Dubai is the best place to discover new artists and artworks, says UAE-based art collector

Also an interior designer, Mana Jalalian talks about how the city brings people together to cherish and appreciate all things artistic, from furniture to fashion to fine art


Somya Mehta

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Published: Thu 9 Mar 2023, 5:25 PM

Driving through the lush green neighbourhood of Al Barari, one can already feel a different energy in the air. Surrounded by whistling trees, we enter the building where we’re scheduled to meet the avid art collector of Iranian and Contemporary art, Mana Jalalian. And while we’re aware of her occupation, what we were not anticipating was to enter a space where art comes to life.

Jalalian’s Dubai residence oozes artworks of all kinds, from all corners. Whether it’s lifesize paintings from celebrated Middle Eastern artists hanging elegantly on the quaint walls, the details on her plant pots and flower vases, or a unique juxtaposition of artefacts and sculptures, Jalalian makes sure there’s beauty in every area of her Dubai residence.

It’s evident that the Iranian art collector sees all aspects of putting a home together as an opportunity to exercise creative freedom, including curating a collection of furniture that does more than just what its functionalities demand.

Jalalian, who has been collecting art for the last 15 years, is also an interior designer by profession. “I grew up in a family that admires art. My uncle was an architect, I was always fascinated by his designs,” says Jalalian, adding that it led her to “naturally opt for studying art history and interior design at university”.

So, being surrounded by all the lovely artworks is as important for her as having furniture in her house, says Jalalian. “For me, art is part of life. As we need a chair and a sofa in our house, I also need to have my paintings and sculptures,” she adds.

A lot of the furniture pieces in her home are pieces from the famous French brand, Moissonnier. “From 1885, they’ve been creating exquisite fine furniture for private homes and luxury hotels,” says Jalalian, who’s all set to bring the French label to Dubai later this year.

While it seems like every piece at the art collector’s home is exactly where it needs to be, designing the space was not an easy process, she adds. “Designing a home is a way to express my creativity. You can see that a lot of the paintings and sculptures are part of the aesthetic here. Art adds soul to the house,” says Jalalian.

“It’s hard to point out what exactly was my inspiration because it’s an amalgamation of so many different things. Each year, we go with the trend of that year, the colours, the styles. As an interior designer, I go with my instinct when I see the space. I keep changing things around according to what fits best at a particular time,” she adds.

So, what according to the art collector is the trend of the year when it comes to home decor? “We have to wait for the Milan fair to happen. It is the biggest furniture show in the world that happens every year around April. All of the furniture trends and colours come from that fair,” says Jalalian.

Sharing some of her early experiences, the art collector adds, “There was a poet called ​​Sohrab Sepehri in Iran. I was really fascinated by his poetry growing up. I also collected one of the pieces related to him and I was so happy to have his energy in my house.”

Iranian modern and contemporary art has not only played a pivotal role within the Middle Eastern art landscape, but also the global art scene, mentions Jalalian. “There’s a huge market of Iranian art in the UAE and the Middle East. There’s also a huge market of Middle Eastern artists in the UAE,” she adds.

“I used to always come to Dubai for Art Dubai and Christie’s, checking out different galleries. Dubai is one of the best hubs for finding art and discovering new artists from around the world,” says Jalalian.

“It’s incredible to see that initiatives like Art Dubai have gathered so many artists from all around, in the same city. That’s the ultimate goal of art and Dubai beautifully enables that,” says the art collector.

The art collector recently held a year-long exhibition in partnership with the prominent Leila Heller Gallery, in which she showcased more than 50 unique artworks from her private collection. “I work with various artists and curators,” says Jalalian, who was honouring Leila Heller at a large yet private gathering held at her residence.

Leila Heller has been a global pioneer in starting a discourse between Western, Middle Eastern and South Asian artists. “She has one of the largest galleries in the Middle East and also New York. I hosted this dinner tonight gathering artists and curators from all across to honour Leila for her enormous contributions to the art scene,” says the art collector.

“I’m also celebrating my very dear friend Alejandra Castro Rioseco, founder of MIA Art Collection. She’s one of the biggest female art collectors in the world, collecting works of female artists only. She’s holding the MIA Art Collection Exhibition at Canadian University Dubai from March 8-11, in which some of my artworks will be showcased as well,” Jalalian signs off.

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