My Morning Routine: Malak Shenouda, head of arts and events at AlDau Development
Malak Shenouda, head of art and events at AlDau Development’s ADD Art: Each week, My Morning Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Malak Shenouda, head of art and events at AlDau Development (LinkedIn). Edited excerpts from our conversation:
My name is Malak Shenouda, and I am a cultural producer / practitioner. I’m currently the Head of Art and Events at AlDau Development. I’ve recently established within the holding company an art subsidiary, ADD Art. My responsibility is to ensure that, through ongoing art-related initiatives, we add value through art to our properties, clients, company, local art scene, and community.
ADD Art came about because AlDau Chairman, Bassel Sami Saad, is a great admirer and supporter of art. He decided to take that interest to a more professional level and establish ADD Art, within the existing corporate structure of ALDAU Development. This is groundbreaking for the local art scene. Internationally, many big brands and banks have established art departments with the aim of playing an active role in the art scene, and offer their different facilities as a resource to artists. This is the first time in Egypt where a private entity doesn’t just support art through sponsoring an exhibition or buying an artwork. By establishing ADD Art, ALDAU Development is offering the numerous hotels and establishments it owns, to host artworks, artist retreats, exhibitions, cultural events, collaborative projects and more.
The worlds of art and hospitality are intersecting more and more. Worldwide, and recently in Egypt as well, restaurants and hotels have realized the huge importance that art plays in the creation of a successful guest experience. Our age is a very visual one that constantly seeks attractive moments and monuments to enjoy or post about. Mass-produced decorative items are being replaced by more valuable artworks by young or established artists. Iconic artworks are transforming the visual identity of the spaces as well as the brand image, and artists are having an ever-expanding platform to showcase their art after having been limited to white-cube gallery spaces for years.
I only joined ALDAU Development around 3 months ago so I look forward to growing here and establishing something solid that will truly have an impact on the company as well as the art-scene. I feel like the possibilities are endless when it comes to art and hospitality and I already have a couple of exciting projects in the pipeline.
I wake up and head directly to the office. Upon arrival I have my cup of coffee while I do some readings, including Enterprise and the Art newspaper. Once I’m all caught up on what’s happening in Egypt and the art world, I get on to my to-do list.
I start the day by reading the emails I received and prioritize them in order of urgency and importance, then do follow-ups on any pending things I have on my to do list. After that I might have internal meetings, or do calls headhunting for artists for upcoming projects, developing project proposals and pitches for the different hotels, finalizing any upcoming event logistics. It is important for us to have an on-going calendar that maintains consistency.
I went to a German school so organization is part of my DNA. The number of analog and digital to-do lists, reminders, and sheets that I keep to track the progress of my tasks is ridiculous. This is hard to adapt in an industry like art, that is very casual and informal, but over the years I’ve learned to adapt my system to that type of work. Even though it’s quite uncommon, I have found that artists do appreciate the organized and professional approach.
When you work in a field you love, and on projects that are very exciting for you, it’s very difficult to establish limits. After failing to do that for several years and being affected on a personal level, I now take a daily conscious decision to disconnect once I leave the office, and just write any thoughts that pop into my mind later, so that I can remember to deal with them the next day.
One of the constants in my day now is winding down and relaxing at the end of the day and doing something I enjoy — even for 15 minutes before the day ends to be able to face the next day with new energy. I also like to switch off by reading art books that include essays by scholars in the field, watching TV shows, attending exhibition openings or open-studios, and catching up with my family and friends.
I’ve recently come across a local bookstore that sells incredible art books. My favorite find is New Vision: Arab Contemporary Art in the 21st Century. I’ve been looking for it for a while because it is such an important resource that creates a proper framework and academic discourse for regional art, that I think everyone should read.
The best piece of advice I’ve received is as long as you do something you love, and you do your absolute best at it, it’s very unlikely that you will fail, regardless of any obstacles. Hard work and perseverance prevail.