rabaté: I started my career at the Louvre in Paris. I then joined the Musée du quai Branly just before they opened. One of the projects I worked on was in Manama – Bahrain, a show entitled Masks: Beauty of the Spirits curated by Yves Le Fur. I really loved the region. I later heard about the project of the Louvre Abu Dhabi so I joined Agence France Museum. I was one of the first to come to Abu Dhabi from the team and with my Emirati colleague, we made the museum a reality. I later became director. A thrilling succession of encounters and passion the have driven my choices.
Nadim Karam: By giving it the time it takes.
Omar Kholeif: Through hard work, graft and dedication to art and artists.
Samia Halaby: Hard work and determination in face of great rejection.
Till Fellrath and Sam Bardaouil: With a lot of passion, a lot of curiosity and a lot of hard work.
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).
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.
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.
Mahmoud Obaidi (b. 1966, Baghdad) is an Iraqi-Canadian artist whose work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. After leaving Iraq in 1991, he obtained his Master’s of Fine Arts at the University of Guelph in Canada, and completed diplomas in new media and film from Toronto and Los Angeles, respectively. His work has been exhibited extensively, including the British Museum, London-Qatar Museums, Doha; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Saatchi Gallery, London; the National Museum of Bahrain; the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; the National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman; Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Texas; the Musèe d’Art Contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec; the Nabu Museum, Lebanon and others. His work is part of the permanent collection of a number of significant museums, foundations and private collections.
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.
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.
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 101
Read more questions on Art on the link below: