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Dubai’s Thriving Art Scene & Art Dubai 2018 – Myrna Ayad

Myrna Ayad is the Director of Art Dubai. Prior to this role, Myrna was an arts writer and editor for some 15 years and she’s written for the New York Times, The Art Newspaper, Artsy and many others. For several years she was the editor of Canvas, a leading magazine for art and culture from the Middle East.

We talked about Myrna’s interest in art, how it was born and what it has taught her about history. We discussed Dubai’s young art scene, how it came about and why it’s grown so fast. She also gave an interesting perspective on the word pairs: writer vs journalist, collector vs patron. I asked Myrna how to buy art , which for many people is a really intimidating process.

Finally, Myrna gave us the scoop on Art Dubai 2018, which is happening March 21-24. Lots of exciting new things are planned this year so be sure to get your tickets online at

You can find Myrna on Instagram as @myrnaayad or reach her through Art Dubai. And please do feel free to tap the Art Dubai team and website to get smarter on art all throughout the year – they are highly approachable people!

Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Rana Nawas: (00:00)

Hello ladies and gents. I’m thrilled to welcome onto today’s show, an old friend who’s become a leading voice in the international art world. Myrna Ayad is the director of Art Dubai. Prior to this role, Myrna was an arts writer and editor for some 15 years. She’s written for the New York Times, the Art Newspaper, Artsy Art Forum, and many others. For several years she was the editor of Canvas, a leading magazine for art and culture for the Middle East. We talked about Myrna’s interest in art, how it was born, and what it’s taught her. We discussed Dubai’s young art scene, how it came about and why it’s grown so fast. I found some word pairs interesting, a writer versus a journalist, a collector versus a patron, and I asked Myrna how to buy art. For many people I know, it’s a really intimidating process and finally, Myrna gave us the scoop on Art Dubai 2018, which is happening March 21-24. There’s lots of exciting new things planned so be sure to get your tickets online at Right. Let’s get into it. Myrna, it is such a delight to have you on the show.


Myrna Ayad:  (01:14)

Thank you.


Rana Nawas: (01:14)

Thank you so much for joining me.


Myrna Ayad:  (01:16)

Thank you.


Rana Nawas: (01:17)

So you and I go back over 30 years. Both our dads gynecologists, our sisters best friends and we even used to bite our nails together and then you just decided to stop one day and I ashamedly still at the age of 38, I’m brutalizing poor things. Let’s start with school.


Myrna Ayad:  (01:37)



Rana Nawas: (01:38)

Choueifat – Sharjah is a fantastic school but was, back then anyway, highly focused on math, science, and academic achievement. Not the artsiest place in the world. What first peaked your interest in art?


Myrna Ayad:  (01:52)

I think it was Choueifat School itself because I wanted to get away from all the math and the science. You remember that Choueifat is an excellent place to learn English and we were given a lot of fantastic literature books to read at a very young age. I remember rereading a lot of the literature books that we had studied it in Choueifat in my freshman and even senior year at university.


Rana Nawas: (02:24)



Myrna Ayad:  (02:24)

So I think in retrospect, looking at the kind of material they gave us was very ambitious. You know, that I also worked as a writer and an editor, so Choueifat really mastered or helped us master the English language. I think a lot of, a lot of my interest in art had to do with several factors. One of them being I was always a wonderer. You know, I enjoyed imagining and I enjoyed reading and writing very much and the second thing was growing up in Dubai, and I’ve lived here for 37 years now, we had great access. So our friends were Palestinian and they were Syrian and Egyptian and Iranian.


Rana Nawas: (03:15)

Access to diversity.


Myrna Ayad:  (03:17)



Rana Nawas: (03:17)

Diverse cultures.


Myrna Ayad:  (03:18)

At school, but also our teachers. They were American, they were Irish, they were English, also many were Arab, Tunisian even. So that multiculturalism that defined our childhood here, Dubai, really interested me. I mean, we came here in 1982 and in that time there were really two places in Dubai that you lived if you were not staying here long enough and we came here with the idea that we were just here temporarily, like so many other people. So you lived either at the Hyatt Regency in Deira or the Intercon in Deira. But this was 1982. So this was also a couple of years after the Iranian revolution when also people came here thinking they’ll let the situation in Iran calm down a bit before they go back, but the same political and economic unrests were happening in Egypt and Syria and, you know, everywhere else. So all of the Middle East was here and we stayed, so.


