Latest Publications

Envisioning a New Collecting Institution in the 21st Century: The Beirut Museum of Art, Lebanon

What should a 21st Century museum look like on the inside? As the newly appointed Co-Directors of the Beirut Museum of Art, Juliana Khalaf and myself have almost a carte-blanche to reinvent what this means – an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime for art world professionals. The museum, which is slated to open in 2026, is the first purpose-built museum of its kind for Lebanon, promising to showcase the treasured art collection of the Lebanese Ministry of Culture (which has never been seen before), in addition to focusing on Modern and Contemporary regional art.

Insight: The Dubai Collection

The best examples of art begin conversations. A balance between commercial and didactic activity has always been a strength of Art Dubai’s programming. This is often the case in an emerging market, without established institutional models, and there is so much that has not yet been said–new voices to listen to, trends, movements, styles and influences to identify. It is why Art Dubai has cultivated a culture of discovery, and is a major catalyst in local, regional, and international artistic practice and creative ideologies. It has also consistently been a true connector–leaders and practitioners in the artworld from across continents and diverse art centres come together, often for the first time, and go on to establish impactful partnerships. It has been a unique model for nearly two decades, a space where commercial gallerists, collectors and institutional directors interact, where artists and curators feel at home. Art Dubai has also never only been about a few days in March but extends its reach throughout the year and across the globe.

Modern Iraq: The New Vision Group

A flurry of art groups blossomed in 20th-century Iraq. Following the formation of the country after the First World War and its independence from the British in 1932, a spirit of liberation rippled through the country: it was the dawn of a new age.

The Dubai Collection Announces 279 New Artworks From 19 New Patrons Including 88 Artworks From His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Including the new additions, 406 artworks are now available to view on The Dubai Collection Digital Museum, featuring modern and contemporary artworks by 84 new artists.

Artist Profiles

Artists Profile: Safwan Dahoul

One of the first artists I interviewed during the Covid-19 lockdown of 2020 was the great Syrian painter Safwan Dahoul, whose career has spanned over thirty years. We spoke over the phone, on the occasion of his then recently opened show at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai, when doing in-person interviews was out of the question. A soft-spoken man, there was something reassuring and calming about his voice at a time when there was a lot of uncertainty ahead. That gentleness also permeates throughout his evocative paintings.

Artist Profile: Samia Halaby

Born in Jerusalem in 1936, the Palestinian artist Samia Halaby has been painting for more than six decades. Like most gifted luminaries, Halaby's interest in art harks back to her childhood, marked by encouragement from her family. She previously told me in an interview how she made paintbrushes using chicken feathers, and later on went to create portraits of her sister and friends. 

Hussein Madi: When Life Becomes Form

Hussein Madi’s art is brimming with life—whether abstract patterns or portraits, his paintings and prints deliver bold, gestural strokes and a bright colour palette that make his works dance. Madi’s geometric shapes—often stylistically compared to Picasso and his Cubist movement or Matisse and his cut-outs—also lend his works to the medium of sculpture, bringing his subjects even closer to life (such as Untitled, 2000). The Lebanese artist prefers to capture living forms—from birds mid-flight (Birds, 2011) and rearing bulls and horses to the human figure in all manner of domestic environments (Untitled, 2012) and rural scenes (Abstract Flora, 2001). Even his most abstracted works seem to represent animals in their basic forms (such as Untitled, 2005). His tapering, fluid black lines also seem to reference the Arabic script and his use of symmetry, pattern and harmonic balance in composition reflect the principles of Islamic art and architecture. The artist was inspired by his profound belief in “God’s universal order, in which everything is different and yet composed of the same cosmic elements.”

Artist Profile: Jaber Alwan

Born in 1948, Jaber Alwan hails from a small, rural village near the ancient city of Babylon, a city which has inspired artists, architects and historians for generations. Alwan was no different: an imaginative and creative visionary from his youth (he would spend hours as a child moulding clay at river banks into small statues), he explored the ruins and imagined the vivid images of its glorious past. The artistic legacy of Babylon stayed with him when he moved to Baghdad in 1966, enrolling in the Institute of Fine Art to study sculpture, which was then Alwan’s primary artistic passion, and was especially reinforced after seeing the works of Jewad Selim upon arriving in Iraq’s capital.

