Conversation with Rachel Rekkab founder of UNFOLD Art XChange

Conversation with Rachel Rekkab founder of UNFOLD Art XChange

Rachel Rekkab, the founder of Artem Holdings, answers our questions about her most recent venture, UNFOLD Art XChange, a contemporary ‘think tank’ for creative leaders to connect via their interests in the art world, and to discuss the ever-changing landscape of the art market.

1 – How was the UNFOLD Art XChange project born and since when have you been working on it?

UNFOLD Art XChange as a project was conceived through my ambition to become the largest multicultural art exchanges that will offer unprecedented access to a more diverse audience beyond the art world. The aim was to create new synergies, enabling a fruitful dialogue with potential future partnerships in various areas of human activities, enticing the world’s premier private bankers, financial institutions, government authorities, spatial designers, real estate and hospitality professionals to come together with curators, gallerists, artists, arts organisations, non-profits, public art agencies, museums, private and corporate collectors.
I have been working on developing UNFOLD Art XChange since January 2017, two months after I founded Artem Holdings, the company behind this project.

Photo taken from UNFOLD Art XChange, Public Art Panel on Art Talks I
Left: Theresa Sweetland (Forecast Public Art, Minnesota), Karin Goodfellow (Boston Art Commission & Boston AIR, Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, Boston), Pauline Kanako Kamiyama (Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Los Angeles), Ben Owen (Minnesota State Arts Board, Minnesota) and Dorka Keehn (Keehn on Art & San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco)

2 -Why did you consider UNFOLD Art XChange as a necessity in the region and how did you go about choosing the topics for the two Art Talks?

Jesse Brackenbury (Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, Boston),

UNFOLD Art XChange was seen as a necessity to foster a stronger arts education in the region on the impact of art in today’s contemporary society.
Art Talks I: Art, Real Estate, and the Built Environment was chosen as an essential topic to kick off UNFOLD Art XChange’s inaugural edition to discuss two critical issues; the importance of public art in the built environment and the role of art in enhancing real estate and hospitality developments.
With Dubai Expo 2020 around the corner and the numerous opportunities for art within architecture and design, it was evident to present the valuable marketing opportunity art offers for both governments and private developers. Beyond its aesthetic beauty, cultural interpretation and general improvement of the urban environment, Art provides high financial returns, and revenue growth by maximizing property values, increasing occupancy rates and attracting tourism to stimulate the country’s economy.

Art Talks II: Evolving Cultures, Developing Collections was chosen as the second topic for UNFOLD Art XChange with two key focus; one on Art, Finance, Wealth and Risk Management and the other on Private, Corporate and Museum Collections. Within the Private, Corporate and Museum Collections, the aim was to discuss critical issues around corporate art, new approaches to heritage, the future of both Private and Public Museums and lastly to understand how private art foundations and other organizations are shaping our local art scene in the UAE.

3. The first edition of UNFOLD Art XChange took place in Dubai this March. Are you planning to organize this across ìn any other part of the region in the Middle East or to expand it to other countries in the world?

With the success of our inaugural edition, Artem Holdings will be launching its second edition of UNFOLD Art XChange’s Evolving Cultures, Developing Collections as a two-part series targeted for Private and Public Museums and Corporate Collectors.

Preceding FIAC (Foire Internationale d’art Contemporain), the first part will be held as a weekend getaway on the 13th and 14th of October 2018 at the Chateau Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art in the Loire Valley in France. It is a closed-door event limited to only 50 Heads of Private and Public Museums and Corporate Collectors comprising a series of panel and roundtable discussions. The second part will then be open to the public to attend and will take place the 12th and 13th of March 2019 in London.

We have also signed a partnership with ArtBab to bring our 2nd Annual UNFOLD Art XChange to Manama, Bahrain in March 2019. It will coincide with the fair, under the patronage of Her Royal Highness, Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of His Majesty, The King of Bahrain, President of the Supreme Council for Women. The dates in March will be announced in due course.