Rana Nawas: (04:14)

Three decades long, yeah.


Myrna Ayad:  (04:16)

Yes and, you know, many of us are still friends but we, you know, went into each other’s houses, birthday parties. We celebrated everything. Do you remember that?


Rana Nawas: (04:26)

Yeah, yeah.


Myrna Ayad:  (04:26)

Christmas. New Year. Diwali. I mean, everything.


Rana Nawas: (04:29)



Myrna Ayad:  (04:29)

All the Eids. Nowruz, as well. Like you said. We really celebrated everything, so.


Rana Nawas: (04:35)

And how does this connect to art? How do you connect all those?


Myrna Ayad:  (04:39)

Well, culture is a mirror, right? So because of that access, I was able to read or understand artworks and art emanating from these countries and their first point of exposure is Dubai. So this is where it all began and it began about 15, 16 years ago, really. But there were a couple of seeds that were planted earlier on. This was where a lot of art from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia was and still is being shown. It is the preeminent platform.


Rana Nawas: (05:14)

Why? Why here?


Myrna Ayad:  (05:16)

Because primarily you need to think about the city itself, the country. So being its geographic position, so being a sort of port of trade, a passage, you know, it’s an artery basically. You need to go through to get to South Asia. You need to go through to get to Europe.


Rana Nawas: (05:34)

East to west and north to south.


Myrna Ayad:  (05:36)

Totally. Recently more so Africa. The country’s multiculturalism and how dynamic it is. Also having been a safe haven for many. So that’s one and then the second being the opportunity. So it afforded people the opportunity to want to exhibit and want to promote art from their cultures. I think on a more, if you want an emotional level, I think the farther you are from your home base, from your native country, at some point you do start to get a little bit nostalgic and the only thing you can hang onto is the art and culture, right? And so the rise of Middle Eastern art was propelled by the diaspora everywhere.


Rana Nawas: (06:31)

Regional diaspora kind of coming to a safe haven around the same time in the 80s and 90s.


Myrna Ayad:  (06:35)

Yes. So you had the pocket of, you know, regional, you know, by regional, I mean the Arabs and the Iranians and the South Asians living in parts of Europe, parts of America, you know? At some point you want to recall and you want to recollect. So there was an attention that came from all around, but it was, you know, a lot of it was here in Dubai.


Rana Nawas: (07:00)



Myrna Ayad:  (07:01)

You know?


Rana Nawas: (07:01)

Where people exhibited and people came to buy. Yeah.


Myrna Ayad:  (07:05)

But there were a few seeds that were planted before, you know, before this. So you had the Emirates Fine Arts Society established in 1980. Again, it was the fruits of some Emirati artists who, after having been given the government scholarship to study abroad, came back. Wanted to give back. You had, you know, a patron in Sharjah, the ruler of Sharjah himself, a huge patron of the arts, you know, initiate the Sharjah Biennial in 1993. You had Mayla Atasi in 1995 open a villa in Jumeriah and call it Green Art Gallery.


Rana Nawas: (07:54)

Was that the first commercial gallery?


Myrna Ayad:  (07:54)

That was the first. Yeah. That was the first gallery.


Rana Nawas: (07:57)

What year was that?


Myrna Ayad:  (07:58)



Rana Nawas: (08:01)

So, it’s incredible. It’s kind of happened very quickly then.


Myrna Ayad:  (08:03)

Yes. It has and I think that’s an important thing to credit because I’m asked many times about the age of the art scene and, you know, the nascency and I have to remind people that this country was unified in 1971. We have come such a long way in a very short amount of time. So we need to put things into perspective.


Rana Nawas: (08:27)

Yup. Okay. So tell me, how did you go from being someone interested in diverse cultures and being able to read them in art, how’d you go from that to becoming an expert, the expert you are today? What were the steps that you took?