Deep Dives

Artwork deep dive: Gazbia Sirry "A Lost Family"

A Lost Family (1960) pictures five figures painted larger than life against a vibrant geometric background. In the centre is a seated woman whose body stretches the length of the canvas, her head at the top and her feet at the bottom. Just below and in front of her is a young boy who stands with his hands behind his back, his feet small and tucked tightly together. To her right is another boy who stands taller, his elongated figure stretching higher towards her with his palm outstretched. To her left is the seated figure of an older woman carrying a young child, both of their faces appearing dark and ghostly.

Artwork deep dive: Mona Saudi 'What is found in the dream'

A rectangular block of carved jade sits atop a sleek, white marble plinth. Rich and vibrant tones characterise its colouring, in a spectrum of shades that range from deep green and beige to dark brown, swirling within the stone like the currents of a river. Tracing its shape, to the left are sharp angular edges curving to the other side to form an undulating wave. A small circle pierces through its centre, drawing focus to the surrounding negative space.

Artwork deep dive: Helen Khal 'At the still point of the turning world'

This untitled work painted by Helen Khal (1923-2009) in 1969, features vast layered, faintly textured blocks of green. Details of this moderately sized canvas reveal steady, measured brushstrokes, built up to create hazy fields of colour. Dark green forms the breadth of this composition, fading into a rounded rectangle below, in a lighter, brighter green, glowing like painterly facets of an emerald.

Artwork Deep Dive: Suad Al Attar 'A Balancing Act'

Two tall, veiled, women stand together, hauntingly depicted, as one clutches onto a long candle and the other holds her arm, in a balancing act. To the left, the woman in a striped lavender gown holds a basket in one arm and a child above her shoulder, who appears to be sleeping, resting their arms and head on hers. To her right, the woman in green stares ahead, her eyes eerily vacant as she clutches a long candle between the palms of her hands. Below them, a young wide-eyed girl, with short black hair, in a bright orange dotted gown looks straight ahead.

Artwork Deep Dive: Naziha Selim 'The Warmth of Tea and a Mother's Embrace'

In this untitled work from 1996, Naziha Selim (1927-2008) paints a vibrant scene that features four Iraqi women in an intimate gathering. Seated around a table, they are veiled, dressed in bright colourful clothes, and each draped in a dark abaya (a loose-fitting full-length robe), which suggests that they may not be in a private space. The protagonist of this painting is a reclining figure nursing her baby, her breast exposed. Her veil shields her from the view of the women who sit behind her, huddled closely.

Artwork Deep Dive: Huguette Caland 'My knees hurt, I am aging like Rossinante'

A towering wire structure stands larger than life, perched on what appear to be wobbly, misshapen legs. Delicately formed of thin black metal wire, a figure emerges, woven within a mesh-like framework. Seen at a distance, sharp, continuous lines and curving shapes characterise its composition. It appears to be a gestural ink drawing on a sheet of paper, its true dimensions only revealed in motion.


Shaikha Al Mazrou in conversation with Asmaa Al-Shabibi

Baya As I Knew Her

As a proud Algerian and someone with a lifelong passion for the arts passed down to me by my father, it seems a right of passage to know and love the work of Baya. Her work, a natural phenomenon, decorated the walls of many bourgeois Algerian families whose houses I frequented growing up, adding vivacity to otherwise bare walls. During my youthful years, Algiers was a very bourgeois and conservative city which is why I was fascinated by the warm and colourful works of this new female artist Baya who painted and drew exactly like a child.

The Khair Collection

The behaviour of collectors varies from searching for works within one genre or medium to identifying pieces that fit into broader categories. The growth of an art collection is an organic process, it grows innocently from one sketch, a few watercolours, an interesting drawing, and then on, to another more serious composition. No one can know exactly when the fever strikes. No one can measure exactly when the casual hobby of buying art shifted into a serious pattern of collecting for Mr. Munzer Khair, but once his addiction hit, it didn’t stop. To him, the acquisition of every new artwork became a crucial step to heightening the integrity of his collection.

