Salwa Zeidan on Saadiyat Island

One of the city's most established galleries relocates Discuss this article

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As one of the city’s most established galleries relocates to Saadiyat Island, we speak to the founder and director of the Salwa Zeidan Gallery about art in the nation’s capital. Words Sara Taher.

In the process of reopening its doors at its new location in The Collection at St. Regis, the Salwa Zeidan Gallery will be the first private gallery on Saadiyat Island. Since 1994, the gallery has been establishing a name in the region and helping to foster an artistic presence in Abu Dhabi. We spoke to Salwa Zeidan about the new space and the city’s cultural scene.

You have an iconic gallery in the city. What were some of the challenges you faced in establishing your brand?
I have been curating art in the region for over two decades and by the time I opened my gallery here, my status as an experienced curator made the growth of my brand natural and organic. But the prevailing challenge has been the slow pace of change. The Abu Dhabi market, as developed as it is, still has a limited demand for art. At the end of the day and beyond the passion and the drive that fuels my work here, an art gallery is still a business that needs to be sustained by ongoing demand for art, which in my view is short of what it could be. I believe in this city and am confident that this will change in due course. Perhaps what gives me the peace of mind is seeing the tremendous efforts of the government here to nurture the cultural scene so significantly.

What do you think about the burgeoning art scene that we have here in Abu Dhabi?
We have a beautiful vision for a city that will soon enough become a major reference in the global art scene. You can already see the early signs of it with the growing number of art students in the universities and the developing museums and art spaces. If there is a prime example of this success, it would have to be Abu Dhabi Art which in a few years managed to establish itself as one of the leading markets in the region.

Can you tell us a bit about the new gallery on Saadiyat Island?
I am so excited about this new space. We have been trying to find the ideal home for our gallery for several months now. Once the museums, New York University and the numerous cultural projects have been completed, Saadiyat Island will become the centre for culture in the region; so what better place to have a gallery. The Collection in St. Regis is also a prime location that has provided us with a nice space with high ceilings and a beautiful layout.

What do you look for in an artist before featuring their works in your gallery?
I am a huge fan of innovation and so I tend to gravitate towards artists who have a distinct message to share through their work. I have an allergy to copycats and unfortunately there are many! I tend to admire artists who raise the benchmark and challenge the norm.

Have you noticed a change in the reception of the public towards different styles of art?
Absolutely! In fact, audiences today are much keener to view the latest collections and are eager to attend exhibitions. The commitment to art here in Abu Dhabi, especially by the government and the country’s leaders, is promising and sets a platform from which many artists will be able to be better received by the public. One important component is that many more Emiratis are rising up and taking on a career in art; something that was definitely not seen as acceptable in the past.

What are your plans for your brand ten years down the line?
I am very passionate about art and will work on many more exhibitions, lectures, workshops and art related events. This is essential because I feel that gallery owners are a huge part of the progression of this country and it is our duty to continuously set the standards for what art lovers and connoisseurs should be looking for; if anything, we are their intellectual lighthouse.

What is your favourite style of art and why?
I am a huge fan of minimalist art with large messages and deep content that has the power to impact the world around us. I believe that we are constantly bombarded with so much information and so many images. So when looking at minimalist art in any medium, the simplicity that lies within the empty spaces gives us a much needed break. In my opinion, this space is necessary to trigger a thought process within the viewer, thus enabling them to not only engage with the work but also form their own personal experience and view of the piece.
To learn more visit www.salwazeidangallery.com (02 666 9656).

By Sara Taher
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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