Myrna Ayad:  (08:40)

First of all, thank you for calling me an expert.


Rana Nawas: (08:42)

Of course. You’re the director of Art Dubai.


Myrna Ayad:  (08:43)

Doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. I think one of the, okay two of the most important things for me, to me, whether for myself or whether I’m meeting people is really passion and curiosity. If you don’t have those, I don’t want to say you have nothing, thats a bit drastic but these are really key criteria for me. It doesn’t matter if you want to become a rocket scientist or you want to be a banker or you want to be a writer. If you are not passionate or curious about the area that interests you, you’re not going to be able to learn or interest anyone. So I, so my base, if you want to call it a base, was the fact that I absolutely love to read and write and I was, I’m a people person. I love people. I love interfacing with people. I’m very fascinated by them and I am curious by nature. I want to get to the bottom of something and sometimes I can obsess and I have a few obsessions.


Rana Nawas: (09:55)

Like what?


Myrna Ayad:  (09:57)

Well, I’m very obsessed with the Tudor era.


Rana Nawas: (10:01)

Ah, interesting.


Myrna Ayad:  (10:01)

Yes and


Rana Nawas: (10:04)

Sorry, I’m asking for a friend. What’s the Tudor era?


Myrna Ayad:  (10:06)

Henry the eighth, basically.


Rana Nawas: (10:09)

Okay. So around the mid-1500s.


Myrna Ayad:  (10:10)

Yes and also the Persia but more specifically the Pahlavi era. There’s more but I’m not gonna bore you.


Rana Nawas: (10:19)

Let’s just stop there.


Myrna Ayad:  (10:19)

I went into university thinking that I wanted to be a war correspondent.


Rana Nawas: (10:27)

Oh, wow.


Myrna Ayad:  (10:28)

And then when I graduated I worked with a publishing house but then I also worked with Reuters. I found out very quickly that a writer is very different from a journalist. The basic definition is a writer is a writer, a journalist, you know, covers serious events therefore does not use adjectives.


Rana Nawas: (10:48)



Myrna Ayad:  (10:49)

To put it mildly.


Rana Nawas: (10:50)



Myrna Ayad:  (10:50)

So it’s basically reporting facts. I wanted to be opinionated. I wanted, you know, to plug in the emotions. I wanted to be an observer and also journalism, well, being a war correspondent means it’s quite dismal, to put it mildly. So I had been working with Reuters when the Americans were about to invade Iraq. So this is, you know, a situation of daily threats, fear, and anxiety, and it started to affect my mood and my outlook on life. I wouldn’t say I’m an optimist, but, you know, you oscillate depending on the day and the mood.


Rana Nawas: (11:35)



Myrna Ayad:  (11:35)

But it painted a very negative picture. It was all doom and gloom. I then, you know, I sort of abandoned the war correspondent idea totally and I stuck to, you know, working on these papers they were, they were weekly journals. But those journals were instrumental in that they had started to document the nascent art scene at the time and so there was a determined few who were ambitious enough to stage exhibitions and just, you know, really interrogate culture life in Dubai and I found it fascinating and I think, then and now, the reason why I’m so fascinated and I’m so interested and I’m committed to the art scene is because it feeds my identity. 37 years later it’s very difficult for me to say I’m Lebanese. What’s Lebanese? If I’m fluent in English, I write in English. I don’t speak enough Arabic. I never lived in Lebanon. So I’m a product of this, you know, this place. So I am more comfortable saying I come from the Middle East. I can defend the place a lot more. Art told me things I didn’t know.


Rana Nawas: (12:48)

Like what?


Myrna Ayad:  (12:49)

Like it taught me to be less judgmental.


Rana Nawas: (12:53)

That everyone has a story that’s worth listening to.


