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Hala Khayats deck. Courtesy Hala Khayat.

The Art World at Home: Art Dubai Organizer Hala Khayat Is Planning Two Art Fairs at Once and Dancing With Her Partner on FaceTime

Last September, Hala Khayat, who formerly worked at Christie’s in its Modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art department, was named a regional director of Art Dubai, which finally opened its first in-person show after its 2020 edition was scuttled.

On the occasion of the fair, we caught up with Khayat about how she’s been spending time at home in the past year.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the current [in-person] edition of the Art Dubai 2021 art fair. It will be the first major art fair to take place after the first lockdown, almost one year ago. We’re simultaneously preparing for the 2022 edition of the fair.

Walk us through the when, where, and how of your approach to this project on a regular day.

I’m based between London and Dubai. My day has no set hours. In London it starts with an early walk with Pía, my white mini schnauzer. When I’m in Dubai, when weather permits, I always walk to the office, a three-mile walk.

My mornings set my state of mind and allow me to decide priorities and bring light to the pending answers I have from the previous day. I tend to be in limbo thinking and rethinking, so I need to activate different systems to get back to reality.

What is your favorite part of your house and why?

The deck of my living room enjoying the quietness of the adjoining St George’s Gardens in Bloomsbury.

Hala Khayats deck. Courtesy Hala Khayat.

Hala Khayats deck. Courtesy Hala Khayat.

What’s your favorite work of art in the house and why?

Elena del Rivero’s wedding present. My sister from another mother is a magnificent artist.

What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

When I FaceTime with my partner. We were rehearsing a Tik Tok performance inspired by Anne Imhof meets Madonna.

Are there any movies, music, podcasts, publications, or works of art that have made a big impact on you recently? 

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s exhibition at Tate Britain. It was fantastic to remember the importance of paintings. Michael Rakowitz’s exhibition at the Jameel Arts Center in Dubai was a great way to show how an artist can magically connect contemporary issues and pop culture with history.

I’ve been walking in London with my dog and discovering so many things that tend to be unnoticed: Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture on the facade of the John Lewis building, the Henry Moore facade on the Time Life Building on New Bond Street, and the sculptures by Sir Charles Wheeler at the Tower Hill Memorial. The pandemic has taught us that we take so many things for granted!

Are these any causes you support that you would like to share?

I’m particularly supportive of initiatives against bullying, especially shelters that provide a safe and secure environment for children that have been victims of bullying in their homes.

What’s going on in the kitchen these days? Any projects? And triumphs or tragedies?

Diet, diet, diet. No red meat, alcohol, deep-fried foods, and so on. I enjoy the luxury of fresh vegetables coming directly from a Mediterranean vegetable patch. And always fresh grilled fish. I am trying to age gracefully.

Hala Khayat is a big fan of fresh fish. Courtesy Hala Khayat.

Hala Khayat is a big fan of fresh fish. Courtesy Hala Khayat.

Which two fellow art-world people, living or dead, would you like to convene for dinner, and why?

Tom Burr, because he is one year older than me and every time I see a work by him, I shiver. I would invite him along with my grandmother. She was an art historian, the authority on Francisco de Zurbarán, a collector and a patron of the Prado Museum. She passed away when I was 17 and I miss conversations with her.

The past and the present would be a very exciting combination and totally surreal. My grandmother was also an amazing cook. She even learned Danish to understand a recipe.


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