With ArtBahrain closing in next week, we touched based with advertising mogul and cultural entrepreneur Tariq Al Jaidah from Doha, Qatar who will be attending the fair’s first edition on Tuesday 13th October. Since he started collecting in the early 90s, he has developed a sincere passion for the arts, leading him to become one of the serious Middle Eastern art collectors in the region. He is the managing partner and managing director of Al Jaidah Brothers along with his five brothers, who have come under one umbrella pursuing joint ventures in real estate and retail business. With a vision to help develop and drive a thriving and productive art scene in Doha, Al Jaidah founded in 2012 the Katara Arts Center, an independently run platform, acting as a hub for emerging cultural communities in response to the need for a critical grassroots and multidisciplinary framework in Doha. Through this art center, Tariq Al Jaidah hopes this will support young emerging artists as well as collectors to strengthen Qatar’s art cycle. He is a member of the Guggenheim committee for contemporary Arab art as well as a member of the board of Canvas Magazine. As a collector, he is a regular guest panelist in art fairs, such as Art Basel. Works from his private collection have also been represented in galleries and museums worldwide.
Read his interview about his thoughts on the beneficial value ArtBahrain will have on the Middle Eastern art scene and what needs to be done to help continue the region’s slow yet encouraging art market growth.
Thoughts on the Collection
How did you start collecting Modern and Contemporary Arab art?
Probably because of the exposure and being part of that world. So I think I was encouraged to start to collect from the region being exposed to some of the local and regional artists. And then, when I realised I was becoming an excessive buyer, my passion grew from ‘just somebody who bought a picture’ to become more of a collector. I had to limit myself to give my collection more substance, giving more of a frame to what I should collect. As you know, the art world is a vast world, so I believe this was a way to strategise my collecting in order to give my collection more meaning and substance.
How extensive is your collection?
Definitely around 500.
What is the main focus regarding the artist in your collection? Are you more interested in emerging or established artist?
That definitely fluctuates from one year to another. At the moment, for instance, I try to make sure I buy contemporary and young emerging artists because I already have a few established one. But then I also get excited about the subject of an art work. I save a section of my collection to the Arab Spring or artists who moved towards the Arab Spring. I then move on to another subject like the Matka subject, which is something I like. It is an evolution. Any personal collection is a story of a journey, of somebody’s passion and for the love of art.
How are you planning on expanding your collection, or do you even want to expand it?
As I said it’s a journey and I’m very active in the art world. I have an art centre here in Qatar so I encourage artists to come and show their work. In very seldom cases, I also do work in some institutions and do events. I do show my collection and have visitors come from abroad to have a dialogue with some of the works I own. Where I am going to go with it? I am like any collector in this world. It’s to have it in a place where people can appreciate it because that’s the ultimate achievement of any collection.
So you have shown your collection to a wider public?
Yes, I have shown a segment of my collection for certain events and in the space which I manage here in Qatar. It’s called Katara Art Centre. But that’s not the only reason why I have the art centre. I concentrate more on showing emerging artists and to encourage both the artists and also the public to have a chance to appreciate the quality of art.
Would you call the art centre a private museum, considering you’re showing mostly your collection or…?
No. The art centre is a platform where we encourage the young, creative people from and living in Qatar in all aspects of creating, whether it’s design, photography, poetry, painting. We found out we had a few success stories where people used that as a stepping stone and moved on. So, the centre is not a conventional gallery. We’re a kind of platform where we encourage young and emerging artists. Now, it’s one of the most flexible models put up so far. I do sometimes, create once a year a show for my collection when we are expecting special guests who come to certain events in Qatar. But it is not a place where I show my collection.
We watched the interview when you spoke at Art Basel in 2012. I think you were on one of the panels. You mentioned that for the art center, the idea is also to create a market, meaning to have the opportunity to sell and buy.
Definitely. Any art movement is a circle between the artist, the collector, the gallery, and then also the museums and the private institutions. So, as you very well know, in our region, the government is the biggest player in this scene. They’re very active in creating the momentum. But without having a gallery and money exchange, many of the artists get discouraged and go and do something else with their lives. Also, many of our artists have secondary jobs. So, we do not have a full-time artist living off this profession, where their work can reach more depth and become more substantial in the quality of art they will produce. This is why we wanted to create this platform. It is a beginning of how we can showcase, because many of the galleries are commercially driven. If you’re not selling and you don’t have a name, they will not sign with artists. So, we give these young people a chance. Once they have some sort of a success story there, then the galleries will become encouraged to take them on and connect them to people who will be interested in buying their work.