Myrna Ayad:  (12:55)

Yes. It also taught me things about history that we didn’t get in Choueifat. I remember we studied Abdul Nasser and, you know, the dissolution of the monarchy and nationalism and so on and I walked away thinking this was the best thing that happened to Egypt in the Arab world until I attended an exhibition in 2010 and I saw an entire room of Egyptian modernists who had rendered basically the building of the Aswan Damn and how devastating and catastrophic it was for the Nubians living there and they kept painting that and addressing that and many of these artists who are activists and I remember thinking this was just a footnote in our history books. Actually, it was something that fundamentally and inherently affected an entire civilization who had inhabited this land for centuries. Here you are uprooting them to support your modernist philosophies and trade and so on, and I really subscribe to that. That oh my goodness, art told me something that my history books didn’t. I found out through art about something called the Lebanese Rocket Society. Did you know that Lebanon wanted to join the space race in the 1960s?


Rana Nawas: (14:21)

No way.


Myrna Ayad:  (14:22)

Yes and I found out because an artist couple by the name of Joanna Hajituma and Khalil Ijrej had discovered the Lebanese or resurrected the Lebanese Rocket Society. Created several artworks and installations. Created even produced a movie that won some awards. I didn’t know. So art gave me a lot of answers and it continues to do that, but it also gives me an unbelievable sense of pride. This is my region and it’s older than time itself and it has so many stories to tell and I adore stories.


Rana Nawas: (15:03)

And that’s what your job at Canvas. I mean, maybe you could tell us a bit about what Canvas was.


Myrna Ayad:  (15:07)

So canvas was, is a magazine that was established in 2014 with the first issue coming out at the end of that year and its mission was to promote and publicize art from the Middle East and Arab world. I joined in the beginning, sort of like as a freelancer and then I joined them on a fulltime basis. So altogether I work with Canvas for a decade.


Rana Nawas: (15:35)



Myrna Ayad:  (15:35)

I had an absolutely wonderful time and it was thoroughly inspirational and educational. There was no other magazine that did that and we, I think in retrospect I can say we kind of, we were almost archeologists. We were really excavating the region’s best all over and I came to understand and learn through my time at canvas that my God, the Middle East has so much to offer. Not just in terms of, you know, art makers but art patrons and collectors and institutions and we have predecessors and forefathers and then I got married and I got pregnant and by that time I had naively thought that the way to promote Middle Eastern art was through Canvas. I did, I wasn’t aware or I didn’t understand that actually there could be other vehicles, but I had started to feel that I wanted something new and so I timed my resignation with the birth of my daughter, but I got bored two months later and I immediately started to freelance and I felt that it was my mission to write about the east for western publications. So that’s what I did and then I got a call from Art Dubai, which I had been covering since its inception in 2007.


Rana Nawas: (17:09)

Covering as an, as the editor of Canvas.


Myrna Ayad:  (17:12)

Yes and later on as a freelancer.


Rana Nawas: (17:14)



Myrna Ayad:  (17:14)

So I was familiar, very familiar with the fair and the team and the galleries and the programming. Never did I expect to run an art fair.


Rana Nawas: (17:25)

Must’ve felt pretty great.


Myrna Ayad:  (17:26)

It was, it was, but it was so humbling when I was, when I was told and I felt it was, it was family. You know, I grew with that fair.


Rana Nawas: (17:37)

So I’m going to come back to the fair, but before I get onto it, I want to ask about Middle Eastern art. You’ve talked a lot about, you know, your work, your mission at Canvas was getting the word out the west about Middle Eastern art. How is Middle Eastern different to other regional, regional art?


Myrna Ayad:  (17:55)

Okay. First of all, Canvas’ mission just to clarify was not to get the word out to the west. I think first and foremost canvases mission is to get the word out to the east.


Rana Nawas: (18:06)

Interesting. Okay.


Myrna Ayad:  (18:06)

Well what’s the point of telling anyone else if you don’t tell your own? We need to be proud and we need to be armed with that knowledge. Before we go out there. I want to give you a silly example. My daughter who is almost three received two books in December, which are beautifully animated and they are called little people, big dreams. So she received a book on Mercury and she received another one on Maya Angelou and they’re very simple English, lovely to like read through and we brought the rest of the series when we went to London. So there’s Agatha Christie, Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Emily Pankhurst, and Amelia Earhart.


Rana Nawas: (18:53)

You should be on my instagram feed because I feature almost all of these women.


