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Curator Elias Dawli talks art and community

words by: Natasha Marsh
Mar 19, 2020

It seems like everyone is a “creative” these days. But with Instagram it’s hard to tell whose creating for likes and whose creating out of passion. 

ULTRA spoke with Elias Dawli, an art dealer and curator in the Lower East Side and co-founder of the UUU Art Collective. 

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The following is an edited transcript.

When did your relationship with art start?

My mom studied art history so when I was little I’d go to galleries with her. She would tell me about all the different pieces and styles, and I was hooked. I got a video camera when I was young and my friends and I would make tons of short films. We did a lot of skating films which eventually led me to study film at university. I’d say my relationship with art is one of give and take. I try to produce more than I consume. 

 

What inspired you to start UUU Art Collective?

UUU started in college, in 2013 by a couple friends and I. We started throwing art parties where kids would come together and show their art. We never capped the type of art we accepted and now have a real gallery showcasing emerging artists who we think are dope. One time we even did a barbershop show. Barbers came in and cut hair during the show with contemporary paintings hanging on the walls. We aren’t trying to be another stuffy Chelsea gallery. We want people to feel welcome. We want to take risks and we want people to feel like they can engage with us. 

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So your role with UUU is art dealer and curator – correct?

Yes. I find the venues and think of themes for our shows. Normally after I meditate, I get an idea or a mantra in my head. Off all the ideas and mantras only a few live and breathe longer. These, I’ll write a lot about and explore, and some become part of the statement for the show. Then I’ll find pieces or artists that explore that theme well and it becomes the show. 

 

“We want to take risks. We want people to engage with us.”

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What is your favorite part of art dealing?

I love installing a painting in the buyer’s home. The entire ritual — of putting on gloves, measuring their walls, and finding a good place to hang it. Seeing the excitement in their eyes while they explain why they bought it. I also love picking up the art from the artists’ studio before delivering, and having a convo with them about the piece in depth and the story behind the piece.

 

When I attended your last show, I was so impressed with the different types of art and people that were there. As the curator, what takeaways do you hope guests will have? 

My hope is they will feel inclined to go home and make some art. I’d like them to feel included, to be part of the vibe. Even greater, I want them to love art and know it’s inclusive. Guests should feel like they can own and buy art. 

 

 

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For more information on the UUU Art Collective, you can follow them on Instagram here.

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