Artfully Yours – Roxane Zand

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Art, in any form, brings about a wealth of emotions. With the UAE establishing itself as an art hub, we speak to the women behind the most prominent creative institutions to find out what art means to them

Roxane Zand

Deputy Chairman for the Middle East and Gulf Region, Sotheby’s

As far back as I can remember I loved art,” says Roxane,“from the time of my childhood in Iran. When my father took me to see the Sistine Chapel at the age of nine, the revelation of figural art and nudity was life-changing.” Taking that enthusiasm to heart, she went on to study Fine Arts at university. Roxane then worked for several years at UNESCO before being appointed as an Associate Curator at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Since then, she’s never looked back and everything she does is in some ways informed by art and art-related interests.“We live in a world where art is thriving and artistic production is at a peak,” she adds.

Being influenced by art at such a young age, Roxane has had her favourites. “Until recently I had always thought of Renaissance art as the height of artistic achievement, but when I stood in front of Munch’s ‘The Scream’, I felt an extraordinary sentiment of what it means to be moved by a painting. The full impact of its anguish and torment was palpable, and I don’t think anything else has ever had that effect on me,” she explained. Roxane believes that we live in an era where art informs so much of our lives. “It is a privilege and a pleasure to interweave art into our daily life, and to live with creativity,” says Roxane.

But even a medium as liberating and fulfilling as art has its challenges, the youth being one of the many. Describing it as an eventuality more than a challenge, Roxane’s view is that being surrounded by expressions of creativity such as urban art, graffiti and many other examples of output is what will draw the young in to use it as a mode of self-expression. “Appreciating the history of art,of course, takes knowledge and education, and that is part of the educational process,” she adds.

Another aspect that is drawn out through art is turmoil, specifically of the political sort. “Historically art has been a strong vehicle for political expression, the most famous example being Picasso’s ‘Guernica’. It is a complex debate to discuss whether an artist has a political duty, but what we do see is many artists from the Middle East reflecting their political preoccupations in one way or another. The Qatar Museums Authority for example has archived the outpouring of artistic production after the Arab Spring,” explains Roxane.

As Roxane sees it, art has flourished through patronage and support. From the courts of the Medicis to the ‘durbar’ of Jahangir or the Safavid Shahs in Iran, it has been the vision and encouragement of the art patron that gave birth to artistic wonders. “Artists still need the patronage of collectors and art lovers, the forum of the Biennales and art fairs to introduce their creativity to the world. A number of countries in the Middle East have shown great initiative by promoting the importance of art, encouraging art education and offering platforms for artists,” she says while adding that the building of museums is coinciding with grass roots development of the public’s involvement with art.

And with regards to the UAE, Roxane sees great optimism about the future of the art world and the art market. “Sharjah has pioneered a much-admired Biennale and already boasts a superb Orientalist collection housed in a museum that visitors travel from far and wide to see,” she says, “The cultural activities around Art Dubai attract a superb attendance and Abu Dhabi Art finished its sixth edition to great reviews.” All of this will give rise to regional artistic productivity and also attract artists and collectors from around the world.

With her role at Sotheby’s, Roxane sees to the requirements of their clients from a large geographical remit, with special focus on the Gulf region.She plays an instrumental role in developing and contributing to sales of Arab and Iranian art, and has conducted a number of charity auctions to benefit causes in the MENA region. “Our hope is to serve the vision of our clients and to support the extraordinary cultural achievements of this region – the pioneering museum and educational initiatives, the fast-paced artistic growth, and the tireless patronage, which accounts for so many achievements in such a short space of time,” she says.

By Sharon Carvalho