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Commercializing Creativity: Marrying Creative Minds With Commercial Thinkers Young people with creative minds should feel quietly confident that their future can be bright- even if they're not so good at physics and algebra.

By Gregg Sedgwick

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We are prescribed, from a very young age, a system of learning which prioritizes mathematics, languages and sciences. Creativity, within such a rigid structure, is necessarily marginalized. As children and as young adults, the conventions of the educational curriculum teach us that creativity is at best a "nice to have," and at worst, a distraction from mainstream education. It's no wonder then that so many young people don't realize their creative potential, or even, in most cases, realize they have a creative talent. Not surprisingly, the commercial potential in creativity is frequently unfulfilled– students uninformed as to the outlets for innate abilities.

Some 40 years ago, I was one such victim of the traditional educational system. I was dragged and distracted through physics, algebra, and biology lessons with a sense of hopelessness and bewilderment. That I was "good at drawing and painting," but was given little or no attention. Needless to say, I achieved no more than academic mediocrity at school– it was suggested I should become a "quantity surveyor" or an "architectural technician." As my children end their journey through a school system with a British curriculum, it's sad to see that the system of creative suppression has changed little. The priorities remain the same, and failure to achieve academic criteria can result in children being marginalized, or even removed from the system. I've made a career out of commercializing creativity. I built the largest creative and branding consultancy in the Middle East and successfully sold it to WPP, the largest media company in the world.

Gregg Sedgwick with an artwork. Image credit: Gallery One.
I am now focused on building a creative retail business in which our mantra is "Art in Everything"– The Daily Telegraph has described Gallery One as one of the top three things to do in Dubai. Recently, we secured funding from boutique private equity group Kasamar from Abu Dhabi– this is facilitating regional expansion, and will eventually lead to international growth. Headquartered in the Dubai Design District, we are building a unique cultural retail platform, which takes its influence from regional and international art and design. In reality, my strongest ability is not as a designer or a creative. Rather, it's first and foremost my ability to recognize, work with, and nurture creative talent. I've been lucky enough to work with Syrian-born Ghaith Lahham for some 15 years– his talent is a constant source of amazement. Secondly, I am able to articulate the value of good design, and ultimately to justify the fees associated with creative solutions. I am motivated by the intersection of art/design with commercial outcome.

An artwork. Image credit: Gallery One.
That's why we named our head office, ArtComm– here, we are immersed in great design and beautiful artwork in order to convert such assets into revenue streams. This is allowing us to work with external clients, who perhaps have a strong brand or an important event, and seek to create innovative merchandise. At ArtComm, I can realize such an outcome by combining design skills with the talents of my commercial, retail and financial teams. As CEO at Gallery One, I lead a product development team and senior management group. Leveraging their skills, we are applying artworks, calligraphy, patterns, and motifs to assemble a unique suite of products that resonate within the region. Our products are sold through over 100 retail channels, and, as a consequence, we represent a powerful route to market for new talent, as well as established artists.

We constantly seek new product ideas, and new artistic contributors– through licensing deals, we then remunerate these partners with royalties. It's a source of frustration for me that so many talented creatives do not realize their potential. It's an innate byproduct of the creative mind to self-doubt and question the validity of our work. My strong belief is that all people are inherently creative, and that we all have valid artistic talent– our system of education and the elitism around art, perpetuated by segments of "the art world" reinforce this sense of unworthiness. In Gallery One, I would speculate that we sell more artwork than any other gallery in the region. Our sister company, The Gallery Workshop, is currently producing over five thousand artworks per month. This suggests that there is a hunger for cultural/ artistically inspired products and an appetite for brilliant ideas– well executed, and nicely packaged.

An artwork. Image credit: Gallery One.
Unlike some traditional galleries, Gallery One is intentionally accessible. I dislike the elitism associated with the "gallery world," and have positioned Gallery One as a retail destination, which is welcoming to all. Much of what we sell is based on aesthetics– it looks beautiful, and will enhance a customer's home or office. To further intellectualize an artwork is to mystify, and often magnify, its importance. I am excited to think how far we can take Gallery One; I am confident that the format can work in multiple geographies. Our vision is to replicate the Gallery One format in major cities around the world. I am particularly focused on airports, where travelers are eager to take a slice of regional culture as a memento of a visit. I'm invariably disappointed with the range of gifts and souvenirs at airports, and my mission is to establish cultural retail as an integral part of the airport terminal experience.

Passengers will be offered stylish and contemporary gifts that exude regional arts and design– it's a format that will resonate in all continents and most countries. Achieving such an ambition will make us a globally important outlet for creative talent, as well as a commercially significant player. With Kasamar, our funding partners, on board, we have been fortunate to find a group of brilliant individuals who share our vision for expansion. If I am the creative force behind Gallery One, we now have shareholders who can, in the longterm, realize share value. There is a strong sense at Gallery One that we are at an exciting crossroads. Creativity pervades all that we do at Gallery One. We leverage ideas and opinions from all segments of the business, and don't limit input to those in the "creative" department.

It's my belief that the best companies put creativity and superb design above all else –it's no surprise that Apple is the most valuable company in the world- their obsession with design, aesthetics and product integrity would inevitably lead to success. The best brands will, in the future, invest in creative minds, and marry this with commercial thinkers. It may take a long time for educational systems to shift their focus toward the development of creative minds, but I trust that companies large and small are increasingly recognizing and rewarding creative talent. Young people with creative minds should feel quietly confident that their future can be bright- even if they're not so good at physics and algebra.

Related: HH Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed Al Maktoum: Dubai Culture Wants Creative Entrepreneurs To Go Global

Gregg Sedgwick

Founder, Gallery One

Gregg Sedgwick is the founder and visionary behind the region’s leading cultural retailer, Gallery One. With the support of his talented team, Sedgwick is firmly committed to developing the Middle East’s art and retail sector, with a diversity of projects and a distinctive style in branding that crosses cultures with panache.

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