Conversation with Rachel Rekkab founder of UNFOLD Art XChange

by | Art Collector, Events

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.