Abdullah Al-Turki is one of the youngest Saudi art collectors; he is involved with Edge of Arabia, the Middle Eastern and North-African Acquisitions Committee at the Tate Modern Museum in London and an avid contemporary art collector and patron. We shared an interesting conversation about his journey in the art world so far.

Adnan Z. Manjal: Tell our readers a bit more about your background. I remember meeting you at our Swiss Hotel Management School in Montreux in 2003, and now we are both not doing anything with hotels.

Abdulla Al-Turki: Not at all, I only did it to improve my French language, but I have nothing to do with hotels anymore. Before that I was at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals where I did my finance degree, and then moved to Boston, and then to Switzerland. I also worked for HSBC, and then as a features editor in the newspaper Asharq Alawsat.

Now you are working as the creative director of Edge of Arabia and you are also on the board of the Middle Eastern and North-African Acquisitions Committee at the Tate Modern museum in London.

I became the creative director of Edge of Arabia in 2010. But I was involved with them since 2009, just after their first London exhibition in 2008.

And it has been a great success since then.

It is challenging, we definitely learn more with every exhibition. We always try to develop the idea and concept of Edge of Arabia and make something different with every show.

The next Edge of Arabia exhibition is going to be in January 2012 in Jeddah. Where will the exhibition after that take place?

For 2012, after Jeddah, we are looking at European cities, most likely in Paris, and also we might do something in London during the Olympics. Doing an exhibition in Paris would be great. So far which is your favorite Edge of Arabia exhibition?

After each exhibition I always say that ‘this is our best exhibition’. So far to date, Dubai was our best, and now our “The Future of a Promise” exhibition at the 2011 Venice Biennale, which provided us with a great direction that we might pursue more of in the future to include a pan Arab platform and work with different Arab artists who have different messages and expectations. Tell me more about your involvement with Tate Modern.

It is a small committee, and I was one of the first to get on board. We meet several times a year. Most of the research is done and presented by the Modern Tate in-house team and we help them in choosing which artworks to purchase from this region.

You are, in my opinion, the youngest known art collector from Saudi, especially amongst the most known Saudi collectors; always promoting the Saudi art scene and interest in the region and beyond. So when did you start collecting? I have been exposed to art from a young age, especially the orientalist paintings my family has. But after living in London for such a long time, which is a very vibrant and cosmopolitan city, you get exposed naturally to art on a daily basis. And from there I started looking more into Middle Eastern artists, then my interest shifted more towards international and Saudi contemporary art. I look at it as an investment in talent, and once you start collecting, it becomes some sort of an addiction.

What was the first artwork you bought?

The first important artwork I bought was a painting by Iranian artist Rokni Haerizadeh. But my first purchase was a piece by Golnaz Fathi.

And which artwork is your pride and joy, at least for the moment?

Usually the ones you recently buy are the ones you enjoy the most, and in this case it is a painting by a Los Angeles based artist named Sterling Ruby.

Now, tell me who are your favorite artists?

That would be Sterling Ruby, Aaron Young, Manal Al Dowayan, Ahmed Mater and Abdulnasser Gharem. I agree with you on those names. I always run into you in each art fair I attend. So tell me, which are your favorite art fairs?

I always try to attend all of them. But the ones I always attend are Art Basel in Basel and Freize in London. I personally prefer Art Basel Miami Beach over Basel. What about your favorite museums?

Definitely the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and Tate Modern. I love Tate Modern, I could get lost in there for hours.

I would love to visit the MAXXI museum in Rome, which was done by Zaha Hadid. And I also love Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Quite modern. I like that. I have to say that modern art is my first love.

I started to appreciate modern art more in the past couple of years, maybe after being over exposed to contemporary art. Modern art has a more refined taste, while contemporary is more fun.

one last question, what advice would you give to young art collectors?

Not to buy art for the sake of buying it, I think you should observe the art scene more, read and educate yourself more before you take the first step. You should develop your own taste and understanding. Also it is wiser to go for young artists and support them and help them to reach a wider audience.

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