This month, for the first time ever, a gallery from the Gulf region will be heading to Art Basel – one of the world’s most prestigious events for modern and contemporary art. Yasmin Atassi, director of Green Art Gallery in Dubai says she is extremely excited to have one of her artists participating in the 43-year-old Swiss fair. ‘The goal of any art gallery is to get in to Art Basel at some point. It is an achievement so great in the art world, it is almost similar to winning the Oscars,’ says Atassi.
The fair, which takes place over a course of three days is the ‘creme de la creme of the art fair calendar’, according to Atassi, where the most prominent collectors, curators, museums, artists and critics are present. As such, the exposure provided for both exhibiting galleries and their artists is tremendous.
Participation in Art Basel is extremely competitive and the application is made via a detailed project proposal. Atassi is very proud to be taking the works of Shadi Habib Allah, a Palestinian multimedia artist, to the event. ’We applied with a very strong project and got accepted into the Art Statement section of Art Basel – the most important platform for emerging artists to be showcased. In this section, you apply with a specific solo project by one of your gallery artists. We decided to take Shadi’s project titled S/N: 8F1GNA0021.’
The project, Atassi explains, which encompasses a sculpture and video examines the hierachies of authority and class identification. Habib Allah reworks existing structures or makes images of images in ways that eventually erase each other, until it is unclear which is the original. ‘Shadi’s inspiration for this comes from his skepticism for power systems in the art world,’ explains Atassi. ‘We believe his project is really strong and will be appreciated in a setting and context such as Art Basel.’
Habib Allah’s work first captured Atassi’s attention in 2009, when he was exhibiting at the Venice Biennale. She took him on board in 2010, after he graduated from Columbia University. ‘He is a brilliant young artist with so much potential. It’s been very exciting to represent him and see his work evolve,’ she says.
Atassi believes that Green Art Gallery’s participation in Art Basel is a step forward for contemporary Middle Eastern art. ‘As more galleries start pushing the boundaries in terms of contemporary art practice and participating in international art fairs, people will start to take notice of the region’s art scene,’ she adds.
One of the oldest art institutions in Dubai, Green Art Gallery has garnered a reputation for introducing Arab art to the region. Before Atassi took over the reins of the gallery in 2008, her mother worked to develop modern Arab artists such as Fateh Moudaress from Syria and Ismail Fatah from Iraq. Atassi relaunched the concept of the gallery to become contemporary and edgier. Green Art Gallery now works with artists from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.
*Art Basel starts tomorrow and runs till 17th June
Photography: Courtesy of Green Art Gallery and Shereena Lootah