Myrna Ayad:  (18:58)

And so Noor says to me every day, Mommy, today I want very Mercury. Mommy. Today I want Coco. Today I want Maya Angelou and I, however happy I am that an almost three year old is aspiring to want to be that person or to want to read her story, it bothers me that my daughter isn’t saying mommy, I want Umm Kulthum or Fairuz or Salwa Rawda Shokhair or Angie Efleton and so I reached out to the publishers and I’m waiting to hear back.


Rana Nawas: (19:34)

Oh, wow.


Myrna Ayad:  (19:35)

Because I want my daughter to learn about her own and I want the rest of the world to know that we have a wealth of women and men out there who deserve to be credited and they deserve to be recognized the world over. We have our Coco’s and we have our Audrey’s and we also have our Mayas and it’s time that the world knows about them, but we need to know about them first.


Rana Nawas: (20:00)

First. Well I’m going to recommend another book called “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.”


Myrna Ayad:  (20:07)

I think I’ve seen that on book shelves.


Rana Nawas: (20:08)

I’m going to show it to you. I have it right here and I read it to my son. Yeah because it should be actually rebel stories, you know, of


Myrna Ayad:  (20:17)

Absolutely. So why? I mean maybe I’ve, you know, for because of conversation, I’ve been calling it Middle Eastern art, like I’m describing it, but you know, just for phonetics we will stick to art from the Middle East because art from the Middle East is no different aesthetically. Well actually, qualitatively to art from anywhere else in the world. It’s not, I’m not able to look at an artwork and say, oh, this is from the Middle East unless the subject matter is screaming that it is. But it could have been done equally by western artist depicting the region, so. It’s simply put fantastic art and it comes from a very special place and its roots and its inspirations are unique for so many different reasons. Like the example that I’d given you earlier about Joanna and Khalil. I mean, there’s so many other examples


Rana Nawas: (21:23)

And also the Middle East is a cradle of civilization.


Myrna Ayad:  (21:27)



Rana Nawas: (21:27)

Lots of turmoil in modern history. So lots going on in the socio-political landscape that would feed an artist.


Myrna Ayad:  (21:35)

100 %.


Rana Nawas: (21:37)

Great. Okay. So let’s talk about Art Dubai.


Myrna Ayad:  (21:39)



Rana Nawas: (21:40)

I’m really excited because it’s coming up. I go every year. The 2018 edition is March 21-24.


Myrna Ayad:  (21:47)



Rana Nawas: (21:48)

Tell us more. Let’s put it. Well first, let’s put it in context for our listeners. How much has it grown over the past 12 years?


Myrna Ayad:  (21:56)

In 2007, Art Dubai was then called the Gulf Art Fair for just one edition and it’s welcomed 40 galleries and 8,000 visitors. This year, we bring in 105 galleries from 48 countries, these are both records, a size and the diversity. But in addition to this, there’s a lot of programming that we have initiated around the fair and I’ll go through these. So we have three halls, contemporary, modern, and we’re about to inaugurate a new section called residence. Contemporary deals with galleries operating in the primary market. So we have about 78 of these in two halls. We have modern, which was established in 2014 and it’s bringing in a record 16 galleries, but modern is focused on artists who have been producing work in the 20th century, specifically between the 1940s and the 1980s from the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. So these are museum quality pieces.


Rana Nawas: (23:07)

Oh, wow. Okay.


Myrna Ayad:  (23:10)

And then residents, for which, you know, we’re launching this year, will. The basic concept is that we have invited 11 artists from around the world to spend between four and eight weeks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the works produced during this time would be exhibited at the fair. So we’ve gone over and above the idea of a gallery just simply bringing in works, but actually offering an experience to this artist to be immersed, you know. In the UAE there’s an entire program been created for them to meet with cultural practitioners, visit sites, engage, you know, with the cultural community. Meet us, of course. So we’re with them every step of the way. So that’s as far as the galleries are concerned.


Rana Nawas: (24:00)

So is this the first time you introduced the resident’s program?


Myrna Ayad:  (24:02)



Rana Nawas: (24:02)

And the modern program?


