Creative Pursuits: Kourosh Nouri, Founding Director, Carbon 12 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 scene has grown unbelievably in the past 10 years. I don’t believe there are regional models, but that there are individual models. What’s amazing about the UAE/Dubai top six galleries is that each has its own style/program, and the way they approach the market. From our side, at Carbon 12, celebrating our decade of presence in the region and our 65th exhibition in November 2018 shows that our model has always been a program without any compromise, and based exclusively on the work of our represented artists. For those who follow what we do, the achievements of our artists and their track record in the past years have been significant. The focus was always the quality of the work, the consistency and artistic development, and international relevance. From there, it’s hard to say what’s viable and more sustainable. We are privileged to exhibit what we find excellent, without premarketing calculations, and we have so far survived.”
From a commercial point of view, what is the biggest mistake you see emerging artists make when approaching you?
“Simply put, an artist's consistency and artistic development into a relevant body of work is what makes her/him attractive not only to the gallery, but also to collectors, institutions, and critics. One big mistake I have often seen in the past decade is that many artists approach galleries without really measuring the whole context. If you are a 21-year-old artist with 11 artworks in your “portfolio,” it would be too early to contact an established gallery.
Instead keep on working, visit the galleries, be aware of what’s going on in the art world (and not only in the region), and let people know you are an inspiring artist. Knowledge of what’s going on in the contemporary art scene is a vital task for any artist. It still shocks me to read emails of “artists” living in Dubai contacting you for an exhibition, and this person wasn’t once in your gallery seeing any exhibitions! Being an artist is a total professional commitment. It will take years, and the same way the works have to be produced professionally, the same way the artist needs to have an impeccable professional profile.”
THE HOW-TO: KOUROSH NOURI'S TIPS ON RUNNING A COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL ART GALLERY
"Be genuine, stick to your guns, and keep in mind that the art industry is a serious industry, and without professionalism, there is no place for hobby players. The rest is knowledge and expertise, hard work, and flair."