Creative Pursuits: Asmaa Shabibi, Co-Founder And Director, Lawrie Shabibi

What does it take to be a part of the GCC's art gallery scene? Asmaa Shabibi, co-founder and Director, Lawrie Shabibi shares her insights.

learn more about Tamara Pupic

By Tamara Pupic

Lawrie Shabibi
Asmaa Shabibi, co-founder And Director, Lawrie Shabibi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

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?

"I can't speak for the rest of the GCC or other galleries, but what I can say is that our gallery model is to run a tight ship from a costs perspective, and we widen the net by ensuring we have a good number of enthusiastic international clients that generate strong sales. As part of this strategy, my co-founder and director William Lawrie has moved to London in order to focus on that market and Europe. We felt that a presence there was very important at this stage of our business.

Furthermore, given the lack of institutional support in the region, the gallery does play the role of an institution despite being as a commercial gallery. Working with us, an artist will not only have the opportunity to show with us in Dubai, but they will also have the chance to show at international art fairs. We have participated in fairs in New York, Hong Kong, Turin, London, Dallas as well as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These fairs provide visibility for our artists to collectors, curators, institutions and the press in a way that would not be possible if we were to just show them in Dubai. Our strategy is to take our artists outside the region so that they become international artists."

Installation view of Shaikha Al Mazrou's solo exhibition Expansion - Extension. Courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist. Photography by Ismail Noor

From a commercial point of view, what is the biggest mistake you see emerging artists make when approaching you?

"Commercially, an artist is of interest to the gallery, if we consider their works to be of museum quality. It is important for us that artists make works that appeal to both private collectors, and also generate institutional and curatorial interest. One of the things we pride ourselves in doing is working with museums to place our artists' works in their collections- this has included the Guggenheim New York, Centre Pompidou, Tate Modern, to name but a few.

But we also have to be realistic- the gallery operates on sales, and so we do need to counter this with artists whose works are of interest to private collectors. I believe this is a good strategy. I just attended Picasso 1932 at Tate Modern, and it was interesting to see that the majority of works were on loan from private collectors rather than museums. The private collectors are going to be important in the development of an artist's career, as well as providing them with an income, so that they should develop that relationship as well."

Installation view of Shaikha Al Mazrou's solo exhibition Expansion - Extension. Courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist. Photography by Ismail Noor.


> Keep your costs low. Shipping can be a high cost especially if most artists live outside the GCC. Be creative with how you ship.

> Keep your program consistent. This will help build a following and people will get into your program.

> Focus on international buyers to grow your artist's career. Artists need to be seen, and one institutional show or curatorial recognition can really make a difference to their careers.

Related: Creative Pursuits: Anna Szonyi, Director, AR.Gallery + Studio

Tamara Pupic

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Tamara Pupic is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Middle East.

Related Topics

Growth Strategies

"We Got Funded!" Saudi Arabia's First NFT Marketplace Platform Nuqtah Raises A Seed Round Led By Hong Kong-Based Animoca Brands

Nuqhta was founded in 2021 by Salwa Radwi, a photographer, artist, and Web3 and blockchain advocate, and one of the first female founders and CEOs in Saudi Arabia's NFT scape.

Women Entrepreneur™

A Life Well Lived: Sudha Murty, Founder And Chairperson, Infosys Foundation

Insights and inspiration from the Indian educator, author and philanthropist, and the co-founder of the Infosys Foundation.

Thought Leaders

The Collapse of Credit Suisse: A Cautionary Tale of Resistance to Hybrid Work

This cautionary tale serves as a reminder for business leaders to adapt to the changing world of work and prioritize their workforce's needs and preferences.

Growth Strategies

A Guide To The Top Angel Investor Groups in Saudi Arabia

In this article, we have listed some of the most notable and active angel investor groups in Saudi Arabia, in no particular order.

Growth Strategies

Nine Principles You Should Use To Increase Your Powers of Influence and Persuasion

With today's business professionals missing a model for influence at work specifically designed for the 21st century, here are nine principles organized into three sets of three to ensure they are easy to learn and remember.