Myrna Ayad:  (24:03)

No. The modern, this will be the fifth edition.


Rana Nawas: (24:06)

Okay. But the residence?


Myrna Ayad:  (24:07)

Yes, this is the first residence. So we have the Abraaj Group Art Prize which is celebrating 10 years this year. So we will be unveiling the winning works. So the winner is Lauren Abu Hamdan and the shortlisted artists are Neil Baloofa, Basem Al Sharif, and Ali Sheri and they had been working under the curatorship of Mariam Bin Salah. That’s Abraj. Julius Baer is another one of our sponsors so they will be presenting an exhibition in their lounge and they’ve commissioned an artist called Kareem Nour Al Deen whose work is part of the Julius Baer collection to create a site specific installation.


Rana Nawas: (24:52)

Oh, wow.


Myrna Ayad:  (24:52)

Another one of our new partners this year is the Misc Art Institute, which is part of the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation. So Misc has come onboard to do a couple of things. They will sponsor Art Dubai Modern. They are also presenting a non selling exhibition of modernist works that is curated by Sam Bardawil and Til Felerath who are looking at modern periods in five cities in the Arab world, Cairo, Baghdad, Casablanca, Riyad, Khartoum. So they will be looking at the art produced in the 20th century in those cities. There were schools that were founded, you know, at this time. We also have the modern symposium which we initiated last year and which complements the modern hall. So this is led by patrons and academics who share their knowledge about the lives and legacies of modernist masters. The global art form, which is a form of talks is also going into it’s twelfth year and it’s themed. So this year the theme is focused on automation and it’s called “I am not a robot”.


Rana Nawas: (26:06)

I saw that on the website. I am so excited about that.


Myrna Ayad:  (26:09)

I know. So am I.


Rana Nawas: (26:10)

So let me, if I may jump in here because a lot of people find the process of acquiring art very intimidating and so I really want to ask you about that. They feel they have to drop bucket loads of cash to get anything good and even the ones who have money to spend are concerned that they might make quote a bad purchase because they don’t know how to value art. So what actionable tips do you have for people in those categories?


Myrna Ayad:  (26:38)

On a very basic level, I can tell you to refer to my aforementioned points of passion and curiosity. You need to ask and you need to do your research. So if you like, if you walk into Art Dubai and you like an artwork, I understand and I totally acknowledge that the art world can be a very intimidating place. But ask.


Rana Nawas: (27:04)

Ask who?


Myrna Ayad:  (27:05)



Rana Nawas: (27:06)

Someone in the gallery who works there?


Myrna Ayad:  (27:07)

Yes. Well if you’re going to go into a gallery then you need to ask the gallerist.


Rana Nawas: (27:12)

Yeah. No, because you kind of with your talk about the talks that you’re going to have at Art Dubai, are you going to be covering that?


Myrna Ayad:  (27:20)

No. So the talks don’t necessarily cover how to buy art but we by all means there are tours that happen at Art Dubai. So you can sign up for a tour and we are quite an accessible team so you can ask us. Not just at the fair. Anytime.


Rana Nawas: (27:41)

Preferably outside the fair.


Myrna Ayad:  (27:42)

Honestly anytime. Really. We’re more than happy to help and I think this is one of our differentiating factors, if you will. But ask the gallery. If you are interested in artwork in a booth, then ask that gallerist. Don’t be afraid.


Rana Nawas: (28:01)

Ask them about the


Myrna Ayad:  (28:02)

Ask them whatever you want to know about that artwork.


Rana Nawas: (28:06)

But let me ask the question, do you have to spend a lot of money to buy good art?


Myrna Ayad:  (28:09)

No, no, absolutely not. Art Dubai has something for every pocket. So you will find artworks in there for a couple of hundred dollars through to those in the six figure sums. I want to stress that some of the greatest collections in the world started off very small and by small I don’t mean size wise, but I mean with a limited budget. If you allocate a bit of money you can definitely build a great art collection and ultimately the art collection that you amass is really a reflection of yourself and I definitely encourage people to buy with their eyes not with their ears.


Rana Nawas: (28:49)

What do you mean by that?


