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Updated: Mar 18, 2021

Originally published on Il Cartello on 21 marzo 2016

Artist Fadi Daoud aims to bridge diversity

Florence is a city known for its antiquity, one that has fostered consideration of arts and sciences well before any other. Many of the well-traveled side streets off the Duomo host spaces dedicated to the arts, but away from the areas that cater to our visitors, the people eager to pose with selfie-sticks upon the renaissance backdrop, there are a few really special spaces you can find.

Fadi Daoud Private Studio is one such place, tucked neatly away off via Sant’Egidio, where the view of the Duomo is clear and study-abroad students linger. There is an interesting exchange of ideas happening here, diverse thoughts that separate themselves from art shops filled with Florentine skylines and Tuscan landscapes. At this particular studio you will find students and established creators alike, from a variety of backgrounds, stewing over conceptual ideas about contemporary art with fresh outlooks.

Through the ambition and perhaps a bit of luck of one well-known Fadi Daoud – a Jordanian-born, internationally exhibited artist – the space is being transformed from a blank slate into something wondrous. The classically deep and narrow Florentine layout allows the titanium white walls to showcase artworks of many varieties. Additionally, it is perfectly suited to act as a private art studio, where he can practice his own rituals of whiskey drinking, loud music, and chain-smoking cigarettes, all while whisking his endless set of wide angled acrylic brushes across his large scale canvasses.

I had the great opportunity to talk closely with Fadi about his background, his ideas for the newly acquired space, and his plans for its future. Daoud was born in 1984, and started painting at a very young age. Originally from the small town of Fuheis, about 14 kilometers from Amman in Jordan, Fadi’s father began renovating abandoned homes and stores, exhibiting works in the Orthodox Christian community around 1991. Through these galleries, Fadi worked closely with internationally known artists from across the globe, experiencing the lifestyle of these visitors. By sharing his home and even his bed with artists and curators alike, the family was able to save space and finances for their growing business.

“We lived with the artists because it was our passion; my father, he had the passion to work as a foundation of art with the artists.” The foundation grew and began publishing books, creating films, hosting events with music, poetry and all types of work. The entire family became involved; his brothers began to practice within the arts as well.

Fadi’s first exhibition was at the tender age of twelve, his father’s belief in his work led to a great fostering of creativity. Living closely and growing up with established artists around gave him a special opportunity to learn in ways unlike anything you might find in academic programs dedicated to art.

“I was working with artists everyday, my canvas next to their canvas, I ask, they teach me. They teach me how to mix the colors in a different way, how to find the ideas. When an important artist sits with me and tells me what to do, it’s a different value to me than teachers in the school.”

Fadi began his career outside of Jordan beginning in 2006 – starting in Syria, he moved his practice to Lebanon, Egypt, United Emirates. Then around 2010 to Europe; his first visit to Berlin, and from there he exhibited in Budapest, Dortmund and participated in many group shows within the area.

He always had a dream to come and study art in Tuscany, but after high school his career was growing too quickly within Jordan to leave. When he had the chance to get his masters degree in Florence, he seized it, an opportunity to study as a more mature artist. “Florence is the history of art, and the spirit of the city is different than any place around. Actually, I hate big cities. I came from a village, countryside, I don’t like new buildings, I like to see the stone everywhere. The type of windows, the doors… Florence, it’s similar to my soul, more than Berlin or Paris or London, even Rome.”

Love and Music (2015), Acrylic on Canvas

When I asked Fadi about what he found as far as similarities and differences between his culture and the culture of Florence, he told me he did not want to talk about differences, he wanted to talk about people.

“This is a unique thing happening here. You can find people from all over the world. You meet people from South Africa to Norway, people from the far East to the far West. All the streets look the same, all the buildings the same, but when you go inside they are all different. This is what is nice about Florence. From the outside you see a touristic city, but when you go inside you can feel these people who are living in Florence, they study in Florence, they work in Florence – it’s different than big cities where you can’t organize people. Here people come for something, they come for a reason, and most of them come here for art.”

Fadi believes that this new studio space can be a tool for him, a way to interact with people through creative thought. “This pace was supposed to be a bag store. And because I have known the man who owns it, I have talked to him about art, about why art is important, why art gives people value in their life… He believed in what I told him. I told him I wanted to change this place into a studio for the arts. He doesn’t know anything about art, he doesn’t care about art and he said yes. ‘Why not, let’s try.’ He believed in art. That’s how I took the place, in order to make it a studio for me and then to run it as showcase space for artists, but also as an idea to spread.”

Inside Fadi’s studio

That’s how it became real. So far, the space has been a huge hit. Dadi has worked in unison with SACI, the graduate students there, and has collaborated with local musicians and spoken-word performers to utilize the space to its full potential as a cultural meeting point. “I think art makes people connect very easily, it is indeed a timeless language for all, it creates a bond among people who believe in what they are doing.”

Upcoming events include a Jordanian-themed evening, which will bring artists Daoud has worked with previously to show and perform on themes surrounding Jordanian landscape, fashion and culture on March 22nd.

You see, the interesting part about this place that differentiates it from the others nearby: Fadi doesn’t desire to keep his studio ‘private’, he doesn’t intend to use it only as a place of sale. Daoud wants to delve deeper into the true meanings of contemporary art through action – action that is specific to Florence, with a population containing many culturally diverse people at any given moment.

“It’s a studio for artists that you can do anything in. It’s a space for everybody, open for all ideas.”

Originally published on Il Cartello on 21 marzo 2016

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