Ali Hassan, Moallaka I, 2014, Installation at START Doha CREDIT: COURTESY ANIMA GALLERY
The first edition of Start, in the Qatari capital of Doha, has to be the smallest art fair in the world, says Caroline Roux
Owais Husain There is No Present VI 2015
Start Doha is an off-shoot of Start London, which has taken place for the last three years each September at the Saatchi Gallery. In London, the objective is to showcase work by emerging Asian artists, and to bring in a younger audience who are very new to collecting, as well as collectors who are new to contemporary Asian art – hence the name. “Above all, it’s a voyage of discovery,” said Nigel Hurst, the CEO at the Saatchi Gallery. “The participating galleries can’t be more than eight years old. It’s unlikely you’ll see work you’ve seen before.”
The story began when the Ciclitiras visited an exhibition called New Asian Waves in Karlsruhe in 2007. The couple were already collecting, and for over 23 years, they had underwritten an annual painting prize and a sculpture scholarship at the Royal College of Art which had exposed them to the best of young British artists. But the show in Germany of over 100 artists from 20 or so Asian countries made them realise there was a whole other world of contemporary art out there, of which they had little knowledge or understanding
Ali Hassan, Installation at START Doha, 2017
They first travelled to South Korea and subsequently to Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, learning, collecting, and creating published volumes of the work of young artists, since they found there was almost no existing documentation. The aim is to include 75 each time, though quality control prevails, and in countries where fine art activity is limited, such as Vietnam, they only made it to 56. In other places, like Malaysia, the problem was getting artists to supply 300dpi jpegs (the level of resolution necessary for full-colour printing.) The publishing, explained David Ciclitira, always receives government approval (in a communist country like Vietnam, it has to), but no government money, while the Saatchi Gallery has helped make it possible to stage the ensuing art fairs.
Ali Hassan, Remains of Traces I, 2014 CREDIT: ANIMA GALLERY
There has been a heavy emphasis on culture in Doha in the last decade under the guidance of the 35-year old Sheika Mayassa, the wordly sister of the Emir, who was educated in the US, and worked on the Tribeca Film Festival. As chairperson of Qatar Museums, the Sheika has overseen exhibitions by Murakami and Damien Hirst, as well as the delivery of the architecturally extraordinary National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel in the form of clustered desert roses, which will open next year.