Philanthropist Alejandra Rioseco feels inspired by Dubai
Chilean, who runs a virtual art gallery, tells Husain Rizvi how the city’s ethos echoes her own
There is no denying that Dubai is a land of opportunities. People visit Dubai, or dream to, from every corner of the world given the city’s repute. And, why wouldn’t they? Dubai has become a hub that invites talents from across the world to be a part of this progressive society.
One among them is Alejandra Castro Rioseco, a Chilean philanthropist, whose family traces its roots to Spain. Alejandra has been in Dubai for the last two and a half years. Here, she runs MIA art collection, and MIAAnywhere, a virtual private art collection with a global footprint aimed at promoting women artists and their works. Founded in March 2020, it allows visitors to walk through a virtual museum space that showcases the artwork of women across the world.
Alejandra has been working on building a museum made only for women artists, a project that has been close to her heart for more than 10 years. The philanthropist tells City Times about her journey and how Dubai, as a progressive city, inspires her.
What prompted you to make a leap from civil engineering to philanthropy?
I think education or profession does not define our personality. In my case, my education does not define my personality. Philanthropy is a style of life, it is about caring about others. When I was in engineering, I discovered that I did not enjoy it too much.
Philanthropy is something that runs in my family. When I was young, my mother used to visit a lot of old people and help them. That made me realise, they were a part of our family. And, that is why I wanted to live this way.
With virtual being the new normal, what impact has it had on your work?
Of course, the pandemic has had an impact on so many people. But, I am a very positive person. When the pandemic started, I saw two options in front of me; one was to stay home and do nothing but wonder about what happened, and the other was to do something for others.
I noticed that all art exhibitions were shut due to the pandemic, and within a week, I started a virtual museum with the help of my team. I thought of all the women artists and how their work was affected due to the pandemic. That’s exactly why I came up with the virtual museum. I can say that it was a success as, now, when the pandemic has eased, the virtual museum has art from across the world.
How do you mix your pillars of engagement: gender empowerment with art and technology?
It is like cooking, taking all the ingredients and mixing them together. Women have the ability to work at home. In the current era, we can work remotely, even from home, thanks to technology. As for art, it is something very sensitive. All of this together is an amazing mix. When I put these three together, I know that it is of great support to society. I also think that art with technology is the future. And, everything I do involves women. That is one ingredient that never changes.
How has Dubai helped or inspired you in your journey as a philanthropist?
I feel very inspired in Dubai, the city has taught me so many things. Seeing Dubai’s progress in such less time, its quality of life and the government’s interest in the quality of people’s lives is very inspiring. That is philanthropy to me. Here, the government understands that the problem of the people is the problem of the government. This is very admirable, especially when you compare the pandemic situation in other countries to the UAE.
In terms of work, I feel that I can realise all my dreams about art and philanthropy here. When others tell me that it is only possible because I live in a petrol-rich country, I give them the example of Venezuela to prove them wrong. The UAE government also inspires its people, giving them an opportunity to make use of their talents.
What’s the story behind the name MIA?
Mia is a Spanish name. Initially, I did not have a name for my foundation. Later, when I started collecting pieces of art, I had to have a name for my organisation. A name that was short, simple, and one that people could remember. The ‘M’ in ‘MIA’ is for ‘Mujer’ in Spanish that translates to woman. If you invert the ‘W’ it becomes ‘M’. ‘I’ and ‘A’ stand for International Art, making it Mujer International Art (MIA).
When I was deciding the name, I wanted it to have a personality of a woman which is why I chose Mia. It is a beautiful name, like Aisha. It has a complete female personality.
How do you plan on expanding MIA Art Collection?
Now, MIA has approximately over 900 pieces of art from different countries. I also have five artists from UAE. Now that I live here in Dubai, it is a great opportunity for me because I want more Emirati artists. My plan for the next two years is to collect more art from Emirati artists.
My idea is to create a platform for Emirati artists where they can showcase their art globally. I want to help put their work in big exhibitions across the world. This is a big step for Emirati artists and I think it’s fantastic.
After UAE, I will explore opportunities in countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, and many more.
What are your views on Dubai as an emerging global art destination?
I think Dubai needs more support for art. Abu Dhabi has the Louvre Museum and the Guggenheim. I feel Dubai should invest a little more in art, but in good art. Of course, it is a tourist city, and given its construction history, it needs more historical art museums. If there’s one thing Dubai needs, it is more museums on historical art.
Why, according to you, is art so imperative for a progressive society?
Art represents the history of humanity. Art is a reflection of what has happened in humanity. Through art, you can see history, the good, and the bad. When individuals understand history, they can take better decisions. Through art, we have information and that can help us make better decisions as a society. That is the role of art galleries and exhibitions.