Featured image: Basel Dalloul, Founder of Dalloul Art Foundation.

Dalloul Art Foundation is a Beirut-based visual arts institution dedicated to making modern and contemporary Arab art accessible to local and international audiences through archiving, exhibitions, education, publications, public programmes, and research. 

Since late 2017, the foundation’s resources have been made accessible to the public through its presence on social media where it highlights the history of Arab art weekly. Researchers and doctoral students also have access to the foundation’s resources, collection management system, and in-house research, in order to further their studies. The foundation also provides loans to local and international museums.

.ART talked to DAF about the foundation’s history, mission, collaborations and about DAF.ART, the ‘Digital Art Frontier,’ becoming a provider of software for institutions and collectors worldwide. 

Could you tell us a bit about the history of The Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation?

The late founders of DAF’s collection, Dr. Ramzi and Mrs. Saeda Dalloul, began their patronage of Arab art in the early 1970s. Their passions came from a desire to maintain Arab solidarity and unification. Plus, they were keen on archiving Arab history, namely the region’s political, social, and cultural realities. Such realities were lived and experienced by Arab visual artists and, in turn, addressed and reflected in their artistic creations. This is why I believe that those artists are the most reliable gatekeepers of Arab history. 

The collection at DAF was amassed over the last 50 years while Dr. Ramzi traveled for business in most of the Arab region. He met with and discovered artists that today are among the region’s most revered. The process became increasingly habitual, as the collection of spectacular artworks we have today attests. Dr. Ramzi and Mrs. Saeda Dalloul’s patronage was ultimately inherited by their son Dr. Basel Dalloul, currently CEO of Noor, one of the largest ISPs in Egypt. Since their passing, Dr. Basel has continued their legacy of patronage of the arts in the Arab region with over 40 new artworks acquisitions in the last year alone. This continued patronage has recently placed Dr. Basel Dalloul in the top 200 art collectors by Art News

What is the mission of DAF?

DAF is dedicated to preserving Arab art and culture through its vast collection of modern and contemporary art from the region. It is devoted to raising awareness about Arab art by making its permanent collection, library, and research center accessible to the public upon scheduled appointments. Besides preserving, conserving, and documenting the DAF’s collection, we are committed to ongoing research on Arab artists and the history of Arab art. We advocate Arab art, specifically from the 22 countries which are members of the Arab League.

Does the Foundation have a physical venue?

Our current physical venue comprises multiple floors within the White Tower building, located in the Koraytem area of Western Beirut. It is where most of our collection is kept and where we have our research space. We also curate in-house exhibitions where we showcase selected artworks from the collection. For example, our upcoming exhibition is entitled ‘Untitled Abstractions .’It engages with a selection of abstract artworks which are effectively (untitled); it also investigates and challenges the role of a title, or lack thereof, in abstract art.

The show will feature a series of lectures and discussions with university professors, artists, and industry professionals, during which we will assign (referential titles) to the ‘Untitled’ artworks. Plans for a more traditional museum location are under development. However, the current site has been retrofitted into several typical white cube spaces that serve the purpose of artwork display very well. The location is not open to walk-ins, but scheduled tours can be arranged through our website.

Le Port de Beyrouth by Mahmoud Saïd @ Mathaf Doha courtesy of the Dalloul Art Foundation

Do you work on collaborations with other art institutions in the region?

We continuously collaborate with official art institutions in the region and worldwide through loans and research initiatives. We are also curating a joint exhibition with the Sharjah-based Barjeel Art Foundation to display 30 artworks from each collection (a total of 60), details yet to be announced. We also have multiple artworks currently on loan throughout the world. Most notably, 19 artworks are now featured at the ‘Beirut and the Golden Sixties: A Manifesto of Fragility exhibition at the MATHAF museum in Doha, Qatar. In addition, DAF has contributed to a four-part documentary series entitled ‘Beirut: A Cultural Hub’, currently being screened at the ‘Beirut and the Golden Sixties’ exhibition space at MATHAF. 

From your point of view, how does DAF fit into the current network of institutions in the region? What makes it stand out?

The Dalloul Art Foundation (DAF) houses the most valuable collection of artworks from modern & contemporary Arab artists worldwide. Our collection includes artworks that are over 100 years old. We have works in different mediums created by renowned artists that are acknowledged modern & contemporary masters of our region.

In addition, a nascent project which will serve the whole Arab Art landscape is the Arab Art Index and the Arab Art Organization. It will be a collaborative work and a Non for Profit. We aim to expose, archive, and help fund Arab artist estates and new artists in the region. This project will, in effect, bring the whole community under one umbrella for mutual cooperation in the arts across the Arab world. It will involve various activities such as print/online publishing, documentaries, art fairs, awards, and sponsorship of artistic initiatives across the Arab world.

What is the future of the digital platform daf.art? Do you feel that. ART domain zone, in this case, will provide more than just an online address?

We commit resources to research and documenting a wealth of data about the artists we work with and their artwork. As a result of Dr. Basel Dalloul’s involvement in the technology sector, we have developed management software for our collection and data internally. It is an unrivaled management software that we will open for other institutions and collections to use as a white-labeled Software as a Service (SaaS).

Our software is highly extensible, with multiple integrations to other services like Artbinder, Google Art & Culture, Smartify, and, very soon, a plugin bridge that will sync data to WordPress websites. It allows customers to manage all their content with our multilingual software. 

The software is also being integrated with Algolia search to provide advanced, heuristic searching, which will be very useful in the case of Arabic names – being Latinized in multiple ways. Finally, we are developing the software to provide an output to our upcoming mobile app for IOS & Android, whose code base will also be provided through the SaaS.

Hence the domain DAF.ART will be used as an acronym for the ‘Digital Art Frontier,’ a company that will provide software for institutions and collectors worldwide to manage their collections and all the content related to them. 

We are thrilled to have secured the DAF.ART domain that will be used for this global project to benefit all involved in the art world. It will help create homogeny through a simple solution everyone can use. And it shall introduce standards for all that will make promoting and discovering art much more accessible.