Emirati artist Mohamed Al Mazrouei to exhibit his work in Zurich
Canvassing viewers is television show host’s mission
Dr Mamun Alwani just wants people to appreciate and begin to understand the beauty of art.
The Syrian- Italian artist, art critic and journalist hosts the Arab- language art appreciation show Alwani, which airs on Abu Dhabi TV – which is owned by Abu Dhabi Media, which publishes The National – on Tuesday evenings.
“If only one person out of every one thousand viewers becomes a fan of the show and sits down for an episode’s entirety to watch and to listen, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do,” he says. “I was asked to develop a programme that combines all of my strengths and interests; a programme that is centred around art and that suits Abu Dhabi and the UAE, that is worthy of the high standards of this country,” he says.
Having studied art in Damascus and Rome and received his masters in art criticism from The Hague, he has been exhibiting his work in Syria and Rome for years.
He also spent a significant part of his career working as correspondent for Al Jazeera in Rome.
“Telling a story, and having that story be about art, is a strength of mine,” he says.
“Eventually, I came up with the idea of appearing on TV as if I am physically entering each painting I am discussing, and walking around its elements.”
This format, believes its host, is what makes Alwani stand out from any other art appreciation series filmed for television. “We have r e creat ed a r t masterpieces in 3-D,” he says.
The first episode of Alwani examined the work of Italian renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci, especially his Mona Lisa, which Alwani refers to as the Jocunda. “It took us six months to develop the 3D rendering of the Jocunda so we can present her profile and show her from a 360 degree angle; it’s the first time for anyone to see an interpretation of the Mona Lisa’s profile,” says Alwani.
Alwani’s adopts an informal, conversat ional manner, as he chats to the viewer about everything from the rumours and conspiracy theories that have surrounded the Jocunda, or reveals hidden secrets in the painting that may not have been apparent at first glance, all draw the viewer in to a world where art becomes accessible.
“It’s as if we are all sitting together and learning about art in a fun way,” he says.
“I want to reach people and create in them a love and an understanding of art.”
Four episodes have aired, out A show of new works by Mohamed Al Mazrouei, a prominent Emirati artist, writer and poet is going on display in a Swiss gallery. In an exhibition titled Raw Cooked, the show contains new paintings as well as textile works, as the artist has transformed some of his artworks into carpets. The show runs from Saturday to May 13 at AB43 Contemporary in Zurich. of a total of 40 planned. So far, following Leonardo, Alwani has examined the work of Michelangelo , then Raphael and in the fourth episode, Titian and Giuseppe Arcimboldo (who is best known for his portraits with people’s heads and facial features depicted as fruits, flowers, books and so on). “We could have had 100 based on all the art and artists there are to examine,” says Alwani. But we chose to begin portraying artists from the Renaissance period until the modern art of today; we will do it chronologically.” In the last few minutes of most episodes, Alwani also pre- sents the work of an Arab artist. “In about 80 per cent of our episodes, we introduce the work of an Arab artist, ensuring they get exposure, that their work is celebrated and understood,” he says.
“We have a role to provide support, so why not shed light on the work of Arabs?”
Alwani takes his role of teaching people about art, in all its different formats, very seriously.
He wants people to learn about the different schools of art, to differentiate between impressionism and surrealism, to understand cubism, to know the stories behind the paintings.
“Soon, I will delve into the economy of art as well and explain how a painting’s price is calculated, how its value rises, how it gets chosen for a museum, and so on,” he says.
“I hope we really are able to reach a large segment of society with this and develop in them an interest in art,” he says.
“People have begun stopping me in the street to discuss a part of the show, or tell me they are enjoying it.
“Without marketing the show at all – and it’s clearly not a profitable show – we still have a viewership and it’s growing.”
Arabs, admits Alwani, are not as interested in or as appreciative of art as they can be. That can change, he says.
“I believe that by the time we reach the 10th or 12th episode, the show will have a serious following,” says Alwani.
“My job is to keep it interesting, to keep telling the stories behind the art and let the drama unfold.”
Catch Alwani tonight and every Tuesday evening at 9.30pm on Abu Dhabi TV. To watch past episodes online, visit www.abudhabitv.ae. All episodes are in Arabic.
Dr Mamun Alwani takes viewers on an accessible 360-degree tour of some of the world’s most famous artworks.