Myrna Ayad:  (28:52)

Don’t buy for just for sake of an investment. You need to buy because you love it. You’re going to live with it.


Rana Nawas: (28:59)



Myrna Ayad:  (29:00)

So you need to survive it. Right?


Rana Nawas: (29:03)

Well, you want to enjoy it.


Myrna Ayad:  (29:04)

Absolutely. I mean, an artwork is there for aesthetic and intellectual pleasure and if you’re lucky and, you know, you wait some time, then that will become an investment and that’s what I recommend everybody does. Don’t be shy about asking and we are in a tech era where everything is online. So you can do a lot of research online as well.


Rana Nawas: (29:27)

About like valuation of art pieces.


Myrna Ayad:  (29:29)

Well, not just about valuation but about the artists. About his or her inspirations. Have they been shown in museums? Have they been acquired by museums? Have they participated in biennales? Who represents them? Who else has acquired them? You know, and it’s a small art world, so information is quite accessible.


Myrna Ayad:  (29:48)

Okay, great. Well I’m really glad you mentioned technology because I have this question for you, which is, you know, what role do you think technology is playing or will play in changing the art landscape?


Myrna Ayad:  (29:58)

Let me just say I’m a huge fan and subscribed to social media to get the news out. Do I think it’s a great place to see an artwork? No. I think that a pixelated jpeg image takes so much away and I fundamentally believe in the power of an artwork being something that you see live. It is a living, breathing thing. I am so thankful for, you know, online platforms affording us the opportunity to learn, post, repost, share and get the news out. But as far as art is concerned within the sort of sphere of viewing, I don’t think, I don’t think we’re there yet.


Rana Nawas: (30:48)

And is there a cool art app or website or resource that we should know about? Something you’ve come across.


Myrna Ayad:  (30:54)

Of course.


Rana Nawas: (30:55)

That’s definitely top of the list.


Myrna Ayad:  (31:01)

It’s the only one.


Rana Nawas: (31:02)

The only one. Okay. No but are there other.


Myrna Ayad:  (31:03)

It is quite a resource. I have to say. The Art Dubai site is quite a resource as are the rest of our channels because first of all, we strongly feel that at Art Dubai that we’re not promoting us. We are promoting all of our participating galleries and our partners. This is the platform. So you will discover Peruvian art on, you know, the Art Dubai instagram account. You will discover, you know, tales on modernists through our facebook channel and our instagram account as well. We also have a blog which has a lot of fantastic content and I’m not plugging myself in here, but I contribute to this sometimes as do a couple of other writers and editors. So there’s a lot of, it’s a wealth of knowledge in there and I strongly recommended that you visit it. We also produce an incredible series called Art Dubai portraits. So in the name of introducing audiences and allowing people to get to know artists, we have created one minute and three minutes films that transport you into an artist’s workspace and sort of typical day. So we’ve, I think we have published 14 so far and we roll them out on a monthly basis. We travel all around the world. Meet these artists and promote their work on our platform.


Rana Nawas: (32:32)

Incredible. Okay. So


Myrna Ayad:  (32:34)



Rana Nawas: (32:34)

Best resource in town. Great. All right. I’m going to shift gears to some rapid-fire questions here because I know we’re running short of time.


Myrna Ayad:  (32:43)



Rana Nawas: (32:44)

If you could have coffee with one artist from history, who would it be?


Myrna Ayad:  (32:48)

Oh my God, Rana. How about, one artist only? Just one?


Rana Nawas: (32:57)

Take two.


Myrna Ayad:  (32:58)

Come on. Two is like so little.


Rana Nawas: (33:00)

Hit me with the list. I won’t short-change you.


Myrna Ayad:  (33:04)

Fine. I think given the current mood that I’m in, I would very much like to meet Leonardo Davinci and ask him all about Salvator Mundi because I have a lot of questions.


Rana Nawas: (33:15)

What advice would you give your 18 year old self?


Myrna Ayad:  (33:21)

Read. But enjoy life and don’t take it so seriously. But please read and arm yourself with knowledge and be kind.


