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Gulf Today - - ARTS & CULTURE - Muham­mad Yusuf, Fea­tures Writer

DUBAI: Fann A Porter gallery, Dubai, has be­gun an ini­tia­tive called AFA (Art For All) Col­lec­tive aimed at mak­ing art more ac­ces­si­ble for art lovers, with be­spoke in­stal­ment pay­ment plans for art­works (Sept. 25 – Nov. 6).

Serv­ing as both an ex­hi­bi­tion and a con­cept, AFA Col­lec­tive of­fers art­works by emerg­ing, mid-ca­reer and es­tab­lished artists from the Mid­dle East, Iran and Europe who shine light upon a pocket of con­tem­po­rary pro­duc­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Ghada Ku­nash, Founder and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of the gallery, the ini­tia­tive is mod­elled on trans­parency for col­lec­tors and to make art more ac­ces­si­ble through be­spoke in­stal­ment pay­ment plans and mem­ber­ship ben­e­fits.

“AFA Col­lec­tive re­fo­cuses art mak­ing around the tenets of artis­tic pro­duc­tion, col­lect­ing, and its piv­otal role in knowl­edge build­ing and pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion”, she says. “AFA pro­poses an an­ti­thet­i­cal model to com­bat col­lec­tor fa­tigue and pro­mote arts aware­ness and ed­u­ca­tion”.

Ex­hibit­ing artists in­clude An­nie Kurkd­jian, Alaa Sharabi, Hous­sam Bal­lan, Kha­lad Na­jad Paez, Jordi Prat Pons, Oth­man Moussa, Majd Kur­dieh, Omar Na­j­jar, Amirho­sein Zan­jani, Sasan Naser­nia, Juhayda Bi­tar, Azad Nanakeli, Mukesh Shah and Yousuf Yousuf, among oth­ers.

Phys­i­cally bridg­ing artis­tic un­der­stand­ing through mul­ti­fac­eted cul­tural ex­change lo­cally and in­ter­na­tion­ally, the ex­hi­bi­tion sig­ni­fies the for­mal launch of the gallery’s col­lab­o­ra­tive ini­tia­tives. The ex­hi­bi­tion’s vi­sion is rooted in the idea of bring­ing to­gether tal­ented artists, and mak­ing their works ac­ces­si­ble to younger and es­tab­lished col­lec­tors.

Also, it aims to em­power peo­ple to buy art, sup­port artists and de­velop a sus­tain­able cre­ative econ­omy by pro­vid­ing an in­ter­est fee in­stall­ment plan (mostly be­tween 2-3 in­stall­ments).

While ge­o­graph­i­cal spread is key to Fann A Porter’s out­reach ef­forts, AFA Col­lec­tive takes a peo­ple-cen­tric phi­los­o­phy one step fur­ther. It’s pro­gramme in­cludes open-for-all artist tours, stu­dio vis­its, travel to ex­plore global art in­sti­tu­tions as well as artist-hosted spe­cial events. The goal is to de­velop a more com­pre­hen­sive sus­tain­able and vis­i­tor-friendly cre­ative econ­omy, blur­ring the bound­ary be­tween the com­mer­cial and non-com­mer­cial.

AFA Col­lec­tive thus rep­re­sents an art mar­ket evo­lu­tion, re­spond­ing to the needs of to­day’s in­creas­ingly var­ied pub­lic tastes. The ex­hi­bi­tion and pro­gramme il­lu­mi­nates a niche in the mar­ket that is all-in­clu­sive, in­stead of uni­lat­eral (“buy­ers’ side”, “sell­ers’ side” and “artists’ side”).

Ex­po­sure to col­lec­tors, trans­par­ent com­mer­cial prac­tices, an in­ter­est-free in­stall­ment plan and art and busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­tated through hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence-driven pro­gram­ming, will also help the ca­reer growth of artists.

The ini­tia­tive rep­re­sents a hum­ble and hon­est tack­ling of the art world through egal­i­tar­ian, peo­ple-fo­cused means. It reaf­firms that art should, and can be, for and about peo­ple.

The gallery plans to ex­pand AFA Col­lec­tive to a mem­bers’ pro­gramme that would give ac­cess to var­i­ous artist stu­dio vis­its, re­gional cul­tural tours, artist/gallery hosted spe­cial events, etc.

Ba­tool (one name only), was one of the guests at the in­au­gu­ral. She was im­pressed by the art­work on show and happy that the cam­paign was about mak­ing art af­ford­able to ev­ery­one.

“Sus­tain­abil­ity is the botom line!” said Ku­nash on the side­lines of what must have been a very tir­ing day for her. “The art scene or move­ment has three main com­po­nents: artists, gal­leries and buy­ers (or col­lec­tors). If one dis­ap­pears, the scene col­lapses.

“Artists need gal­leries to rep­re­sent them. Col­lec­tors need gal­leries to see, ap­pre­ci­ate and judge the art mar­ket and buy art. If they don’t buy, the artist’s work and the gallery’s busi­ness, die”.

She said that the prob­lem was not only that peo­ple need to learn more about art, but those who have en­tered the art mar­ket are put off by the prices. “AFA’S idea is to fa­cil­i­tate their in­ter­est”, she said. “Art lovers can pay in in­stal­ments. Peo­ple take loans for plas­tic surg­eries and for hol­i­days. Why can’t they pay for art in in­stal­ments?”

She said that hol­i­days will van­ish, but art does not. When artists get their right­ful re­wards, they will work harder and im­prove them­selves. The gallery will also be able to pay bills at the end of the month.

AFA works like this: at the first in­stal­ment, the art­work is re­served for the buyer. When the whole amount is paid, the buyer can take it home. In the in­ter­reg­num, when the in­stal­ments are be­ing paid, the art­work will dis­played free of cost or ware­housed.

Ku­nash pointed out, how­ever, that while the busi­ness of art had its place, the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion could not be over­stated. “Ed­u­ca­tion has to be there”, she said. “We are look­ing at run­ning more talks and to make this a mem­ber­ship based move­ment. I believe in the artists I sup­port and in my team, who work very hard”.

Nour Ri­fai, daugh­ter of renowned Syr­ian ori­gin artist Is­mail Ri­fai, who was among the aten­dees dur­ing the in­au­gu­ral, said that “it is a great way for art lovers to start owning and col­lect­ing what they are pas­sion­ate about; it is about time to start this ini­tia­tive here”.

As a bonus, she found the va­ri­eties of colours, fig­ures and styles of the ex­hibits en­rich­ing and in­ter­est­ing. “When you en­ter the ex­hi­bi­tion you will see a colour­ful art­work on your right side that was pro­duced ap­prox­i­mately ten years ago. Fac­ing it is a big blue paint­ing by the young artist Alaa Sharabi ‘the blue mother’, which is a re­cent pro­duc­tion. This va­ri­ety brings the viewer an art ul­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence. The place, the at­mos­phere and the vibes are amaz­ing!” she said.

Speak­ing of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween artists and gal­leries, she said that “I can­not say it is ideal; it is def­i­nitely not the best. The gal­leries can make the most of the artist’s work when it is a win-win sit­u­a­tion”. That is what AFA Col­lec­tive is aim­ing at.

↑ An­nie Kurkd­jian, Un­ti­tled, 2017, acrylic on can­vas.

↑ Ghada Ku­nash, Founder and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Fann A Porter.

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