Dubai/Sharjah/Abu Dhabi - Interviews

On the Middle Eastern Art Scene: An Interview with Ramin Salsali

2 years ago

On the occasion of our Special Issue on the Sharjah Biennial & Dubai Art Week 2017, we interviewed Ramin Salsali, founder and director of the Salsali Private Museum (SPM), in Dubai. Located in the industrial area of Al Quoz in Alserkal Avenue, this is the first private museum in the region for contemporary Middle Eastern and international art.

Born in Tehran in 1964, Ramin Salsali started his own collection at the age of 21 and has been developing it ever since. This huge collection of more than 900 artworks found its home at SPM in 2011. The art space also hosts the collections of guest collectors and traveling exhibitions from around the world.

Mara Sartore: Let’s talk about the genesis of Salsali Private Museum. Your museum opened to the public in 2011, when Alserkal Avenue was at beginning of its activity. How did the landscape and the art community change in these years?

Ramin Salsali: Because of Alserkal, the entire cultural Ecosystem has been changed not only in Dubai, but also in the entire region. The increasing quantity and quality of creative spaces are part of this ongoing change and part of the diversification process.

M.S.: We can say you were one of the first pioneering collector of Dubai art scene. Where and how would you say everything began? Did you expect and foresee such a huge development in so short time?

R.S.: It started over 25 years ago in Germany by collecting of the art works of the Graffiti Artist who painted the wall of Berlin, Kiddy Citny and since then I try to educate and evolve myself. I am more than pleased to be considered as one of the contributor to this unique development and as such, I did not expect, but I truly hopped and wished that this path of speed of development would take place. My wishes came through!

M.S.: How did you begin collecting? What is the main motivation behind this passion and why did you decide to open your collection to the public?

R.S.: As mentioned before, I started to collect Art over 25 years ago, In fact it started even much earlier by collecting stamps and toy cars. I have an extensive collection of vintage Iranian stamps up to early phase of revolution. I have over 500 toy cars. I think some collectors have it in their DNA and some hire “advisors”!
I distinguish between Artisan and Engineered Collections. In my case it is DNA and true passion and therefore I decided to open a space called a “private museum”, to encourage others to collect and to share.

M.S.: As a collector, you have a wide knowledge of Dubai contemporary art scene. A part from the main art hub of Alserkal Avenue, which are the art spaces you would recommend visiting in Dubai and elsewhere in the UAE. Which are the emerging artists you’re following so far?

R.S.: I always recommend to all my friends to start with BASTAKIA, followed by DIFC and then ending with Alserkal and Al Quoz, it is traveling in time.
Allow me not to mention any name. But they are talented Emirati Artists that I follow. To be honest, I do consider some people who have the impact on the evolvement of Dubai as true emerging artists. In this case, I allow to name few of them, the Family Alserkal, Vilma Jurkute, Ali Khedra, Pia Shobha Shamdsani and HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan. They belong to those, who deserve to be called “artist”.

M.S.: What about your engagement with Dubai art scene? Which is the common trend we can find in UAE contemporary art today? How do you see Dubai’s art scene progress further?

R.S.: As always, I try to offer my utmost support for Dubai in general and wherever in the world, I praise Dubai and UAE for its unique achievements in such a short period. We shall not forget that the UAE is 45 years old and I wished some countries in the region to take this example. Considering this dynamic path, I will see Dubai and UAE as the engine of and catalyst of cultural progress for the entire region.

M.S.: As we are approaching to Art Dubai week, which are your expectations from this edition? Do you think the fair and the general art scene is renewing itself on this occasion?

R.S.: We are in the world, inventing itself on continues path! Dubai is the leading city in this context! Art Dubai is part of it and all do expect from Art Dubai the message of innovation. Looking forward to it, in particular to have Myrna Ayad as ex-chief Editor of CANVAS as new Director of Art Dubai.

Mara Sartore

  • Ramin Salsali Ramin Salsali
  • The Salsali Private Museum (SPM), Dubai

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