Creative Pursuits: Leila Heller, Founder And President, Leila Heller Gallery
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MENA entrepreneurs share their insights on what it takes to build (and be a part of) the art gallery scene in the GCC.
What art gallery business model have you found most viable in the GCC region?
“The gallery scheme in the GCC is quite active and vibrant, especially in Dubai. The model that we have followed is a mix of Middle Eastern artists and Western artists, which seems to work for us. We have a very active Western program that has an educational component, including the publishing of our catalogues as well as having an active lecture series. Our model works quite well in the region as the collector base is educated and the market is growing, especially with all of the amazing foundations and institutions and the new Louvre Abu Dhabi.”
From a commercial point of view, what is the biggest mistake you see emerging artists make when approaching you?
“With the onset of the internet, the global population has become much more aware of artists from emerging markets. It is always about exposure and use of social media and publication of catalogues that can be distributed to museum libraries and university libraries to expand the market and exposure of the artist to a wider audience.
However, it is always much more complicated, because the artist has to fit in the gallery programming and have a synergy with the other artists that are shown in the gallery. Of course, not all artists are commercially viable, but can add to the cache of the gallery by bringing institutional interest and exposure to the gallery. All artists are unique in their own ways and have things that work for them and things that they need to work on, so it depends on the situation and the gallery. It is not necessarily a universal answer, which applies to any artist and any gallery.”
THE HOW-TO: LEILA HELLER'S TIPS ON RUNNING A COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL ART GALLERY
"The GCC audience is very burgeoning and quite actively interested in being exposed to very sophisticated artworks. They are quite knowledgeable, but indeed it would make sense to bring artworks that they can relate to. It is important to know your audience and anticipate their wishes and cater to them and bring them something exciting each time."