A Dubai-based scholar and philanthropist thinks beyond national borders
I really see myself as someone who is interested in introducing people to art from this part of the world,” says Dubai-based collector Dana Farouki. As a patron of the Art Dubai fair and a member of the selection committee for its Abraaj Group Art Prize, Farouki has welcomed visitors from the various boards on which she serves, including Creative Time, the Aspen Art Museum, MoMA PS1, Bidoun magazine, and the Guggenheim Middle Eastern Circle, of which she is chair. She is energetic enough to cover these responsibilities without spreading herself too thin, noting that philanthropy takes much more of her time than art acquisitions.
Farouki, 33, has assembled for her Palestinian American parents, Samia and Abul Huda Farouki, an art collection that includes works by leading contemporary Middle Eastern artists, such as Walid Raad, Akram Zaatari, Abbas Akhavan, and Walead Beshty. Her own collection contains those names but also some young international artists, like Matt Connors, Aaron Young, assume vivid astro focus, and Anna Betbeze.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Farouki studied art history at Brown University and in 2005 earned a master’s degree in the history and theory of the art museum from London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, where she wrote a dissertation on the Guggenheim Museum’s global network and the possibility of a Guggenheim Dubai, long before there was the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. She sent a copy to then director Thomas Krens, and later, while serving a fellowship at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, she ran into him at an opening.
“On my husband’s encouragement, I pushed myself into his face, and it turned out he remembered my letter,” Farouki says, laughing at her own audacity. A year later, she was hired, first as a consultant and then as assistant curator on the Abu Dhabi project. She left that appointment three years ago when her husband moved the family (the couple has two young children) from New York to Dubai for a job with Goldman Sachs. “I never lived in the Middle East before that,” she says.
Now, with the Guggenheim Middle Eastern Circle, Farouki aims to reverse the flow of art between the United States and Abu Dhabi by strategizing ways that Middle Eastern artists can have more of a presence at the museum’s New York flagship. “With such an ambitious project in Abu Dhabi, it really wouldn’t make sense not to have a counterpart mirroring that effort in New York,” she says.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 66 under the title “Dana Farouki.”