Rana Nawas: (33:30)

Yeah, I subscribe to that. How do you switch off when you feel overwhelmed? Do you read, maybe?


Myrna Ayad:  (33:38)

I do read. I don’t read as many books as I would like because you end up reading stuff on facebook and whatnot. I stare at my daughter because she brings me absolute joy. I do that. That makes me very happy.


Rana Nawas: (33:58)

I believe it. What is a question you wish people would ask you more often?


Myrna Ayad:  (34:01)

How can I help the Arts?


Rana Nawas: (34:03)

Okay, great and how would you answer that? If you’re talking about if it’s an individual like me, how can I help the Arts?


Myrna Ayad:  (34:09)

It depends on you. So you know it’s not a one size fits all. You might be interested in funding a monograph.


Rana Nawas: (34:20)

What’s a monograph?


Myrna Ayad:  (34:21)

It’s a publication on one artist or you might be interested in publishing a book on the arts. You might be interested in funding a scholarship for art study abroad. You might be interested in flying in a museum director, you know, to explore the UAE art scene. You might be interested in acquiring a work to donate to a museum. It depends on you. It depends on what your interests are. Anybody can be an art collector. Anybody. You just walk into a gallery and you buy a couple of pieces, boom, you’re a collector, but I want people to be patrons.


Rana Nawas: (35:03)

What’s the difference?


Myrna Ayad:  (35:04)

Patrons are people who support the arts. They’re in it for the long run. So they’re a committed few and they are after the welfare of the art scene. These are people who subscribe to the idea that art is a legacy. I mean, you just mentioned earlier on that the Middle East is the cradle of civilization. We know this because a number of reasons, one of them being things like the Epic of Gilgamesh which was written on clay plates. What if we didn’t have that? That’s an artwork, but what if we didn’t have that? We couldn’t say. Could we?


Rana Nawas: (35:47)

It records history.


Myrna Ayad:  (35:47)

Exactly. What if we didn’t have the Rosetta Stone? What if we didn’t have the Dome of the Rock? What if we didn’t have these? So when things have been looted and things have been destroyed, you’re erasing where we’re from. So where would we be without art? It teaches you, right?


Rana Nawas: (36:08)



Myrna Ayad:  (36:09)

It gives you answers. It’s what’s you’re going to leave behind. So back to Salvator Mundi. Yeah, Leo, I wanna know what’s the deal.


Rana Nawas: (36:20)

Amazing. Well, I think, you know, I can hear a few people right now googling Salvator Mundi because I don’t know what you’re talking about.


Myrna Ayad:  (36:25)

You don’t need to google it. You can go see it at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.


Rana Nawas: (36:28)

Ah, fabulous. Great.


Myrna Ayad:  (36:32)

But there’s a lot of fantastic art at Art Dubai that you can come see.


Rana Nawas: (36:37)

To be clear March 21-24. So how can listeners find out more about Art Dubai and where can they buy their tickets?


Myrna Ayad:  (36:46)

Online. We have early bird specials, so I’m serious. This website is like the be all and end all. It’s


Rana Nawas: (36:53)

Great and what about the people that want to find you, Myrna, because they love what you’re saying.


Myrna Ayad:  (36:57)

Oh, thank you so much. Honestly, I’m the easiest person to find and I’m actually very quick to respond, so you just google me. Linkedin. Facebook. Some people also have my phone number.


Rana Nawas: (37:12)

Do you like instagram?


Myrna Ayad:  (37:12)

You can call Art Dubai. Yes I do like instagram. I respond very well on instagram too so.


Rana Nawas: (37:16)

So @MyrnaAyad, right?


Myrna Ayad:  (37:17)

Yes. That’s my name.


Rana Nawas: (37:18)

Great. I’ll put it in the show notes. I’m also an insta person myself. It’s been such a delight. Thank you so much.


Myrna Ayad:  (37:24)

Likewise. Thank you so much.


Rana Nawas: (37:26)

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. You can check out show notes and more episodes at or search When Women Win on Itunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’d also love to hear your feedback and ideas for who I should bring on the show. You can find me on instagram @RanaNawas. Thanks and have a great day.



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