Photo taken from UNFOLD Art XChange, Hotel XChange Panel on Art Talks I
Left: Katherine Gass Stowe (James Company Contemporary Art Projects, New York), Tarissa Tiberti (MGM Resorts Art & Culture, Las Vegas), Peter Mainguy (The Ritz Carlton, Millenia Singapore, Singapore), Paul Bruce-Band (Ellerman House, Cape Town), Roland Duerr (Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi), Pierre Yammine (Noon Art Boutique Hotel Apartments, Dubai) and Mona Hauser (XVA Gallery and Art Hotel, Dubai)

 

4 – How do you foresee the development of the art market in the region?

With the continuous support fuelled by the local government investing heavily in art and culture initiatives across the region, I feel the development of the art market in the UAE is very positive.

The opening of the much anticipated Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first universal museum of the Arab world last November, alongside the already established Manarat Al Saadiyat, Warehouse 421, Abu Dhabi’s own NYUAD Art Gallery and Abu Dhabi Art will help to encourage and cultivate a new generation of art collectors for the region and drive the local art scene.

Dubai’s aim to transform the city into an open-air art museum through the establishment of Brand Dubai to help develop public art projects across the city acts as a testament that Dubai is not only looking to highlight the city’s unique character as one of the world’s fastest growing and most diverse cities but to also position Dubai as an emerging cultural hub on the world map.

The recent release of ‘Dubai ArtBank,’ an innovative new model for managing art collections and transacting in creativity and art as bankable assets through a new Dubai Art crypto-currency during this year’s Art Dubai fair also showed Dubai Culture’s response to the ‘Dubai 10X initiative’ which seeks to place Dubai Government entities ten years ahead of the rest of the world in all sectors, propelling Dubai into the future by implementing today what other cities will maybe do in 10 years from now.

Lastly, Sharjah is designated as UNESCO’s “Cultural Capital of the Arab World” and is home to nearly a quarter of all of the UAE’s museums. Popular events such as the Sharjah Biennial and the Sharjah International Book Fair further attests the contribution from the region to sustain and also drive the development of the art market in the UAE.

5 -50% of Fortune 500 companies own an art collection; do you think that large companies based in the region will expand their action getting involved in culture and art programs?

Definitely. Many of the Fortune 500 companies in the region are already heavily investing in arts and culture and showing this involvement through various sponsorships in the region’s pre-eminent art fairs like Abu Dhabi Art and Art Dubai.

However, there are barely a handful of these Fortune 500 companies in the region that owns a corporate art collection. One interesting example of a private art collection transformed as part of a corporate art collection is with Omnicom Media Group (OMG) Dubai office spearheaded by its CEO for the MENA region, Elie Khouri’s passion for collecting art. As a patron of the arts and a member of the Tate Middle East and North Africa Acquisitions Committee and the Moma Director’s Council, Elie places his private collection within his workplace environment as part of the office’s corporate art collection to enhance creativity and to create a greater dialogue among employees. Other notable corporate art collections seen within large corporations in Dubai includes Swiss Private Bank, Julius Baer and German Private Bank, Deutsche Bank DIFC office as well as the region’s leading developer, Emaar who have a good selection of their art collection featured around and in Dubai Mall as well as on Emaar Boulevard. In Abu Dhabi, Mubadala Development Company PJSC, a state-owned holding company, has its impressive art collection featured in two of the hotel properties it owns; Four Seasons and Rosewood Abu Dhabi.

Indeed, Corporate art collections in the region compared to Europe & US are significantly lesser and UNFOLD Art XChange hopes to change this and make corporations in the Middle East more aware about the critical role corporate art collection plays in galvanizing the local art community and developing a company’s brand identity. It was also the reason why UNFOLD Art XChange’s Evolving Cultures, Developing Collections was formed with a focus on Corporate Art to bring on expertise from across the globe to share on the importance of collection development policy and responses to corporate art activities in the aim to foster greater corporate art education in the region.

Corinne Timsit, President of CT2A group and Chief Editor of ArtPremium Magazine and Corporate Art Magazine in conversation with Philippe Méaille, most important collector of Art and Language and President of Cha^teau de Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art in France

 

6- UNFOLD Art XChange invited over 80 speakers from all over the world; is UNFOLD heading to become a referential art talks platform in the art scene?

Yes, UNFOLD Art XChange aims to become a referential art talks platform in the art world and to be known as the leading contemporary art summit and eventually the largest multicultural art exchange for both the art world and for corporations looking to incorporate art or develop an art collection.

