Gallerist and artist Ruxeena Musthafa speaks on uniting artists, making art - GulfToday

Gallerist and artist Ruxeena Musthafa speaks on uniting artists, making art

Gallerist 2

Ineffable dilution, composed by Ruxeena Musthafa.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Ruxeena Musthafa is the Co-founder and Creative Director of the International Studio of Art and Galleries (ISOAG), a cultural space in Dubai, and a well-known figure in the world of art and culture. Honoured with the UAE’s prestigious Cultural Golden Visa, she is also a multi-faceted artist, educator, a published poet and songwriter.

She has taken part as an artist in notable events such as World Art Dubai, Sikka Art Fair, The New York Art Expo (2019) and the International Watercolour Fest.

She has shared her insights through interviews and radio shows in the UAE and India and has hosted 30 episodes of Art2Heart, a Dubai-based television series on Channel D. She now leads ISOAG with a mission to foster artistic expression, encourage innovation and promote cultural unity.

“Through international exhibitions, art classes, events, workshops for children and adults and fine arts master classes, I try to nurture and showcase talent from all walks of life,” she says. During World Art Dubai 2024, under the curation of Najah Musthafa, ISOAG Director, the gallery brought together 35 artists from around the world. From bold paintings in acrylic to works in mixed media, each artist narrated an individual story. Participating artists, besides Ruxeena, included Art By AK, Aanya Das, Anandhu br, Anita Balaji, Anjali Supe, Bhairwi Singh, Bini Menon, Dhanya K. Ramakrishnan, Fatima Khan, Katherene Anand, Najah Musthafa, Khadija Noor, Renita Pinto, Riddhi Shah (Elysian Vision), Niveen Unas and Shilpa Srinivas (all from India); Agadzhanyan Narine and Oksana Eliseeva (both from Russia); Dania Lolah and Mahabbeh Mowakket (both from Syria); Farnaz Farid, Maryam Montazeri, Siamak Gohari and Soroush Nakhlestani (all from Iran); Hadeel Bustami (Jordan); Inga Butkute (Ukraine); Isabelle Canas (Italy and Belgium); Laura Fabeiro Vilas (Spain); Lucy Ibrahim and Marc Bassil (both from Lebanon); Mouna Fersi Seghir (Tunisia); Neveen Abu Samra (Poland); Nooree Juneja and Rija Umar (Pakistan) and Shafiya Aslam Ahamed (Sri Lanka). Ruxeena Musthafa answers Gulf Today’s questions

Gallerist 1  Artists at ISOAG space during World Art Dubai 2024.

Why are you attracted to art?

From an early age, I felt a deep connection to Nature and cultural values, as well as a profound understanding of people’s struggles. These experiences shaped my perspective and inspired me to communicate through art. Additionally, my exposure to diverse environments and cultures enriched my artistic journey. Art, for me, is a reflection of the inner soul and a medium for expressing freedom without boundaries.

Has ISOAG made a name in the world of art?

It has been an incredible journey over three years. During this time, there has been a steady increase in students and artist-curated events. Engaging with prominent events such as World Art Dubai and experiencing a significant increase in commissions this year, not only highlight the growing appreciation for art in Dubai but also has helped

ISOAG establish a significant presence in the art community.

Who are your favourite South Asian and Arab artists? Why?

Among South Asian artists, Amrita Sher-Gil is a favourite. Her work is a profound exploration of Indian culture and society, characterised by a unique blend of European and Indian aesthetics. In the Arab art world, Faisal Abdulqader and Khalil Abdulwahid are particularly inspiring. Abdulqader’s art challenges viewers to contemplate the complexities of modern Arab society and the human condition. Khalil Abdulwahid’s creations transcend linguistic and cultural boundaries, inviting viewers to explore the rich heritage and artistic innovation of the Arab world.

Ruxeena Musthafa is based in Dubai.

Compared to Iranian, European and Arab art, South Asian art is poorly marketed in the UAE. Can you comment?

While it is true that South Asian art has not been marketed as extensively as Iranian, European and Arab art in the UAE, the situation is gradually improving. At ISOAG, we’ve noticed a steady increase in interest and engagement with this genre of art. But there is a need for more platforms and initiatives to bring South Asian art to the forefront and ensure it receives the recognition it deserves in the UAE art market.

Which are your best art seasons in terms of footfall and sales?

Our best art seasons in terms of footfall and sales tend to align with major art events and exhibitions. We’ve noticed that events like World Art Dubai and other significant art fairs attract a large number of art enthusiasts and collectors, leading to higher engagement and sales. Additionally, the winter months, when Dubai experiences a surge in tourism, also sees increased footfall in our gallery. During school holidays, our children’s classes are particularly popular, as parents look for engaging activities for their kids. We also open all-age classes during winter, taking advantage of the higher footfall. These periods see a diverse audience eager to explore and acquire unique art pieces.

What was the response to ISOAG at World Art Dubai?

The response to ISOAG Gallery’s participation at World Art Dubai was overwhelmingly positive. Selling paintings is a great indicator of success, showing that our artwork resonated with attendees and collectors. Additionally, participating in art walks and engaging in various activities helped increase visibility and engagement with our gallery’s work.

What are your future plans?

Future plans for ISOAG involve expanding our reach and impact in the art community. We aim to host more international exhibitions and workshops to bring a wider array of artistic perspectives to Dubai. Additionally, we plan to strengthen our educational programmes by offering more specialised classes and workshops for all ages. We also want to enhance our collaborations with schools and community organisations.

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