Listen to what your eyes rest on,” says Dima Abdul Kader, “as there is nothing more beautiful than that moment a connection is born between the artwork and its viewer.” Kader is responding to our question as to what basic advice she would give anyone looking to buy a piece of art. But she’s also stumbled upon what is surely the key word driving her new enterprise: connection.
Just as art has the power to connect, so too, of course, does the internet. What could be a better creative marriage?
“When we embarked on this we felt that the choice of an online space provided the ease and accessibility for individuals with our profile (from somewhere but nowhere at the same time) to access emerging art from the Middle East,” she agrees.
Kader is from Palestine and her business partner, Nikki Meftah from Iran, and their showcasing of local works is a major part of Emergeast’s most intrinsic DNA. “The focus on Middle Eastern artists predominantly rests on a familiarity and ‘relatability’ with our own backgrounds and culture,” says Kader. “As third culture kids ourselves, we found it fundamental to create an outlet where up-and-coming artists, the future voices of our region, could gather under one umbrella and represent a united Middle East.”
Their timing, frankly, couldn’t be better, with the international art world increasingly looking to this part of the world. Recently in the US, the respected Whitney Museum of American Art showcased Qatari artist Sophia Al Maria, while the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) held for the first time the major installation Islamic Art: Contemporary Art of the Middle East. The Saatchi gallery’s START fair also saw Iranian photographer Goha Dashti represented through a solo show by a Milan gallery.
“[So] as young urban professionals in our early-20s, we wanted to start our very own art collection, specifically art tied to our roots’ culture, history and background,” remembers Kader. “[But] as soon as we embarked on the prospect of this, we realised there was no immediate place to acquire art by Middle Eastern artists, particularly at prices a 20-something urbanite could afford. Cue the beginnings of Emergeast.com!”
That price point is, of course, important. But it’s not the only reason the site is such a success. Time being a key factor, too.
“It is important to say that, previously, many aspiring collectors were often intimidated by the notion of visiting an art gallery and having a limited amount of time to cultivate their likes and dislikes,”says Kader. “Our buyers, and returning buyers, have been very happy in knowing there is a platform dedicated to making them feel comfortable with growing their art collection.” After all, why feel the pressure of making a quick decision in a gallery, when you can sit on your sofa with a laptop, and take your time to browse and scroll through the individual artists’ profiles.
To make a virtual, real connection?
As for the artists in question, Emergeast’s process is rightly rigorous. As well as scouting new ones from locations as diverse as Tehran, London, Dubai and Doha, meeting and interviewing them to see if their profile fits with that of their mission statement, many of those represented have come from direct submissions, who are vetted prior to being made available to customers.
“First and foremost upon coming across a potential artist’s portfolio, the team/selections committee is required to believe in the artist’s works and cultivate a connection with their particular story and message,” says Kader. “We require that an artist exhibit determination in sustaining their production and evolving and developing their art. As we promise our young collectors affordable yet ‘investment’ artworks, we continuously screen an artist’s CV to assure [they have] notable solo/group exhibitions and future plans.”
As a result, the site is not just a place for customers to pick up something both beautiful and affordable, but a place for artists to get their work seen by the biggest audience possible. Or, in the case of many of the emerging artists the site features from Iran – who had previously not been able to disseminate their work outside their home country – be seen for the first time ever by a global audience.
From a Doha-specific point of view, many young artists have work on display. In particular Bouthayna Al Muftah – who is fast becoming one of Qatar’s most sought-after contemporary artists with her Picasso and Pollock-inspired unique brushstrokes and abstract elements of identity, culture and heritage – and Khalid Al Baih, who is also based in Doha. “He is a political cartoonist, who is also one of the most prolific artists of our current time,” explains Kader. “The world turns to Khalid’s feeds during major humanitarian, political, societal or economic events.”
And, as for the site itself, its founders have broad goals. “Middle Eastern art is on the rise internationally, with an increasing spotlight on the themes and discourse emanating from it. It is important to provide a Western audience with a direct source to these voices shaping the future.” www.emergeast.com.