7 – Is UNFOLD Art XChange opened to the public or only to professionals?

Both. UNFOLD Art XChange was initially created as a platform opened to the public. To pre-qualify the quality of its attendance from the public and in order to target only senior-level decision makers to register and attend in the aim to forge future business partnerships, UNFOLD Art XChange charges a delegate fee that is comparably higher to other art talks in the market. UNFOLD Art XChange would like to position itself strictly as a B2B conference and summit platform that brings together industry practitioners from both within and outside the art world.

Recently, with the launch of the upcoming second edition of UNFOLD Art XChange’s Evolving Cultures, Developing Collections that will be held at the Chateau de Montsoreau on the 13-14 October 2018, we introduced our closed-door model which is strictly by invitation only for an exclusive selection of professionals.

Sindika Dokolo Foundation, Deeply Rooted

Sindika Dokolo Foundation, Deeply Rooted

Sindika Dokolo

 

Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese businessman and art enthusiast, acquired one of the most important contemporary African art collections from the late German business tycoon, Hans Bogatzke back in 2005. Based in Angola, Dokolo and his procurement have gained an overnight sensation from the public and the media since the end of the country’s civil war about three years ago. Amassing over 5000 pieces of invaluable African art, Dokolo has now become one of the symbols for repatriation in the history of art in Africa.

Dokolo is very aware of the significance behind all this media attention, both from within the country and from the rest of the world. These art pieces in his collection are not just decorations for the domestic setting, they are a beacon of hope for redefining “Africanity” amidst the deafening Eurocentric perspectives on the continent and its artistic creations. ‘[You see] every other exhibition telling you what Africa is and [what is] the real Africa. There is always this self-justification, this attitude, which I think is very counter-productive,’ argues the collector. Therefore, Dokolo establishes the eponymous not-for-profit foundation enabling the Angolan public to respond to their creation and to start organising their view of the world of art.

 

Samuel Fosso_Le_Drapeau_

Samuel Fosso, Series “Emperor of Africa”, 2013 – “SFEA 1949” 166 x 124 cm

 

Dokolo’s collection of contemporary art includes over 80 African artists as well as those from its Diaspora. The collection holds artworks ranging from the video projection Felix in Exile (1994) by William Kentridge and self-portraits Emperor of Africa (2013) by Samuel Fosso to conceptual works by Kendell Geers and the installation work Thirteen Hours (2013) by the emerging Angolan artist Binelde Hyrcan. It covers the artistic expressions all around the continent, from the north of Egypt to the south of South Africa. Dokolo creates an interaction and a dialogue between different aesthetics of our contemporary time.

Amassing over 5000 pieces of invaluable African art, Dokolo has now become one of the symbols for repatriation in the history of art in Africa.

‘My main focus is actually to manage to have a very dynamic artistic and cultural life with no infrastructure. It has been a sort of blessing in that we do not have any contemporary art museums because we [then] have to revisit the way people engage with art and culture in an urban environment.’ One of the missions the collector aims to achieve with his foundation is to remodel the falsified bourgeois value of art into a public commodity. Currently, the Sindika Dokolo Foundation is working on a project, using marketing and publicity strategies, putting up dozens upon dozens of street advertisement of the artworks, to get the general public engaged with art in an ‘involuntary, unconscious and natural way’. Dokolo and his team are also working with local schools to coordinate guided visits to travelling exhibitions. Ever since the initiation of this programme, 50,000 children have been enrolled and this year, Dokolo hopes to reach an audience of 100,000 children in his education of African contemporary art.

 

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Wangechi Mutu, “You Love me You Love Me No”, 2013, mixed media / collage on paper, diptych

 

The Sindika Dokolo Foundation is a safe haven for empowerment of future generations of Africans by providing them with the knowledge to participate in their own cultural history. Throughout the years with his collection and the foundation, Dokolo notices the ‘baby boom of creativity’, a proliferation in artistic expression in Angola in recent years. He is especially involved with local Angolan artists. He finds that ‘it is a socialist government but there was always a kind of depth in the Angolan culture’ giving Angola’s local artistic language an ‘inner life and sensitivity in emotion’. Dokolo has witnessed many artists come and go in his foundation and now, he shares his views on the integration of African contemporary artists in the international circuits of art like a wise man reciting a fable. ‘I think the right reflex is to come back to Angola and work some more, work to build their careers from the inside out. I think that guarantees some consistency and some prudence also when they approach the international market.’

