Legacy Hues by Afaq on Artezaar.com.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Artezaar.com, the online art website from Dubai where buyers can buy artwork, home accessories and paintings, was founded by two women, Leena Kewlani and Teena Thawani. They grew up in the UAE and are self-taught artists. Artezaar was initially conceptualised for artists to have a venue to showcase their works, accessible to all. It is designed to appeal to all budgets, from artworks that are below Dhs500, to pieces that go above Dhs20,000.
Teena Thawani speaks to Gulf Today about the initiative
As a person born and brought up in the UAE, can you tell us about how the art ecology has evolved here?
The UAE has been on the forefront of the regional art market and has paved the way to the international art scene, taking the demand for Islamic and Middle Eastern art worldwide. With the renowned Christie’s launching in the UAE in 2006, followed by many more international and regional art projects, such as Sotheby’s opening at DIFC in 2017 and the prestigious Louvre Abu Dhabi opening in 2017, the UAE established itself in the global art market, both commercially and culturally. These important collaborations not only made a mark in the art sector, but also boosted tourism, retail and other closely related industries.
Louvre Abu Dhabi attracted more than a million visitors in its first year — a figure that put it among the top 70 museums worldwide to reach that level of audience, and certainly the only one in the region to do so. The launch of creative spaces such as Alserkal Avenue, Tashkeel, D3, Sharjah Art Foundation and more, where artists can express themselves and explore collaborations, have further enhanced the ecology.
Local exhibitions have also made a mark in the international art scene, such as Sikka Art Fair, Art Dubai, World Art Dubai, to name a few. Art Dubai, established in 2006, is one of the most globalised art fairs, attracting galleries worldwide, and artists and visitors from over 80 nationalities, public art commissions, remarkable installations and art talks. The UAE’s visual art market was earlier valued at $13.4 million in 2013, and in 2019, the study predicted that it would grow to $19.4 million. Art and design education has also developed and found its way into the school and university curricula, with a more career focused approach. Most importantly, the UAE leadership and commitment from the government and its bodies, have helped the Emirates reach this stage.
Do you focus only on Middle East artists or also on South Asia and art from other regions?
Currently, all our artists are UAE based, representing 30 nationalities, from the UAE, Jordan, Syria, India, Pakistan, Europe, US, Australia, Moldova, Armenia and many others.
How do you source your artists?
Artists are the soul of Artezaar and it is essential that this community stays well connected and grows. Most of our artists have been referred to us by word of mouth and we’ve been grateful to all those who have believed in us and supported us.
What are the qualities an artist should have to figure on the Artezaar roster?
Artezaar is for everyone; we have artists from five years old to 70+ years old, and professional full time artists to self-taught artists. To become an Artezaar artist, we need to understand their background, experience, their quality of work, professionalism and much more. Our curators help us review the art submissions and advise on details as well as advise the artists on critical points, such as pricing and authenticity.
What has been your finest moment?
When we registered 100 artists at the beginning of 2020! When we launched Artezaar, we hoped to attract 20 to 25 artists. Few months later, we were a 100 already. For us, this points to the huge untapped talent that exists in the Emirates and the demand for an accessible platform from which to sell large volumes of quality, affordable art.
Can you speak about the logistics involved in hosting an online gallery?
An online gallery is very different experience compared to a physical gallery. It gives buyers a much wider and diverse variety of art to browse at their own pace and convenient time, and they can browse collections fitting their budgets, without disclosing their personal budget requirements to anyone.
An online art website is great for reasonably priced artworks. While we offer the online art gallery, we also take requests from buyers to view artworks before purchase, as some artworks are a different pleasure to view in person than seen in photographs.
Do you plan to organise art exhibitions?
We have been doing group art exhibitions and have participated at successful local shows, including World Art Dubai, DIFC Art Nights and others.
You are a year and half old now; how do you see Artezaar when it is a five year old?
Today, with the growth of online platforms and support from the government for startups, small businesses and creative talent, the future looks promising. We can say that the affordable art scene is here to stay. The government’s proactive approach that puts safety first, especially throughout the pandemic, has been instrumental in growing consumer confidence. More and more people are leaning towards online art classes, virtual events and buying artworks and art pieces online. As more buyers get exposed to local and regional emerging artists, it paves way for increasing demand for affordable art sales.
ZeeArts, the global art organisation based in the Emirates that connects creatives of disparate disciplines with one another on an international level through art initiatives and projects, in collaboration with Forza Ragazzi (“Be Strong People”), the one stop shop for PPE requirements in Italy with a strong presence in the UAE, has launched a line of Creative Face Masks.
As the coronavirus has brought most aspects of life to a screeching halt, we take a look at the way the UAE art scene has managed to stay afloat by finding new ways to move forward during these difficult times.
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