This year’s Art Basel Miami Beach – the 17th edition of the art world’s favourite fair – will run from 6-9 December and host over 300 cutting-edge galleries in the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Centre. Among the industry-acclaimed curation of galleries, Tunisia’s Selma Feriani Gallery is one of the 29 new galleries to be on show for the first time, presenting a new body of work of Saudi artist Maha Malluh.
“It felt important for me to share the experience I had gained in London, and be closer to the art scene in Tunisia and North Africa in general”, says 39-year-old Selma Feriani, the gallery’s founder, who lived in London for 17 years before moving back to her native town in September 2017 to establish her eponymous gallery.
We caught up with the young gallerist to find out her thoughts on the region’s burgeoning art scene, the representation of Arab artists internationally and the artists to keep an eye on.
When did you get into art?
I grew up surrounded by artists and art since I was a child. When we were kids, my mother, who had a gallery, used to regularly take us to archaeological sites and studios in Tunisia and even auctions houses when we were in Paris.
Why is the proliferation of contemporary art in the region so important to you?
I strongly believe that art is a beautiful way to grow closer as a community, and create a space for collective reflections about different issues. We are aiming to develop Arab art, reach a positive reception and increase international recognition as witnessed through exhibitions and acquisitions of Arab art by collectors outside of the region, as well as inclusion in international symposia and publications.
How is the Tunisian audience reacting to contemporary art?
They’re in need of more art galleries and museums with a strong program and more experimental spaces to create the dynamic we all would like to reach. The art scene in Tunis is developing fast, and there are many art schools opening across the country.
What do you think of the representation of Arab artists internationally?
Across the globe, Middle Eastern artists were recently shown in both small and large venues, such as Abdul Nasser Gharem at LACMA earlier last spring, Farideh Lashai at the Prado, Massinissa Selmani at Palais de Tokyo, Ismail Bahri at Jeu De Paume and La Foundation Hermès and Maha Malluh at Venice Biennale. All were resounding successes, again demonstrating the international interest in art from the Middle East. Having said that, more has to be done. Our strategy is to enter the US market this year and place our artists in private and museum collections; the best start will be Art Basel Miami.
Who are your favourite Arab artists at the moment?
There are a few talented artists from the region I’m in to at the moment. Especially Nidhal Chamekh, Massinissa Selmani, Nadia Kaabi Linke, Ismail Bahri, Nicene Kossentini, Ali Cheri, Mohamed Bourouissa, Stephanie saade, Caline Aoun and Basim Magdy to name few.