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International Museum of Image
Terzocchio Meridiani di Luce - Sole di Mezzanotte
(ThirdEye Meridian of
Light - Midnight Sun)

Deadline: Ongoing

Call to Artist
October 2011
Innumerable facets of Jamal Fakhro’s inimitable life have been discussed and featured; as managing partner of KPMG Fakhro, global audit, tax and advisory firm and first vice chairman of the Shura Council. Until now, however, Jamal has been largely sidelined within the history of art collecting even though a selected few from his assemblage has been displayed  at Bin Matar’s House early this year at the Bahraini Private Collector’s Exhibition.

For Jamal, other than work, culture in general is his only “hobby.”  Influenced by his artist wife Lobna and good friend Rashid al Khalifa (also an artist and art patron), he learned to love and appreciate art. He started purchasing art in the mid-80s primarily to support the Bahraini artists and hard to resist reasonably priced artworks by great Arab artists. Through the encouragement from friends, artists and other collectors, Lobna & Jamal were poised to go deeper into the quest of art collection and acquired artworks that engendered a lot of the thinking in the premise of contemporary art.
Interview with art collector JAMAL FAKHRO

What is your favourite art piece in your collection?

I love all of them all the time. But at certain times I will prefer one to the other. Sometimes you will just change your mind if you change the way and place where you hang the piece. They are for me like my children, I love them all.

What are some collections you are most proud of and why?

I have few pieces that are not available in the market. Or if available they will be very expensive. So there none availability will make me feel proud that I acquired them. 

What do you look for in a piece of art that you want to acquire?

Have you heard about “love from first look?” this is exactly what makes me acquire a piece of art - that love synergy in the piece, and of course the name of the artist. I remember in the 90’s I fell in love with an Italian sculpture, I went to the gallery three times in two years until I bought it. It is the feeling that the “first look” mark in your heart and mind.

There are those who like to collect a lot, and those who collect only the top.
Where do you stand?

When I started collecting I was from the first category, when I matured and gained sound knowledge in art, I become from the later.

Have you ever had advisers?

Yes and No. I never hired professional advisors to go to galleries and select for me. But I have used some friends (mainly senior artist) to get a second opinion on a piece or an artist. I wish I had used an advisor from day one, but unfortunately in those days the art advisory business did not exists in Bahrain or the Arab world.

Which international art fairs do you attend?

I never planned to go to any art fair. But whenever I travel I visit as many art galleries and art fairs as I can, I very much enjoy spending time (and money) at galleries.

Where do you buy your art?

I buy most of them from art galleries, some from art exhibitions and others from artists and collectors directly.

What is the dream piece that you’d want to acquire?

I wish I know the answer. When you fall in love with art there isn’t one piece that you want to acquire and then stop collecting. Collectors are “greedy” they want to acquire more and more every day, and having said that, I always wanted to acquire a piece by the famous Egyptian artist, Mahmood Saeed. In the 90’s I was offered one of his best pieces for Egyptian pounds 250,000 (about BD20, 000) and this was too much for me and couldn’t afford it then. This piece was sold recently for couple of million dollars.

How important is it for you that the work you acquire retains or generates value?

It is very important, especially when you put most of your savings in the art pieces that you acquire. I acquire to enjoy but also to invest. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have good dealers in Arab artists work. As you know 90% of my collection is by Arab artists.

How is the downturn of the economy and the art market going to affect your collecting?

At the moment it has been helping me acquiring some good pieces at the right price. I hope the market will start to recover and prices will go up again because we need an active market. By the way I don’t think our Arab art market (the market I invest in) was affected a lot. As you know it’s only in the recent years Arab art market was developed. In the past few years we have seen prices of Arab art skyrocketed simply because of the easy money some people made. With the recession prices went back to its real levels.  The right prices will always build an active market. Currently I am not in selling mode; I have never sold any piece.

What is your most recent acquisition?

My most recent acquisition is a 1999 drawing by Tomaino, an Italian artist, which I bought from a friend gallery in Italy. Lobna and I were in our annual holiday, and it took us only 2 minutes to decide on the piece. Also, a few months ago, I was in Panama and I bought two beautiful pieces by Olga Sinclair, a top Panamanian lady artist. One of them is 2X2 meters and was on its way to be exhibited in her first solo exhibition in New York. I think I was lucky to be able to buy it before she started exhibiting in New York.

Does the current climate favour auction houses or dealers?

Auction houses and dealers work for their living. At this current market they will have to work hard to sell a piece whereas in the boom time they will work hard to get a piece to sell. I don’t think that this time favors auction houses or dealers.

In this respect, Jamal differs from those collectors who often go for  ‘brand’ artists - he doesn’t seem to be interested’ in discovering the next “art” star. Instead, it is clear that he has thought about and reflected upon whether the work of art he collects fits into his personal aesthetic.

We have the chance to see what he means when part one of his collections will be on view at the November issue of artbahrain collector's online gallery. In the meantime, Jamal Fakhro will, no doubt, be continuing in his quest to seek out new artworks that inspire him.