Interview with Majdoline Al Ghoul owner of Dar Al Anda Art Gallery

Interview with Majdoline Al Ghoul owner of Dar Al Anda Art Gallery

What is going on in the art world in Jordan, Majdoline Al Ghoul owner of Dar Al Anda our new gallery partner from Amman, talked to us.


I understand Dar Al-Anda is a long standing art gallery in Amman . How did the idea of the gallery come out? What category of artists you specialize in? Tell us a bit about that, and  the meaning of the word Al Anda..


The idea of the gallery started as a dream. As a child, I attended The Rosary College, a school that was housed in a church, and was always mesmerized by the stained glass, antique pipe organs and statues across the building. That was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with art. I began selling art from home and eventually had my dream come true when Dar Al-Anda was founded in 1998.


The gallery was also borne of a need in the Jordanian marketplace for a venue that exhibited quality art from the Levant region. At the time, a significant portion of the the Iraqi diaspora was in Amman following the first war in Iraq. Many of the members of that diaspora were great artists without enough venues to represent them. And obviously the same problem existed for Jordanian artists, but to a lesser extent.


Since those days, our repertoire has grown to encompass contemporary artists, painters and sculptors alike, from other countries in the MENA region and from international destinations such as Japan, Brazil, Italy, France, Norway and elsewhere. This growth occurred while keeping us true to our identity as a home for fine arts of the contemporary genre. We are very selective when it comes to the artists that we deal with. We always strive to offer something different that has a unique story to tell when building our collections or exhibitions.


The need for a home for arts is what partially inspired our name, Dar Al-Anda, which is Arabic for “home of the giving”. Almost 20 years later, this name continues to hold true to what we aim to do, which is to enrich the lives of our patrons, employees and community by giving them the opportunity to experience art in all of its forms. We provide more than just a physical space, we harbor a community of art lovers and creators.  



Would you say that the art market has changed and in what way? Did you think or imagine 15 years ago that clients would purchase artwork from a website?


In the 18 years that we’ve been around, the market, at least in Jordan, has changed drastically and more than once. The web was still in its infancy stage when we started and we could not have anticipated online selling platforms, whether they accept payments online or not.


To begin with, the Iraqi diaspora that provided and consumed much of the art in our market, has gradually spread outside of the region to countries in Europe and North America, thereby shifting the dynamics of the demand and supply market in Jordan. Currently, the difficult economic situation in Jordan (and particularly in Amman, which now holds the dubious honor of being the Middle East’s most expensive city), has meant that people have less disposable incomes and are reluctant to spend money on luxuries, which art is lumped into, a perception that isn’t necessarily true.   



Do you think that the internet and new technology  in general is affecting art in itself and not only the way art is transmitted? In  what way and what are the advantages and the disadvantages?


On the positive end, the spread of the internet, and in particular the growth of e-commerce and social media channels, in particular the visually driven, mobile-geared ones such as Instagram, have enabled artists and galleries across the globe to reach a wider audience and to promote their offering while educating their communities and followers.


However, platforms such as Instagram have arguably cheapened the concept of fine art by allowing anyone with enough social media savvy to promote their work as fine art. For better or worse, fine art is something that is appreciated and consumed by an elite niche, and not the masses. This is where credible and specialized platforms such as Artsy, Saatchi, and Artscoops can mirror the exclusivity and refinement of the physical art gallery world in the digital age. But ultimately, experiencing art with your own live senses is not an experience that cannot be replicated digitally.



Visiting galleries online has made art accessible to a wider public, do you agree?


Most definitely. Art is a universal language of peace and hope. The online landscape breaks down physical and geopolitical barriers and allows the messages contained in an artwork to touch an audience that it couldn’t otherwise.



Tell us about the artists you work with, their careers.. success… etc….?


We’ve been fortunate to be able to collaborate with some of the greatest contemporary Middle Eastern artists of our time. We’ve also been fortunate to be able to develop some artists’ careers and propel them to higher grounds. Of some of the region’s most prolific artists that we’ve worked with, there are the likes of Bahram Hajou, Jabel Alwan, Yousef Abdelke, Eman Haram, and Mouneer Sharani.


Others whose successes are closely tied to ours include Hashim Hannoon, who was the first artist to ever hold a solo exhibition at the gallery, and went on to find global acclaim after relocating to Canada. Ghadeer Saeed, a Jordanian architect-cum-artist works very closely with us and has gained great exposure through our channels and fairs. Artists like Baqer Al-Shaikh and Shaiban Ahmad have also had great success through their collaborations with us.


Ultimately, most artists we’ve chosen to work with have become a part of our family and have collaborated with us on multiple occasions. The best example of this is Sudanese artist Abdulkader Bakhit, who has been our Art Director for over a decade now, in addition to having had his work exhibited at the gallery on several occasions.



What do you say to some people who think art is a luxury they don’t need and can’t afford?


This is a common misconception that we unfortunately suffer from today. We believe that first and foremost, art started as a need, as evidenced in ancient civilizations’ first forms of language, which were ultimately drawings (e.g. cavemen’s inscriptions and Egyptian hieroglyphs). Therefore art is a need, a form of communication, and not a luxury.  


To break the stigma that art has to be expensive to be good, we have done a few things. We are always encouraging our artists, especially the newer ones, to exercise modesty in pricing their artwork for the local market to encourage people to buy and collect art despite the less-than-ideal economic circumstances. Furthermore, we recently launched a concept art store at the gallery (dubbed The Store at Dar Al-Anda), which specializes in jewelry, home décor and entry level art pieces in the sub-100 dollar range to raise awareness of affordable art.



How do you describe the Jordanian public response to art?


As I mentioned previously, the current situation means that art isn’t that high on people’s priority list right now. We do have a few devoted collectors and regular clients. Due to our being located in Jabal Al-Luweibdeh, arguably the Achrafieh of Amman, we do receive art appreciators from all walks of life, some local, some tourists, some expatriates from Western countries, and so on.



What piece of wisdom would you pass to young aspiring Jordanian artists?


Stay curious, and learn how to learn.

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