Willy Aractingi in The Mokbel Art Collection

Johnny and Nadine Mokbel are fervent collectors of Lebanese art and have been since they founded ‘The Mokbel Art Collection’ in 1998. Their collection has grown to house one of the most discerning collections of artworks by pioneering contemporary and modern Lebanese artists. With a distinct national character and identity, ‘The Mokbel Art Collection’ serves to promote Lebanese artists throughout the Middle East and across the globe - one of which being an artist they discovered themselves, the late Willy Aractingi (1930 - 2003).

Unmasking Sabhan Adam’s Creatures of Isolation

Syrian artist Sabhan Adam is a prolific and subversive artist. For more than 20 years, Adam has become widely known for his rich production of a very distinct, yet odd body of work. His intense creative experience is not one that can be pigeon-holed into one genre, for he creates a world of his own.

An Evolution of Style: Dia al-Azzawi works in the Dubai Collection

The works by Dia al-Azzawi in the Dubai Collection provide a compelling overview of key developments and moments in Azzawi’s career since the mid-1960s. Born in Baghdad in 1939, Azzawi’s ongoing, limitless exploration of art includes painting, sculpting, printmaking, graphic design, digital art and more. His influences—ancient, medieval and modern, investigate the aesthetic, cultural and philosophical histories of pre-Islamic civilisations, the evolution of manuscript traditions, the legacies of heroes and martyrs, the impact of both ancient and modern Arabic poetry and the natural world. Perhaps inevitably, these influences also include Azzawi’s personal experiences and reflections on war, memory and injustice, especially as an artist in exile from his homeland, Iraq.

When Images Speak, What do they Say?

“What do pictures want?,” is a question on which W.J.T. Mitchell reflected in his 2005 book of the same title. Fundamentally, the question asserts the notion that pictures have agencies that extend beyond their makers’ and receivers’ intentions. Mitchell states that, “The question to ask of pictures from the standpoint of a poetics is not just what they mean or do but what they want – what claim they make upon us, and how we are to respond. Obviously, this question also requires us to ask what it is that we want from pictures.” The claim thus is for a mutual relationship between pictures and people, both with their agencies and desires. In many ways, images tell us about the world we inhabit.

The Depth of the Surface: Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World

We enter the composition by boat, on a calm, flowing river that meanders diagonally off into the left-hand corner of the canvas. On either side of the river, tall trees — their historical presence suggested by the wide girth of their trunks — hug the waterway; their delicate dance with the sunlight bathing the river in vibrant patches of green, blue, orange, and reds. Nestled behind the trees, a row of brownish buildings with dark cavernous windows guides the viewer’s eye along the river and into the vanishing point in the distance. Together, these elements — the winding waterway, trees that stretch up to meet the frame of the canvas, and architectural structures weathered by time — create a composition of immense depth that moves the viewer’s eye through the canvas: a visual journey that mirrors the suggested physical water journey that is the subject of this landscape.

‘Any Collection Is A Story’: How Two Syrian Women Are Sharing Their Country’s Artistic Heritage with the World

The story of the Atassi Foundation begins with a small bookshop. Back in the early 1980s in Homs, Syria's third-largest city, sisters Mouna and Mayla Atassi had an idea of providing the public with multilingual books on history, politics, philosophy, and literature.

“A piece of art is dead if it’s not being seen”: Khaled Ead Samawi And His Daughter Maya on The History and Future of The Samawi Collection

Collecting In Dubai: The Last Two Decades

The rise of Dubai as a contemporary art capital took place first and foremost through the establishment of for-profit ventures in the city over the last two decades, as part of an increasingly globalised commercial art sector. International auction houses and art organisations, with Christies a pioneer amongst them together with the Art Dubai fair, played a crucial role in this process. Whilst expanding existing operations or ‘exporting’ commercial models already developed in Western cultural capitals, these organisations found in Dubai fertile ground to challenge established frameworks for presenting non-Western art, which ultimately changed the very notion of what it means for art to be ‘global’. 

East Meets Far East

How Collector Snow Feinan Li is Forging a Bridge between the Middle East and China through Art. The pandemic kept Chinese collector Snow Li busier than ever as she delved into collecting and supporting the Middle Eastern art scene.