And how often do you acquire artworks per year, would you say?
I don’t plan. As much as I can afford, I guess! I believe the importance is: when people ask me, “What do you buy and how do you buy?” as my collection grows, people start to say, “Oh, you’re a collector.” Many people call themselves collectors, but at a certain point it becomes a liability – even though it’s your own money and your own collection. You become more educated. So, who is this artist? Why am I buying? You have to start to money manage because any private collector will never have an endless income. The process becomes lengthier and the strategy evolves. In the early days, I would make a decision in five minutes. Now I need five days, maybe to study, to understand. So, the buying process has definitely changed.
That leads me to my next question. What is your strategy when collecting art and how do you do your research?
Well, I travel a lot. Of course, in the early days, I travelled much more and visited art studios in some of the art cities. I hope to go back to cities like Damascus, Le Fort. I also go to Cairo and Beirut. I’m glad to say that most of the specific artists which I acquire, I make sure I go meet with them and create a communication line. I don’t want it to be just an acquisition but more about going in depths in understanding why they painted the subject. It’s all part of the cause and education. When you become more aware, more educated about the artist and the artwork, it will have much greater meaning to you.
Thoughts on ArtBahrain
What are your expectations for ArtBahrain’s first edition?
The challenge is always the second time around. So the first is, of course, very important to give a good first impression. But my advice to the organisers is to keep in mind about the fair’s position, because now there is a bit of a fair saturation. We have Art Dubai with history and they’re going into their 14th, 15th year I believe. Then Abu Dhabi with the strong presence of the multinational, the Gregorian and they attract many of the big gallery names. So, Bahrain should position itself in a very careful way to be able to complement rather than compete, because the region is small and Art Bahrain has a huge agenda. Consequently, they have to select where they need to go. This is one point. On the other hand, I believe Bahrain has a very interesting art movement and the art scene in Bahrain is very mature with its early ‘60s artists. I think they should take this advantage and showcase their own artists.
Are you looking forward to any particular events, gallery or artists booths?
I’m looking forward to the Bahrainis rather than the other stuff behind it. It doesn’t mean I would not look at the work shown by the other participating galleries, but I think my main focus would be looking into the Bahrainis.
What could Art Bahrain bring to the region and the Middle East, in your opinion?
I think it will definitely become a healthy add-on to the scene. We have a more all year-round healthy schedule. The activities have increased. That means it will certainly give bigger momentum to the scene, and it will create better exposure for the artists. It will definitely be unique, and it will have its own personality compared to the other art events which take place here. I think it will present the Gulf region as a leader in the Arab world to promoting art, enhancing the effort that is made by the Arab cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
As a collector, what do you look for at an art fair, and how do you navigate around it?
Collectors always have their favourite galleries and artists. You first look at the galleries which whom you know, then you start to search for the artists you know (i.e where they’re showing, and the exhibits they have to offer). And then, from that, you develop a certain friendship. And then the most exciting thing is to find galleries and artists you don’t know. This is why we have to do a bit of homework before we go and attend any art fair to see who’s showing. For Bahrain, since it’ll be its first year, the strategy would be to discover everything on our own. So, I hope that it will go on for many years, and it will develop and create its position in the art scene in the region in the future.
Thoughts on the art market
What are your thoughts on the art market in Qatar in general?
The art market in Qatar is still in its early stages and we’re hoping that it will develop. For the moment, there are a few collectors in Qatar. There is definitely a movement from the government sector to encourage the institutions and the government to buy art and to hang it in their premises. Of course, thanks to the older museums it’s encouraging the local public to be exposed to art. That means the public will be more encouraged to interact and to buy and come to shows. And in this sense, it will definitely encourage the development. My dream is to have the entire region and the major cities in our region to complement each other and compete where we have the institutions who’d like to come into the market to buy and having its residents encouraging the movement. I think it would be very healthy for us to complement and compete, to a certain extent.
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