Middle East art scene today is like London in nineties – Judith Greer – international art collector

ART COLLECTING MIDDLE EAST ART

Now based in London, well-known US collector Judith Greer spent thirteen years in Japan where she discovered the work Yayoi Kusama well before the artist became well known. Greer, originally from Seattle, Washington told The Observer in 2006 about the difficulty she had adjusting after her move in 1993:

 Tokyo was my city – I’d been there for 13 years. I was this efficient, bilingual woman, international director of the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art. 1

Judith Greer

Judith Greer

But it was not long before she thoroughly involved herself in the London art scene and focused on making her home a ‘post modern mecca for art”. Relaxed barbecues and TV show parties allow well known London YBA artists such as Sarah Lucas and Tracy Emin to mingle alongside emerging artists who Greer makes a point of inviting.

The top floor of the house has been converted into a gallery. Greer lets non-profit organisations such as Artangel exhibit here, and shows her own collection for visitors. Many of her parties are held to allow collectors and artists to mingle. ‘People used to be hesitant about opening their houses to artists, which I think is strange. I love bringing people together – and we make a point of inviting young artists who could really benefit.’ 1

Recently she has been active in Dubai where she told the National

It may be a difficult time in the global art market but there is still a palpable sense of excitement about contemporary art in the Middle East,” she says 2

The American collector is involved with several UAE art projects. Earlier this year she took part in The Royal Academy Series Talking Art: three days of discussions in Abu Dhabi around the contemporary exhibition Emirati Expressions. She attended  Art Dubai and the Sharjah Biennial, which she applauds for being held simultaneously. “The main goal is to see work that I can’t see in England,” she told The National.

According to Greer, the contemporary art boom in London (in the late nineties)  is similar to the level of excitement over the growth of the art scene in the Middle East now. “It’s a confluence of all sorts of factors within a period of about three years,” she says, citing both Art Dubai and artparis-Abu Dhabi as examples of major events here that have helped generate interest. “A really intense explosion of occasions and auctions at which there was a sense of the birth of the Middle Eastern art world.”

Greer also notes that there are differences warning that there is a need for a stronger sense of an artistic community, more universities and support of young, emerging artists.

Greer’s tips for collectors

You can see a little of Greer’s collection inlcuding work by Yayoi Kusama in situ at her home in Notting Hill on youtube. This video also gives tips for new collectors and visits Frieze Art Fair. 

youtube video Judith Greer on buying at Frieze

Owning art - Judith Greer

Owning art - Judith Greer

Judith Greer  has also published this year an Arabic translation of her book, Owning Art: The Contemporary Art Collector’s Handbook. First published in the UK in 2006 the book has also been translated into Italian and Russian, and there are plans for a Chinese edition.

It covers topics from the differences between contemporary and traditional art to the different roles that dealers and curators play, and also includes informative chapters on insurance and conservation.

  1. Art House – an American collector opens the doors to a rubble-strewn Victorian house she turned into a post-modern mecca for the YBA – Observer – Aug 2006
  2. Professional guidance – The National – Mar 2009

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