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Q&A With Yasmin Atassi, Director Of Green Art Gallery In Dubai

As director of Green Art Gallery, one of Dubai’s oldest art galleries, Yasmin Atassi looks after a multi-generational and multidisciplinary roster of artists hailing from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and beyond, including Turkish artists Hale Tenger and Hera Büyüktasciyan; Iranian artists Kamrooz Aram and Nazgol Ansarinia; and Shadi Habib Allah, Seher Shah and Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck, who are Palestinian, Pakistani and Venezuelan respectively. She discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kamrooz Aram, Elegy for Blue Architecture, 2019, lapis lazuli pigment / oil on linen, 175.3 x 213.4 x 3.8 cm. Sculpture: brass, walnut, travertine and aglay, dimensions variable

Kamrooz Aram, Elegy for Blue Architecture, 2019, lapis lazuli pigment / oil on linen, 175.3 x 213.4 … [+] x 3.8 cm. Sculpture: brass, walnut, travertine and aglay, dimensions variable

Photo Anna Shtraus

How has COVID-19 impacted your gallery in terms of working from home, layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts?

As with every business, we have had to look at our cost structure and take the necessary actions to ensure continuity. This is an ongoing process that we will look at during this period.

How has the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns worldwide affected the way in which you support your artists and service your clients, your strategies in connecting sellers and buyers, instituting digital exhibitions, online viewing rooms and a new video series? Is it a time for dynamic change and radical thinking?

We have participated in several online initiatives and we understand the need of going digital at this stage and perhaps implement such initiatives after the crisis. However, we still very much believe that buying art and engaging with our agencies and collectors requires a more intimate and in-person approach, and that includes supporting our artists as well. We decided to use this time to reconnect with our audiences, working on various educational initiatives, such as private artists talks, an e-journal with in-depth study of artists’ practice by art writer and critic Kevin Jones, and other projects we are currently working on. 

Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck, #UtopicHope, 2018, paper collage on wood, 70 x 96 cm

Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck, #UtopicHope, 2018, paper collage on wood, 70 x 96 cm

Photo Anna Shtraus

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What have been the good sides to this crisis? 

It’s good to see galleries coming together to be a part of smaller online platforms that can create a more intimate environment for visitors, such as Alserkal.Online, Not Cancelled Dubai and In Touch. The collaborative spirit we’ve seen is impressive and will live long after the crisis. 

Do you think that how you work will be changed in the long term by the pandemic? 

I think we will have a wider online presence that will accompany live events we are part of, but having a physical gallery space where we can welcome our visitors to see art exhibitions remains our main priority.

Yasmin Atassi, director of Green Art Gallery

Yasmin Atassi, director of Green Art Gallery

Photo Marwah Al Haddad

What is the role of art in times of crisis? Is art needed now more than ever as a powerful means of connection?

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.” I think this quote by Stella Adler explains a lot the role that art plays in our everyday lives and in moments of crisis, like this one. Quite commonly in moments of crisis, the role of art in society is underestimated until it’s too late.

Kamrooz Aram, Ornamental Composition (11 & 14), 2018, lapis lazuli and cobalt oil paint and pencil on linen, 50.8 x 40.6 x 3.8 cm

Kamrooz Aram, Ornamental Composition (11 & 14), 2018, lapis lazuli and cobalt oil paint and pencil … [+] on linen, 50.8 x 40.6 x 3.8 cm

Photo Anna Shtraus

How has your vision of the future of the art world changed? Is COVID-19 helping to grow the importance of online sales and serving as an accelerator for the digital transformation of art galleries, an online shift that had already been underway pre-pandemic? Does it spell the end of physical brick-and-mortar art galleries and massive art fairs?

Online platforms have proven to be an effective complementary good in the art business, especially for marketing purposes. Seeing art online will never replace live interaction with an art piece, but online sales platforms are a good tool to reach out to wider audiences and to stay in touch with collectors unable to visit and see works at the gallery or at art fairs.

Installation view of works by Ana Mazzei at Green Art Gallery, Dubai, 2020

Installation view of works by Ana Mazzei at Green Art Gallery, Dubai, 2020

Photo Anna Shtraus

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