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MIA Art Collection boosts gender equality in art

A general view from the annual MIA Art Collection Gala & Awards in Dubai.
  • The MIA Art Collection aims to bridge the gap between the art scene and the business sector, empowering women artists, its founder Alejandra Castro Rioseco tells TRENDS.
  • Despite focusing on traditional art forms like "Lavinia" exhibition, the initiative is open to promote digital and performance art to support female artists' visibility, she adds.

DUBAI — The MIA Art Collection is a transformative force in the art world. Established with a commitment to promoting female artists and advancing gender equality, this organization, under the leadership of Alejandra Castro Rioseco, has been creating ripples for the last 15 years. This year’s MIA Art Collection Gala & Awards, hosted in Dubai during International Women’s Day, serves as a powerful emblem of the group’s mission.

This interview delves into the essence of the MIA Art Collection, exploring its origins, the recent “Lavinia” exhibition, and its vision for the future. We uncover Rioseco’s motivations behind establishing the collection as a response to the underrepresentation of female artists. Dubai’s reputation for embracing innovation is underscored as a pivotal reason for the MIA Art Collection’s decision to call the city its home.

The annual International Women’s Day gala transcends a mere celebration; it’s a profound declaration. By honoring the accomplishments of women in art, both established and emerging, the MIA Art Collection emphasizes the critical importance of gender equality within the art domain and beyond. The interview sheds light on the Gala’s effect not only in heightening awareness but also in motivating others to support female artists and championing philanthropy as a vehicle for fostering a more equitable society.

The MIA Art Collection Gala & Awards stands out as a distinctive event. The guest list comprises a meticulously selected mix of influential figures from various backgrounds, creating an engaging and global ambiance. This international approach mirrors the MIA Art Collection’s dedication to celebrating art without boundaries. The 2024 exhibition, “Lavinia,” displayed the pioneering work of the 16th-century artist Lavinia Fontana. Fontana’s narrative, as a woman overcoming obstacles to gain artistic acclaim, serves as a potent motivation for aspiring female artists today.

Also Read Women key focus of Dubai’s MIA ART Collection gala

Looking ahead, Rioseco shares her aspirations for the MIA Art Collection. The aim is to cement the Gala’s status as a leading event in Dubai, offering a venue for reflection, networking, and appreciation of the arts. At its core, the MIA Art Collection’s mission continues to be about opening new avenues for the female artists who constitute the organization’s heart and soul.

The interview further examines how the MIA Art Collection narrows the divide between the art scene and the business sector. The Gala provides an opportunity for corporations to engage with others who are committed to social responsibility and supporting women in the arts.

While the “Lavinia” exhibition showcased traditional art forms, the MIA Art Collection remains enthusiastic about exploring innovative paths. The organization recognizes the burgeoning field of digital art but remains steadfast in its primary mission to promote female artists, irrespective of the mediums they prefer. A significant emphasis on supporting Arab women artists stands out as a central theme. The MIA Art Collection actively backs artists globally, with a pronounced focus on Arab talent. The interview rounds off with empowering advice for aspiring Arab women artists, urging them to persist, embrace global perspectives, and have faith in their abilities.

This glimpse into the MIA Art Collection unveils a fervent entity committed to bolstering women artists and forging a more just art world.


Q: Can you tell us about the mission and history of the MIA Art Collection?

A: The genesis of the MIA Art Collection was rooted in promoting and enhancing the visibility of women artists, aiming to diminish the disparity between men and women in the art world. This narrative has evolved into our mission. For the past 15 years, this commitment has been commemorated at the annual MIA ART Collection Gala & Awards earlier this month in Dubai.

The MIA Art Collection, under Alejandra Castro Rioseco, celebrates 15 years of promoting female artists and gender equality.

Q: Why did you establish the MIA ART collection? And what significance does it hold in Dubai?

A: I am the founder and visionary behind the MIA ART Collection, encompassing both the collection itself and the foundation of my art collection. Dubai’s leadership has repeatedly been at the forefront, often being the first to initiate actions that result in genuine visibility and progress. In this context, Dubai is home to the MIA ART Collection and part of the world’s most extensive collection of exclusive works by women artists. It serves as the venue for exhibitions, discussions, and numerous other initiatives. Dubai excels through innovation in various arenas, and the MIA ART Collection is a prime example of this.

Q: What does celebrating the MIA Gala and Awards Ceremony on International Women’s Day signify?

A: For us, it’s crucial to annually celebrate and acknowledge the efforts we dedicate to our work. We recognize the importance of honoring women who perform outstandingly, whether in the institutional or private sector, efforts that foster the inclusion and participation of women in the art world. Hence, it’s vital for us to keep infusing International Women’s Day with significance and vitality.

This day holds immense significance for the ongoing evolution of women globally, serving as a reminder of how recently women have become active participants in society and the substantial progress made towards gender equality in recent years.

It may seem astonishing, but we must remember that it has only been half a century since women gained the right to vote and study at some of the world’s leading universities. These milestones underscore the importance of supporting and emphasizing the significance of this day. As I often say, changing the role of women will change the world!

Q: How does the event contribute to the art world and philanthropic causes?

A: On one hand, the activities organized by the MIA Art Collection that aim to underscore the role of women globally serve as a significant contributor; as you may know, visibility helps to bring societal challenges and issues to light, acting as a catalyst and inspiration for many other organizations. On the other hand, it’s crucial to educate people about the role of philanthropy in the world and to show that philanthropy can be practiced through small acts, thereby contributing to a more equitable society. This is especially important in today’s profoundly troubled society.

The genesis of the MIA Art Collection was rooted in promoting and enhancing the visibility of women artists, aiming to diminish the disparity between men and women in the art world.

