MOD MEETS

ART CLASS WITH ALIA AL-SENUSSI

Photography by Carla Guler • Fashion direction by Sally Matthews

Shirt by M.i.h Jeans. Skirt by Sandra Mansour

She serves on boards and committees with institutions such as Art Dubai, Serpentine and Guggenheim, represents Basel and Tate, is super likeable, educated, and has great taste in contemporary fashion. Did we mention she’s also Libyan royalty? The MOD gets to know the over-achieving and utterly charming Alia Al-Senussi in London

Words by Elle Timms

Alia Al-Senussi arrives at the Delfina Foundation in Mayfair – a residence and show space for young artists for which she is a member of the strategic advisory panel – on a cold, lightly snowy morning clutching a takeaway coffee cup, and introduces herself to every single person on The MOD’s shoot team. Chatter ensues regarding her recent trip to Brazil with a bunch of friends (everyone agrees there’s nowhere better on Earth for meat-eaters, or worse for Wi-Fi connection). She is funny with no showiness, laughing with a warm American accent. The definition of affable, we decide.

Carving an impressive career in the art industry by skilfully networking, managing galleries, nurturing artists and fundraising her way to noteworthy status with the most important institutions, Alia, in her mid-thirties, is a polished powerhouse of knowledge and class. Growing up first in Cairo and then California, and graduating from the East Coast’s Brown University before the London School of Economics with a masters in International Law, she’s a fiercely intelligent citizen of the world. The Libyan side of her family – of which Alia’s father, Idris Al-Senussi, is a younger cousin of the queen consort and later an opposition figure to Gadaffi’s regime – was deposed and forced into exile more than 20 years before she was born. It’s a background full of rich heritage that, when matched with energy levels to make Beyoncé envious, has bequeathed a level of balanced expertise in the bridging of Western and Middle Eastern culture, pinpointed to art. Although she doesn’t describe herself as a collector, per se

Discussion with Alia swiftly moves from how she has gathered pieces of art that represent moments in time and experiences with artists, as opposed to being limited to a genre or visual reference, into the concept of small moments being a tool to affect change in light of the political climate post-2016. “It’s by the minutiae, the small everyday things that we can alter to make a difference.” The conversation is dizzyingly creative and intellectual all at once.

A memorable momentary space in time presents itself downstairs in the Delfina Foundation’s basement during our shoot. Snow is gently falling outside – a dusting visible through a floor-to-ceiling corner window providing a rare perfect natural light. Alia is in Sandra Mansour’s voluminous floor-skimming jacquard skirt (pictured above), takes a tiptoe spin and muses, “This feels really special, it feels like home,” and somehow it’s magic and devoid of airs and graces, despite on paper sounding like some kind of Disney reference. The building is genuinely close to her heart, with this particular room, empty today but otherwise serving as a showcase for resident artists, is also a place where the Delfina team congregate for family-style brunches. “It’s super casual, you should all come to one next time you’re in town!” She tells The MOD.

When it comes to her own style, Alia opts for a certain kind of modern modesty, “I want to appear professional on, say, the opening day of Art Basel.” She pauses for a second, “But I also want to look really cool.” It’s the structure of a garment that attracts her, and she speaks with articulate passion on the topic of how expressing yourself via both art and fashion shouldn’t be viewed as superficial, and certainly not trivial in any way. “The last thing I want is for people to consider the arts frivolous.”

We move on to fashion perceptions. “Some people probably wouldn’t describe me as a typical modest dresser but to me, it’s a type of modest. I want to wear things that are interesting and comfortable. I definitely can’t do heels at an art fair!” She laughs, slicing through seriousness with humour, “It’s about how you want to project yourself. About how you want people to see you in that moment of time. That’s what’s empowering.”

Jacket by Adam Lippes

 

 

Style is how you want to project yourself. About how you want people to see you in that moment of time. That’s what’s empowering…

alia-al-senussi-modest-fashion-mih-sandra-mansour

Shirt by M.i.h Jeans. Skirt by Sandra Mansour

alia-al-senussi-modest-fashion-adam-lippes

Jacket by Adam Lippes

alia-al-senussi-modest-fashion-monica sordo

Necklace by Monica Sordo

alia-al-senussi-modest-fashion-sandra-mansour-monica-sordo

Jacket by Sandra Mansour. Cuff by Monica Sordo

Jacket by Rachel Comey

It’s an attitude she will no doubt put into play this week for the 11th edition of Art Dubai, a platform which Alia has represented since the start. “For me, and for many people in the art world, it’s the roll out, it’s the beginning [of the circuit]. It’s so much more than a fair, it’s a coming together of different global parts, eco-systems, and it’s a way for the Middle East to show what it’s got to the world.” A statement which could also be an accurate description of her own life and career.

It’s the accomplishments of people that interests me

In bringing up Maria Balshaw’s recent appointment as Tate director making headlines due to her being the first woman to hold the position, plus Myrna Ayad leading Art Dubai, the Sharjah Biennial – curated by Christine Tohme – and Sharjah Art Foundation President, Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, there’s a common thread unraveling. Alia lights up and interjects that the latter is a woman who, to her, “…Is truly exciting because she just shows up. She’s so consistent. It’s impressive.”

“Women rising into positions of power in the arts is incredibly important, everywhere.” Alia continues, and is visibly irritated by the idea of negativity towards intellectual females, leaving us on the note, “I mean, obviously I want my director to be smarter than me, women rising in the arts needs to be put aside, it’s the accomplishments of people that interests me.”

Inspiring, adept, all about equality and on a mission to connect the world culturally – that’s a princess we’d happily grab a coffee with anytime.


You may also like