Syria is not the first place that comes to mind when I think of art. At least that was until I wandered into an exhibition of Syrian art in Dubai a couple of months ago. The exhibition was showing part of a collection built over decades by one Syrian family.
In this episode I’m chatting with a member of that family, Shireen Atassi. Shireen grew up watching her parents, particularly her mother Mouna, befriend, support and ultimately collect the work of many prominent Syrian artists. Their home and gallery was a cultural hub for the Syrian artistic community, first in Homs and then later in Damascus where they opened a larger gallery.
Shireen walks me through the development of Syrian art over the last 100 years as it went through open interchange with European ateliers at the start of the 1900’s, the establishment of Syrian art schools in the 60’s, the years of introversion and isolation in the 70’s – 90’s, and then the re-opening to the broader art world through the internet in the early 2000’s.
Shireen’s family eventually turned their collection into a not for profit foundation, of which Shireen is the director, set up to promote Syrian art and culture.

Shireen and Mouna Atassi

Here are the main points of what we talk about:

  • Origins of the collection,
  • First gallery in Homs,
  • Atassi gallery in Damascus,
  • Art schools in Syria,
  • European atelier training,
  • Historical context,
  • Taboos,
  • Artistic restrictions,
  • Artistic identity,
  • Women artists,
  • Art in the Arab world,,
  • Artist diaspora,
  • Launching the foundation,
  • Artists currently in Syria,
  • Practicalities of art making in Syria,
  • Finding beauty,
  • Work of the foundation,
  • Partnership,
  • Privilege,
  • Personal responsibility,

To find out more about the Atassi Foundation
http://www.atassifoundation.com/

Thanks for listening!


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