Alison Collins: Woman behind Dubai’s oldest art gallery has died – News

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Tributes are pouring in for the owner of the Majlis gallery who died in Italy on December 11.



(KT / Juidin Bernard)

Posted: Thu 16 Dec 2021, 13:04

Last update: Thu 16 Dec 2021, 13:12

Tributes are pouring in for a woman behind Dubai’s oldest art space who died last Saturday.

Alison Collins, who founded the late Majlis Gallery in 1978, died in Sicily, Italy, on December 11.

She was about seventy years old.

The news of his death brought grief to his friends and the UAE arts community.

Those who knew Collins describe her as an extraordinary woman and a tireless promoter of the arts in the Middle East.

Cheeni Shah, who has been associated with the Majlis Gallery since day one, collapsed upon remembering her former business partner.

“It is indeed an extremely difficult period. Alison has been my friend, mentor and colleague for over three decades. His passing, besides being a personal loss, is also a huge loss to the arts and artists of the region, ”Shah said. “Alison has touched many lives and, through her works, leaves behind a legacy that future generations will remember,” she added.

South African artist Lynette Ken Kroden has said she will cherish fond memories of her collaboration with Collins forever.

“She created an artists’ paradise and promoted the UAE as a truly distinct artistic destination in the desert,” Kroden said on the phone from South Africa.

“I have been to Dubai twice a year for the past three and a half decades to exhibit my work at the Majlis Gallery upon invitation from Collins. She was one of my best friends and will be sadly missed. It will be a worthy tribute if the Majlis Gallery is relaunched, ”she said.

The fascinating art house in the historic Al Fahidi district of Bur Dubai closed for good last year, marking the end of an era.

Collins was a cold-blooded picture when Khaleej weather met her in October 2020 as she was preparing to host a swan song sale before the gallery closed.

“I never thought life owed you anything. To be honest, my big mantra right now is ‘a job well done.’ One of life’s worst emotions is regret, and one even worse is the guilt. They’re not getting you anywhere, “she said.

A Sharjah-based artist, who did not want to be named, said Collins had shown courage when the Majis Gallery closed, but part of her died with it. “She tried to continue as long as she could, but the Covid-19 pandemic made the situation worse. It was not financially viable to run the place.

United Arab Emirates-based art consultant Ambika Vohra said the Majlis Gallery is a meeting place for people wishing to explore and appreciate the arts and Alison Collins is its heart.

“The art world is a little less colorful without it,” Vohra said.

Originally from Cornwall, a county on the rugged southwestern tip of England, Collins came to Dubai in 1976 to work as an interior designer. She immediately fell in love with the United Arab Emirates especially the architecture and the ambiance of the old Aeolian houses of Bastakia. In 1978, with the help of two Iranian tea importers and an Egyptian curtain maker, Alison and her husband secured the lease for villa number 19 (Bastakia) from owner Mir Abdulla Amiri.

They did not know then that their home would turn into an artistic space.

It turned out that a traveling British painter by the name of Julian Barrow showed up on their doorstep in 1979, looking for a place to exhibit his paintings from Dubai.

Collins was happy to comply with the request. She moved all of the furniture from the family majlis to make room for the paintings and sent handwritten notes inviting people to view the works. “Lots of people came. It was a lot of fun, ”recalls Collins in an interview with Khaleej weather years later.

This is how the foundations of the Majlis Gallery, the first gallery in the United Arab Emirates, were laid.

It was here – over the next ten years – Collins and her husband raised their three children and held many informal parties in their “majlis”, hence the name, introducing professional and amateur artists to a community of some. not very culturally deprived.

However, in the summer of 1988, the family received an eviction notice as Al Fahidi faced redevelopment.

Collin proposed to its owner to turn the place into a commercial art gallery. He readily accepted. On November 2, 1989, the Majlis Gallery opened and quickly became one of Dubai’s leading art galleries.

Over the years, Collins has provided a platform for hundreds of artists, many of whom are now known on the world stage. These include multi-award-winning Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais who exhibited his early works here and the late Syrian painter Abdul Latif Al Smoudi who began exhibiting his works in the gallery in the mid-1990s.

mazhar@khaleejtimes.com

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