A Corporate Collection Changing the Art Game in the UAE

The A.R.M Holding Art Collection, one of the UAE’s leading corporate art collections, has for its mission the aim to promote innovation and unity through art.

Looking Back: A History of Art Collecting In Dubai

There is a long-standing tradition of philanthropy and collecting in Muslim culture. Alongside those of the ruling families, there are many private collections with an Islamic focus in Dubai, such as Mahdi Al-Tajir’s collection of antique silver, oriental carpets, and Islamic manuscripts.

A Reflection on the Dubai Collection

The Dubai Collection is a virtual platform that brings together the city’s private collections. It will be curated by a committee of specialists who will address Dubai’s cultural production from a regional perspective.

Art Dubai Modern Talks 2022

Art Dubai’s Modern section was curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, who chose to present 11 single modern artists’ booths from the Arab world, Iran and India. This section was accompanied by the Art Dubai Modern Talks which took place over two days (10th-11th March), at the ARM Majlis. These talks were held in partnership with the Dubai Collection; the topics examined the life, work and influences of 20th century Modern masters from the Middle East and North Africa. These important artists’ works form the foundation for the art history of the region from the turn of the 20th century to the 1980s and the talks significantly added to existing scholarship and research.


The Art of Collecting

This panel brought together a group of collectors with varying disciplines at different stages of their collecting journey, who shared insight about their practice. They shed light on the increasingly important role collectors play, and how they set their strategy and focus their patronage.

The Future of Institutional Collections: Perspectives From The Region

This conversation explored the process of developing new models for building publicly accessible art collections, where representatives from different institutions in the region discussed policy and curatorial concerns specific to their context.

Geographies of Land and Faces in MARWAN's World: Their Deconstruction & Reanimation

Pioneering artist MARWAN Kassab Bachi left his mark on the contemporary art scene, with his work celebrated in both Eastern and Western contexts. He influenced an entire generation of young artists, and this panel reflected on a lifetime of stories, friendships, inspirations, and the rich body of work that makes up his legacy.

Modern Art and Museums

The conversation reflected on possible ways to include and present modern art from MENASA countries in international museums and how to preserve the region’s heritage in the light of global market interest.

Abstraction and Figuration: Looking to Shapes

By critically reviewing the history of pictorial abstraction around the middle of the 20th century, the conversation reflected on the canons of artistic modernity by creating a bridge between past and present and reconsidering the theme of figuration in the light of experiences in the MENASA countries.

Luxury Retail and Art

As the world of art broadens its borders, luxury retail and art collaborations have been a natural outcome. This panel brought together leading representatives across the luxury retail and art worlds to discuss their involvement with the arts, how their affiliations and practices incorporate art, and the role that plays in the DNA of the organisations they represent.

Building a Collecting Community

This panel brought together UAE-based collectors to discuss their collecting journeys and practices over the years, how those have shifted in light of a growing cultural infrastructure, and the role they play in building collecting communities.

From Collector To Patron: Supporting Artistic Production In The Region and Beyond

This conversation explored forms of art patronage that support new media art and in specific video art, particularly in/for a region implementing new institutional models and cultural infrastructure. The talk highlighted new initiatives and patronage efforts with collectors engaged in impactful art endeavours, with a focus on the role of commissioning private institutions in supporting the production and exhibition of digital and video art. The conversation brought together Han Nefkens, collector and founder of the Han Nefkens Foundation, which supports emerging international video artists through awards, production grants and mentorship grants, and Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel.

Collecting In A Shifting Global Cultural Map

The role collecting and collectors are playing in shifting arts and culture landscapes, as well as in the redistribution of global cultural centres. This panel brought light on new collecting emerging in the Global South, the impact these new collectors had on the cities/geographies they’re based in, and the effect of these practices in the larger global conversation around diversity and inclusion of art from beyond traditional western-led geographical scopes.

Are You Still Collecting Crypto In The Digital Winter?

What does it mean to be a collector of digital art today? In what is being dubbed as the ‘crypto winter’, the panelists discussed if it still makes sense to acquire digital works. Collectors Qinwen Wang and Fiorenzo Manganiello talked about where digital art sits during such a precarious time, the history of digital art (delineating digital art and NFTs), and their own involvement with it.