PODCAST: Gallery Girl Meets Mid East Art

In this episode of the Gallery Girl podcast, we speak to Suzy Sikorski, founder of Mid East Art, an online platform that acts as both an art historical archive and periodical featuring a comprehensive coverage of interviews and exhibition reviews of artists from the Middle East.

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Suzy Sikorski

Suzy founded Mid East Art in 2017. Originally from Long Island, New York, she studied International Politics at Fordham University and was first introduced to Middle Eastern artists through an exhibition at Leila Heller Gallery in New York. Completely inspired, she decided to study abroad and after finding the hub for the art market was Dubai, she enrolled at the American University of Sharjah. While there, she interned at galleries across the UAE, going on to writer her thesis on UAE art history and winning a Fulbright scholarship. Wanting to publish her interviews with three generations of Emirati artists, Mid East Art was born. “It initially started through only looking at artists through the Gulf region”, says Suzy, adding, “It’s recently expanded to the wider Middle East, through the interview with Ali Chaaban.”

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Artists in Quarantine series: Amani AlThuwaini. Image courtesy Amani AlThuwaini

Embarking on a career as a specialist at Christie’s in 2017, Suzy realised that most of the work was from the wider Middle East. “Naturally I had to know about artists from this region”, she says, “Most of the artists are contemporary artists, but it is important to her to have the modern art context too.” Some of her favourite interviews are with Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Dr Mohamed Yousif and Saleh Al Ustad, and she is known for her unconventional interview style. “Normally artists are prepared for talking about their work”, she explains, “A lot of my questions ask about them as a person. What’s your favourite superhero, what’s your earliest childhood memory.”

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Artists in Quarantine series: Cyrus Mahboubian. Image courtesy Cyrus Mahboubian

Since the coronavirus hit the world, Suzy embarked on a new project to stay connected with artists through her “Artists in Quarantine” series. “Even though i’m not able to travel….I’ve been able to connect with so many artists”, she says, ““It’s also allowed me to feel a new way of curating…how I’m showing each story.” So far, she has collected over 150 stories, existing on Instagram and also on the Mid East Art blog. The series documents not only how artists are reacting to the quarantine, but also how they are making their work. “The other thing that I love is featuring video art”, she adds, “Both of the videos that artists share of their studios, but also the slow-motion production that they’ve been doing.”

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Photograph taken by Suzy Sikorski during Ramadan in Bahrain. Image courtesy Suzy Sikorski

And, Suzy also makes art herself through the medium of photography. She recently had a photograph included in Gulf Photo Plus’s Artist Relief Print Sale.  “I always feel like I’m an artist at heart”, explains Suzy, who initially brought a camera for video purposes. She was prompted to go on photography walks after interviewing photography-based artists and says that she was welcomed into a group of local photographers with open arms. “I find the photography side to me compliments me with my research”, she says, “It’s recording, documenting and finding places that people don’t necessarily go.”

In future, Suzy hopes to make further use of zoom webinars, having just taken part in an event with UAE Youth Hub on YouTube. She also hopes to speak to Middle Eastern artists living in diaspora, and to revisit the first artists she has already interviewed.

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer and curator. She is the founder of Gallery Girl - a London-based curatorial platform and website dedicated to modern and contemporary art from across the globe. Her work is primarily focused on supporting emerging female artists from the Middle East and the Caucasus. She has written for Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine, Suitcase and Vice Arabia among other publications. Her exhibitions in London and Armenia have been featured in Vogue Arabia, The Art Newspaper, The Art Gorgeous and numerous other news outlets. Gallery Girl has also spoken in the UK, UAE and Belgium about the contemporary art scene in the MENA region, and is planning further events in London and Amman.

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