Behind the Sindika Dokolo Foundation is an ideology to repatriate the rights to the continent to paint an accurate portrait of African art in our contemporary time. There is a synergy between his collection and his audience, Dokolo encourages authentic creation through his collection and at the same time, he is inspired by this creativity to further experiment with his foundation.

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Becoming CI-KIM

Becoming CI-KIM


“Many people are curious to know how I express artistically as a businessman and at the same time, as a collector. They want me to tell some dramatic story or a vivid moment in my life that triggered this passion in me to become an artist.” The eternal smile underneath the stylish fedora is only the tip of the iceberg that is Kim Chang-il. With a multi-million dollar company, three contemporary art galleries and five museums across the nation under his name, Kim speaks with fluidity and sobriety about his work. This energy flows throughout all aspects of his life. In fact, Kim’s professions as a businessman, an art collector and an artist should not be looked at separately. The basis of these dimensions is his originality in the pursuit of simplicity. Kim defines simplicity as a particular that requires concentration on the most valuable thing. This particularity for him lies in art and this is what makes Kim the unique CI KIM in the universe of businessmen, collectors and artists.

Kim first started collecting art at the age of 27. Walking down a small gallery street in Seoul, the landscape and figure paintings by Korean modern ink painters such as Kim Kichang, Lee Sangbeom, Byun Gwansik, Jang Unsang and others caught his attention. Now looking back to the beginning of everything, Kim sighs at the conservative tendencies of many Korean art collectors, with whom he once identified, to limit themselves to one region from one instance in the history of art. Kim travels to the corners of the world, he met the YBA artists, partied with Neo Rauch and Matthias Weischer, made long-lasting friendships with Kohei Nawa and Subodh Gupta. As his horizon broadens, his collection expands. With over 3700 pieces to call his own, Kim deems that this chase after Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter Cindy Sherman, Nam June Paik and other artists in the hall of fame, is an outcome of his self-discovery.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled, 2006, Photographic silksceen on vinyl, 262 x 432 cm, Courtesy Spruth Magers, Image Courtesy Arario Gallery

In all honesty, Kim’s selection and taste in contemporary art is intuitive and instinctive. His affinity to a certain piece of artwork is determined at first sight: “I select soulful artworks where I do follow my inner counsel.” Kim’s collection is perhaps the incarnation of Chicken Soup for the “Artistic” Soul – tugging at the heartstrings of the mass with contemporary art. He has also quite successfully done so with his galleries and museums. The Arario Museum in Space, Seoul opened its doors in 2014 and houses more than 200 pieces by 43 international artists from Kim’s collection in an exhibition named Really?. The whimsy in the title winks at people’s initial reaction towards Kim’s eclectic choice of artworks. He likens himself to the conductor of an orchestra, like in the 1940 Walt Disney animated film Fantasia, he animates the exhibition of artworks, the lighting, the total experience in his museums. Kim constructs his museums in abandoned structures that once carried significant memories to the neighbourhood or even the nation, building his ideals of sustainability and a brave new world of past and future coexisting in harmony.

Subodh Gupta, Everyrthing is Inside, 2004, part of taxi, cast bronze, 162(h)x 104x276cm, Image Courtesy of Artist and ARARIO Gallery

To quote Kundera in his 1984 masterpiece, “for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”; Kim is susceptible to the weight as life surrounding him expires. He turns to art in its purity and its trustworthiness. He confides in a work of art, in its flawless aesthetic beauty without the peripheral engagement of the story behind. As if situated in the eye of the storm, in the calmness he seeks to minimise the artificial, to reveal the natural beauty of life, to find himself, to find CI KIM.

Language is like a window to the internal workings of the human mechanism. Perhaps lost in translation, it is rather curious to witness Kim’s sense of obligation that he “ought to discover young talented artists at a national as well as an international level”, his sympathies for the “mediocrity of the existing buildings that are disappearing one after another”, and that he has fallen victim to art evident from his choice of Marcel Duchamp as his inspiration.