Founding Director Carbon 12 Dubai
Where does your interest in art originate?
This goes back to childhood… first art books, museum visits. Then more clearly the “conscious” discovery of art, again in museum shows, until I started collecting in my twenties (back in the 90’s). From a hobby/interest to a passion to a profession, that was the path.
How would you describe the program and vision of your gallery?
Simply put, we (my partner Nadine and I) wanted to put together a group of artists with each a solid practice as a reference for art without geographic restrictions and accessible without any cultural hurdles/barrier. Naturally, these artists (Butzer, Cortesão, Breuning, Ghazel) with their practise going back to the 90’s become the reference for the “homegrown” artists of the gallery - some of whom, take Sara Rahbar and Anahita Razmi, for instance, have reached their current levels of exposure and critical acclaim - and some others following this path successfully, such as the brilliant Austrian painter Bernhard Buhmann, or younger artists like Philip Mueller, Amba Sayal-Bennett and Monika Grabuschnigg.
Is it more common for you to search for artists or do they approach you? What specifically would entice you to display their work in your gallery?
We search for artists, and we equally know the approaches we are looking for. Of course, an important part of our profession is to keep an open eye… so when we come across an artist we didn’t know about, we gather as much information as possible and try to see as many works of that artist as possible. Sometimes this leads to a collaboration (maybe later even representation), and sometimes it stays at an information level.
Where do you think the future of the art market is headed?
That’s my favourite questions…LOL. After consulting my crystal ball, I would say, and hope, into putting up quality exhibitions… isn’t this one of the main purposes of a contemporary art gallery? Representing the roster of the gallery the best possible way, via quality exhibitions, and exposing them to the most relevant curators/institutions/collectors under the best financial conditions (for everyone).
How would you describe the contemporary art scene in the UAE?
The art scene is growing amazingly… the quality of our shows and those of our colleagues is getting better and better. The programs are so diverse and for an art enthusiast it’s an amazing platform. We and our colleagues take all the time necessary to engage our visitors and it’s a true opportunity for the community to have access to all these relevant artists’ works… I wish I had access to that when I started collecting in the 90’s!
Has social media had any impact upon the art market?
In terms of numbers, I won’t be able to say, but definitely in exposure, yes. It’s a “product” of our time, and so far with very little investment (timewise) once an image is on instagram, the reach of it could have a positive outcome for the gallery or the artist. However, for serious matters, it’s definitely not a substitute for those more traditional approaches such as personal viewings, gallery/museum tours, reading after viewings, etc… Currently, with Facebook becoming almost “Obsolete”, there is the need for a new and slightly more sophisticated platform in terms of content, since Instagram is more of an image/video oriented media.
Does PR play an important role in an artist’s career?
Yes, though it really depends on the type of PR. When it’s done by an art professional, artists and gallerists can benefit greatly. It is important to recognize the content of an artist’s work in consideration of those that are purely PR-driven…
How do you feel about the excessive prices paid for works nowadays?
I think this concerns mainly the blue chip and top tier, and/or in emerging markets that are more isolated or have a low international reference… and yes, I don’t see any rationale behind living artists selling over half a million USD for, let’s say, a painting! I believe the price for emerging art can still be very reasonable. We have to bear in mind that artists have dedicated years and years of hard work and hardship in order to reach a certain price level, together with their galleries… in that light, it’s hard to put a low price on the works of a mid-career artist today, especially one who’s been working relentlessly since the 90’s… so yes, prices can sometimes sound high, but often when there is a rationale behind them, and things are analyzed in their context, prices then appear fair.
What is your opinion on the art fair boom that has taken hold in recent years?
That is one of the disasters of our times; the boom is only creating 9 to 5 jobs for a small select group of people, LOL. I don’t even think it’s a good business model for fair owners… it’s almost, to a point, becoming a laughing matter. I want to be very clear on this; as long as there is a zero accountability in part of any industry the ramifications become disastrous. At this stage the majority of art fairs have taken this approach.
Way too many art fairs around!!! And on top of that, in the most irrelevant times of the year, making the worst calendar clashes… this is not good.
On the other hand, you have an alliance like NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance), where a healthy eco-system is created in a professional atmosphere via two fairs in New York and Miami twice a year. It’s a wonderful platform for galleries to promote their artists, and meet relevant people in the best times of the year.
Which emerging artists should we be keeping a look out for in 2018?
Philip Mueller and Amir Khojateh (Art Dubai and NADA New York), without forgetting the brilliant Amba Sayal-Bennett, and Monika Grabuschnigg’s first solo show at Carbon 12 in May 2018.
What are your top 5 must-see art events or exhibitions of 2018?
Sara Rahbar’s solo show at Dallas Contemporary in April 2018. Anahita Razmi’s solo at Kunstraum Innsbruck in May. Surface/Depth- The decorative after Miriam Shapiro at the MAD Mueseum in NY. Art Dubai’s 2018 edition in March, and Finally Carbon 12’s 10th anniversary exhibition in November with artist extraordinaire Anahita Razmi.
What advice might you give to aspiring collectors?
"Buy with your eyes and not with your ears”, and spend time in exhibitions…
Are there any projects you are currently working on and able to speak about?
Definitely one major publication for 2018/2019, and for Carbon 12’s 10th anniversary in November 2018, Anahita Razmi’s solo show.