TAKREEM Selection Board Member, Basel Dalloul, launches digital archive of the Dalloul Art Foundation, amid coronavirus outbreak. As more countries go into lock-down and governments implore their citizens to remain at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, arts organizations around the world have leapt into action, offering a different kind of outlet to millions. In Lebanon, the Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation is one of them. Its website went live two weeks ago, several months earlier than originally planned, granting free access to thousands of artworks and extensive information about hundreds of artists from the Arab world. Founder and managing director Basel Ramzi Dalloul had planned to launch the website this summer, but sped up the process following the lock-down in Lebanon. Dalloul says he was convinced people needed a different kind of distraction.
His team of eight staff, all working from home, upload new content to the website daily, although the majority of the collection is already up. Built over 50 years by Dalloul’s parents, it includes more than 4,000 works by about 400 artists from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. The pieces include paintings, drawings, photography, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, videos, installations and mixed media. Dalloul curates a different selection of featured artists and artworks every day, encouraging visitors to discover something new. His choices are personal, but he is careful to include an equal balance of male and female artists. By signing up for a membership, visitors can save works and share images with friends on social media, as well as receive updates on their favorite artists. The site allows one to browse by artist or by artwork, and search the collection by keyword, country or type of work. Artists and works can also be organized by most viewed, most shared and most liked, providing insight into how visitors from around the world are engaging with the collection. Four days after the site’s launch, the most liked work was Lebanese artist Ayman Baalbaki’s Al Mulatham, an acrylic painting from 2003. In rough daubs and thickly textured smears of paint, it captures a Palestinian resistance fighter, his head wrapped in a red and white keffiyeh, against a backdrop of printed flowers, overlaid with green and blue brushstrokes that evoke lush foliage or camouflage. His shadowed eyes stare straight at the viewer. In the first two days after the site was launched, it attracted more than 1,000 unique visitors who spent at least 20 minutes each browsing the collection, according to Dalloul. Google Analytics shows visitors to the site from all around the world, with the highest numbers coming from Lebanon, the US and the UAE. In the next few months, Dalloul plans to add extra features, including virtual tours of the foundation’s physical galleries in Beirut. The website, which is currently in English, will also be translated into the Arabic and French, and members will have access to an increased range of features, allowing them to organize artists and artworks into personal collections. Dalloul also plans to create a virtual museum store, selling books and merchandise related to the collection. His hope is that the website will become a valuable resource for academics, students, journalists and anyone with an interest in the Arab world’s art. As he continues to build the site, he hopes that, in the meantime, the website will serve as an enjoyable resource for art lovers.
Works from the Ramzi and Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation can be viewed at www.dafbeirut.org
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