Alejandra Castro Rioseco, MIA Art Collection founder

Q: What makes the guest list for the Gala & Awards unique, and how does it benefit attendees?

A: I believe what makes our Gala unique each year is the attention and dedication we invest in this event, including the selection of attendees from the social, intellectual, political, art, and cultural sectors, creating an intriguing mix. Similarly, we strive to blend nationalities and always aim to include international guests to elevate the event. This year, we hosted a remarkable array of distinguished guests from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Spain, Turkey, Italy, France, among others. Yes, multiculturalism is a fundamental aspect of our annual Gala & Award events. For the past three years, our partner has been the Bulgari Hotel, renowned worldwide for hosting high-luxury events.

Q: What is the inspiration behind the “Lavinia” exhibition theme?

A: Lavinia Fontana stands as a monumental female artist from the late 16th century, celebrated as the first woman recognized as a professional artist. Notably, she was the inaugural female artist to be commissioned by the Pope and the Vatican at the pinnacle of her career. Furthermore, she pioneered the inclusion of nudity in her artwork, was a mother to 11 children, and her list of talents and achievements that complemented her remarkable personality is extensive. For the MIA Art Collection, the harmony between personal and professional life is paramount, and figures like Lavinia serve as exemplary role models for us all.

“Lavinia” exhibition features the work of Lavinia Fontana, a 16th-century artist who overcame obstacles to gain artistic acclaim, inspiring female artists today.

Q: What does bringing Lavinia Fontana’s artwork to Dubai for the first time signify?

A: The MIA Art Collection is thrilled to be based in Dubai. We cherish our life here and view fostering engagement with the local culture as a duty. Therefore, we are eager to present the zenith of female artistic achievement to this region. The opportunity to exhibit 16th-century artwork for the very first time in an Arab country, especially in a public space as esteemed as the DIFC, is exhilarating. By showcasing this art in an accessible manner, we offer everyone the chance to appreciate and learn about art history in a truly remarkable way.

Q: What are your hopes and expectations for the overall impact of the 2024 MIA Art Collection event in Dubai?

A: Our aspirations post the MIA ART Collection Gala & Awards are invariably lofty, fueled by our commitment to excel, work passionately, and invest our utmost energy and dedication. This culminates in landmark moments, such as the annual MIA Gala, which, in 2021, set a new benchmark in Dubai. We have fostered a unique standard for the Gala, alongside trusted partners and collaborators, making it a premier event in and for Dubai. This exceptional venue for celebrating art also serves as a platform for reflection, networking, and engagement. Our ambition is for other organizations to recognize the success of this event and for it to spawn further opportunities for our female artists, who are the essence and soul of the MIA ART Collection.

Persist in your endeavors, never halt your efforts, and constantly aim for internationalization.

Alejandra Castro Rioseco, MIA Art Collection founder

Q: How does the MIA Art Collection bridge the gap between the art world and business communities through this event? Are there opportunities for business partnerships or collaborations?

A: Events like this present a significant opportunity for companies to network with peers who similarly prioritize social responsibility, through actionable efforts rather than mere discussion. The Gala offers a platform for companies to align themselves with a cause and brand as esteemed as the MIA Art Collection, fostering potential partnerships and collaborations.

Q: While the Lavinia exhibition showcases traditional art forms, does the MIA Art Collection also support and promote other forms of artistic expression, such as digital or performance art?

A: My engagement with culture and the arts has been diverse, spanning different countries and including music, dance, and other projects. We are always open to proposals that enrich the world of women and culture, welcoming a variety of artistic expressions.

Q: If so, how does the MIA Art Collection embrace new art forms while preserving the historical legacy of female artists?

A: Our aim is to host diverse exhibitions, which we achieved in this instance by combining historic artwork with contemporary artists. Whether we will adopt this mixed approach in future exhibitions remains to be seen; currently, our focus is on the Lavinia exhibition, aiming to approach each project with a distinct strategy. Nonetheless, the idea to blend the historical with the contemporary, initiated by our MIA Art Collection team, has proven to be a resounding success.

Q: How does the MIA Art Collection perceive the potential of digital art in promoting the work of women artists?

A: At the MIA Art Collection, we deem the visibility of female artists in all forms to be of utmost importance. Our primary goal remains the visibility of women artists over the medium of their work. Although currently, our involvement in digital art is not extensive, we have purchased and supported works by digital artists, especially those from this region, like Magda Malkoun. We view digital art as a rapidly expanding field, which we are observing attentively and patiently.

The MIA Art Collection supports Arab women artists, with a pronounced focus on showcasing their work globally.

Q: While the Lavinia exhibition focuses on Italian artists, how does the MIA Art Collection support and promote the works of Arab women artists?

The MIA Art Collection champions women artists globally. Our website features various exhibitions showcasing artists from all over the world, including a significant representation of Arab artists. Notable examples include our exhibitions “SERENDIPITY” (2022), “FRAGILITY” (2023), and “What a Wonderful World” (2023), each featuring a substantial proportion of Arab talent. The MIA Art Collection proudly includes numerous Arab women artists in our collection, underscoring our commitment to supporting their work.

Q: What challenges might Arab women face when seeking a career in the art world? What advice would you give Arab women aspiring to pursue their dream in the art industry?

A: The most critical advice is to persist in your endeavors, never halt your efforts, and constantly aim for internationalization, exploring new horizons. It’s essential to challenge yourself, but above all, to believe in yourself. Engage in your work with heart, passion, and conviction. The change you seek will manifest, albeit sometimes quickly, other times slowly, or from unexpected directions. Yet, new opportunities will invariably present themselves. Therefore, it’s crucial to always remain open and receptive.