Portrait of Shohidul Ahad-Choudhury. Photo by Jacqueline Sofia. Courtesy Shohidul Ahad-Choudhury.

May 13 2016

From Passion to Obsession in Dubai and Beyond

by Larry’s List

Shohidul Ahad-Choudhury sees art as “a beautiful window to creativity.” Having a Bengali heritage and witnessing the thriving art scene in Dubai where he now resides in, he feels the mission to support emerging artists from both the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East. As his collection has been growing since six years ago, Shohidul Ahad-Choudhury starts to focus on curating his collection while he continues travelling around the globe to explore the art world.


What made you want to start collecting art? What is the main motivation behind your collecting?

I have always been interested in art.  However, my passion for collecting really started when I moved to Dubai in 2008.  Dubai is a young city; it’s dynamic and has a real buzz.  The art scene then was just growing and had this vibe, which attracted me – both the art I was seeing and also its scene as a whole. In fact, I purchased my first piece of art from Art Dubai in 2010 as advised by a close friend who is a Middle Eastern art specialist. When I first started, I really did not have any real motivation or overall goal for my collection. However, over the past 3-5 years, as the collection has grown, I’m really doing it for my family and friends to enjoy, but also to support the emerging artists from the region I live in – I see it almost like a duty now. I’m also the first generation from my family to be a collector, so I suppose I am doing it to build a legacy.

When did you fall in love with a piece of art? What was it?

During Art Dubai this year, I purchased a ceramic and wood vase by Sudarshan Shetty, which is simply beautiful and really speaks to me.  It feels like the artwork has found me instead of me looking for it.

Are you more interested in emerging or renowned artists for your collection? Is there any particular type of art that has consistently attracted you or that unites your collection?

I collect both emerging and renowned artists. It is important for me to relate to the artist, and that how their works reflect me as a person. Being a financier, I am very mathematical and drawn towards works of geometry and art which questions the everyday norms.  If you visit one’s home and you look around at the art, you can have a glimpse of the mind and the character of the collector.

What was the first artwork you purchased? How many artworks do you own?

My first purchase was a large canvas by a Brazilian artist called Nelson Wilbert. Over the past 6 years, I have collected over 70 works.

Umberto Ciceri’s Peace Demonstration, a portrait painting by Arzu Akgun and a vase by Sudarshan Shetty. Photo by Jacqueline Sofia. Courtesy Shohidul Ahad-Choudhury.
Umberto Ciceri’s Peace Demonstration, a portrait painting by Arzu Akgun and a vase by Sudarshan Shetty. Photo by Jacqueline Sofia. Courtesy Shohidul Ahad-Choudhury.

Where do you display your collection?

Most of my art collection is displayed at my home in Dubai, with some at my family home in the UK.

Have you ever presented your art collection publicly?

I have opened my collection for private viewings, which I really enjoyed.  I am a member of the Art Salon, which is a small group of art collectors assembled by Art Dubai. The members regularly host events at their homes and discuss developments in the regional art scene.

What considerations guide you to make a purchase?

Before anything else, the work needs to speak to me. Lately, I have really been focusing on curating my collection, so any new piece needs to have a place in my collection and be complimentary. I am not in a rush to amass a large collection, so I am very selective of the pieces I acquire. For new or emerging artists, I want to be sure about their passion and practices. Ultimately, acquiring a piece of art is an investment, so I need to assess it financially from day one and have a long-term view on its value too – not necessarily with the idea of selling it at all, but rather for myself.

How important is it for you to meet the artists who created the artworks?

It is important for me – I like meeting the artists to understand their works, commitment, vision and their motivation to produce art. I do believe that going to art fairs, gallery openings and artist studios is essential.

Siamak Zomorrdi-e Motlach, Came to me in my dream, in the cinema room. Photo by Jacqueline Sofia. Courtesy Shohidul Ahad-Choudhury.

The Art World

Who inspires you in the art world?

Not anyone in particular.  It is the vision of the artists that inspires me.

Why has art become important in your life? Is it a passion or an obsession or both?

It’s a bit of both, but I admit that lately it might have become more of an obsession. For me, it provides an escape from the daily life and the rat race. I feel that it is a beautiful window to creativity.

Can you name (three) emerging artists who should be on our radar in 2016?

After being at a few art fairs already this year, I would say look out for Ayesha Sultana, Rana Begum and Christine Sun Kim.

What do you think about the art scene in Dubai and its potential?

Over the past 10 years, the Dubai art scene has come a long way.  I have seen it grow dramatically. Art Dubai has been crucial in the growth of the scene. The fair has been hugely successful in cultivating emerging galleries as well as bringing more established ones to Dubai, which makes our life as collectors easier. Alserkal Avenue has been another force in the development of the scene. Alserkal has a yearly program and creates a permanent place for us to go and cultivate ourselves; until the museums open, they really act as educators for all public. So it is important that more people in the city know that it exists here. Having travelled all over the world for art, I feel that Dubai has a strong art scene with a flourishing ecosystem. 

Yasmin Jahan Nupur, An Ancient Cloud After The Sun Eclipse. Photo by Jacqueline Sofia. Courtesy Shohidul Ahad-Choudhury.

Art Fairs

You attended a forum at the India Art Fair as a speaker earlier this year. How was the experience?

It was my first time visiting India Art Fair, and I was impressed – a great set of local and international galleries, with a solid program of events for collectors.  I will definitely go back next year.

Did you go to Art Dubai this year? Anything impressive or interesting to share?

I attend Art Dubai every year, another impressive fair where I made some significant purchases. For me, Art Dubai is home. Apart from the fair, the events program is impressive, and I make many new connections and friends every year.

Around how many art fairs do you attend each year? What other fairs do you plan to visit in 2016?

I attend 4-5 art fairs every year, eg. Art Dubai, India Art Fair, Frieze London, Art International Istanbul.  I will be visiting Art Brussels, Frieze London and Art International Istanbul later this year.

What do you think about the explosion of art fairs around the world in the point of view of a collector?

Obviously, I have to pick and choose which fairs to attend. But for me as a collector, it just helps open up more avenues for me to explore the art world.

Sahand Hesamiyan, Gonbade Kabood. Photo by Jacqueline Sofia. Courtesy Shohidul Ahad-Choudhury.
Sahand Hesamiyan, Gonbade Kabood. Photo by Jacqueline Sofia. Courtesy Shohidul Ahad-Choudhury.