Who is 101? What makes us who we are?

101 is a platform that grew out of countless discussions about the art ecosystem in the UAE and wider region between Munira Al Sayegh and Gaith Abdulla. The central motivation behind 101 is addressing a gap we see in the local art collecting ecosystem that has tended to neglect artists outside of gallery systems, leaving many of the emerging and mid career artists sidelined by the art market and unnoticed by established collectors. We believe grassroots movements and collaborations are necessary to sustain, anchor and counterbalance the strong leaps the local art ecosystem has witnessed through government led efforts. The contemporary ecosystem of the arts has produced a plethora of artists, and thus the need for a knowledgeable collector base to grow with these artists. 101 is built on recognising our part in the community and on our insights into artists across the spectrum, their opinions and thoughts, this is what gives us our insight and it very much stems from us seeing and hearing the frustrations of artists.

How are we doing this?

The core element of 101 is the art sale we aim to have on a quarterly basis. Our approach tries to take into consideration what exists and does not define itself yet in any way other than the ethical principles that we believe are important to a healthy, equitable art ecosystem.  

How do we want to achieve the idea of supporting the practice of non-gallery represented artists?

Through 101 we’re engaging with artists on the nuts and bolts of the artist’s practice from making to selling, such as developing a sustainable market for their work by introducing them to various pricing schemes, something many non-gallery represented artists struggle with. Here the artist also has a chance to get to know potential collectors that can continue to support their work and can sell their work without the permanence of being signed to a gallery. We are open to doing what we can for the artists, that will manifest through the act of being and doing, between us and the artist. 

How do we want to achieve the idea of nurturing an ethical collector?

We define the collector as more than just someone who has the financial means to purchase art, but as someone who can push the artist's career forward through their connection with them. We are also interested in thinking about the role of the collector from a more theoretical point of view, in what collecting is in its social, historical and political dimensions. Our focus is the development of young collectors who can grow with an artist, and for these young collectors especially to participate in what we consider ethical collecting. To us this is the idea of collecting with the knowledge of what you're collecting, collecting with knowledge of the artist, and allowing yourself to deepen the understanding between you and the artist and your collection. And then to build a relationship that maybe in the future could lead to patronage. With regards to the more established collectors, they can fall back on 101 as a valid source of where to look for artists who are not gallery represented and have difficulty reaching a collector database but are serious in their careers.

What is our mission statement?

From the heart of the creative community 101 emerged as an attempt to include non-gallery-represented artists within the commercial arts ecosystem. It is built around a recognition of the importance of fostering collecting practices and the key role of grassroots art communities in our region. As a platform, 101 organizes a quarterly art sale, showcasing independent artists producing locally and regionally. 101 aims to support an already established network of creatives and collectors outside of existing institutional frameworks with a focus on being community driven, by sharing research, collaborations and art sales.

Who are Gaith Abdulla & Munira Al Sayegh?

Gaith Abdulla is a writer, critic and Gulf studies specialist based in Dubai. His research is multidisciplinary, and is anchored in the socio-politics of the Gulf and its intersection with the region’s contemporary art and culture. He has published social, cultural and political commentary in local and international media, including CNN Arabic, Gulf News and Al-Monitor, and has authored peer-reviewed research papers and monographs. He is invested in documenting contemporary art history in the UAE and the critical debates of the arts communities, seeing in this context an important historical moment.

Munira Al Sayegh is an independent curator and writer based in Abu Dhabi. Al Sayegh has curated various exhibitions including Bayn (2017), and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s exhibition The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence (2017), Art Dubai’s UAE Now (2019), and The Cup and The Saucer (2020). Al Sayegh has participated in panels and lectures, pointing at the importance of non-institutional thinking and rhetoric in order to highlight and refine the voice of what local and regional art looks like from the bottom up. Al Sayegh has also published articles discussing the contemporary art scene of the region.

Upon graduating from SOAS (University of London) in 2011, Abdulla and Al Sayegh immersed themselves across the thriving art ecosystem of the Gulf. Through their independent practices, they both surrounded themselves with the analytical, progressive and creative minds of the region; it was these integral community-led relationships that cemented the idea of 101.