x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Adding to a collection can be an art in itself

The Life: Mishal Kanoo discovers that there is more than meets the eye to crafting an art collection.

Mishal Kanoo has a passion for art. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Mishal Kanoo has a passion for art. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Mishal Kanoo is deputy chairman of the Kanoo Group, a collection of Gulf companies with interests across a diverse range of industries. But his biggest passion is his art collection, which adorns the walls of his home and office.

When did you first discover your passion for art?

I'm not sure it's a discovery per say but rather a gradual learning process. I guess I would say it started with my mother. She used to like buying porcelain pieces by Lladro and when I was a child it would annoy me no end because I was not allowed to touch them. My first instinct was to try and break them. It also has to do with my uncle. He was, for me as a child, a person who taught me the right way of being a collector. A lot of people collect for the sake of it, without understanding what they're collecting. My uncle would research prior to buying. I just picked up that bug.

When did you become a collector?

I bought my first piece in the early 1990s. It was a small painting, nothing significant. It was just because it attracted me. For me, collecting art is literally about acquiring something aesthetically appealing.

Do you consider your collection an investment as well?

A lot of people buy art for investment purposes, but I don't really care for that. The art world is fickle and subsequently there is no intrinsic value in art. Why would I pay for a Damien Hirst the same amount I would pay for a beautiful work by Degas, Monet or if I wanted to really go back a Raphael or Botticelli? Their value will be about the same but one is historic and actually very pleasing to look at and the other is probably just because someone properly marketed it. In 100 years from now will it still be worth that? If you collect to invest, it becomes a commodity and I'm not interested in buying commodities.

What's the focus of your collection?

I don't have a focus. It is literally whether it appeals to my eye. I have a very eclectic collection. I have paintings from [Rene] Gruau, the French designer for Dior, all the way to JW Waterhouse to Sir William Russell Flint to Arabic artists of the likes of Dia Azzawi and Abdullah al Muharraqi.

How many pieces do you own?

I seriously have no idea.

The walls of your office are covered in artworks - is it ever a talking point during business meetings?

The one that really seems to get everyone's attention is the Che Guevara and most people look at it and think of the cigar. I don't. Che Guevara for me is a symbol of a rebel against authority and that appeals to me.

What's your bigger interest, art or business?

I have to make money to buy my art. I would be very sad if I couldn't afford to buy the things that appeal to me.

* Gillian Duncan