The Dubai branch of the international legal firm Clyde & Co is giving 11 emerging artists from the region the chance to boost their careers. Anna Seaman finds out more
Getting a foot onto the ladder is often the hardest thing for anyone starting in a field, but in the subjective and fickle world of the arts it can be particularly tough. For 11 fortunate locally based artists, however, that climb just got a little bit easier with some help from an international law firm.
Mena community art project
Last year, Clyde & Co in London launched a community art project to nurture new talent by supporting art students and showcasing their work as they graduate from three of the leading art schools and move into life as professional artists.
It was so successful that the team in the Dubai office decided to follow suit and in September they began the Mena project.
“When I became a partner a year and a half ago I thought it was a fantastic idea,” explains Sara Khoja. “We have a CSR [corporate social responsibility] programme that until now has been mostly based around one-off charity events, but I wanted to do something that would involve the community. I do have a personal interest in art but mostly I was interested in something that would gather momentum and become part of the landscape.”
Commercialism versus culture
“One of the biggest criticisms you hear of the UAE and the region is that it is very commercial and that there is an absence of culture,” continues Khoja. “This is simply not true and this sort of project can show the things that are happening here.”
The 11 artists, selected by the online gallery Kobo Art, will have their work on display in the Clyde & Co Dubai offices for a year, after which a panel will judge one piece the winner; the artist will receive a prize of Dh30,000. The staff favourite will win a second prize of Dh10,000.
But perhaps more valuable than the cash is pro bono legal support, which all participants will receive on a year-round basis. They will receive guidance on how to draw up contracts with customers, negotiate commissions with galleries and to steer their way through intellectual property hurdles.
“The idea is to really help them to become commercially viable artists,” says Khoja, “so they can make a career out of it.”
In order to select the artists with the most potential, Clyde & Co enlisted the help of Shan Fazelbhoy, the founder of Kobo Art. This online gallery helps emerging artists to gain a wider platform for their art. As such, the objectives of Clyde & Co and Kobo were aligned.
“The Community Art Project has been initiated to support and promote emerging talent, which is completely in line with what we do so it was a very good fit,” says Fazelbhoy.
Selecting works for their diversity, inherent talent and their ability to capture attention, Fazelbhoy says the project has great potential for longevity.
“For up-and-coming artists to be given this opportunity by a corporation as reputable as Clyde & Co is immense. Along with the right publicity, support and awareness about the project, I believe it can be a success and has the potential to become an annual event that artists, buyers and others connected to the world of art can look forward to.”
The artists involved in the inaugural Mena art project are Alia Hussain Lootah, Arwa Ramadan, Rahat Qavi, Reham Shaheen, Samrat Ghosh, Nouf Al Semari, Deena Haque, Sanaa Merchant, Wafa Al Qasaimi, Sumanta Dahda and Shurooq Zainal.