Leila is one of the foremost authorities on art in the region.
Leila is one of the foremost authorities on art in the region. Image Credit: Supplied

The art season is upon us in Dubai and there are few people with greater authority on the subject in the region than Leila Heller, President of Leila Heller Gallery in New York and Dubai. We talk to her exclusively about the changing art scene and new trends in the region…

The Kurator: What have been the highlights for your gallery this year?

Leila Heller: Highlights have been a big emphasis on women artists for the gallery this year. We have had the solo shows of Mouna Rebeiz, Zeinab Al Hashemi, Parinaz Eleish Gharagozlou and Naeemeh Kazemi, as well as the rare Iranian Modern Art collection of Mana Jalalian in the gallery.

Additionally, our artists Mouna Rebeiz and Rachel Lee Hovnanian will be participating in the Venice Biennale in April in separate solo shows. Zeinab Al Hashemi is one of ten artists featured in Desert X AlUla in Saudi. Currently, the work of Zeinab, Azza Al Qubaisi, and Tala Worrell is featured in Mia Art Collection’s exhibit “Serendipity” in the Al Safa Library. Lastly, at Art Dubai we had the solo booth of the late Farideh Lashai, which featured a rare presentation of her early drawings, paintings and vases.

Leila Heller Gallery is based in New York and Dubai.
Leila Heller Gallery is based in New York and Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

TK: Do you see a change in the art scene in the region compared to previous years?

LH: Yes indeed. There are so many diverse groups who have moved to Dubai since the pandemic including Indian, Azerbaijani, Russian, Lebanese, and European collectors, amongst others.

TK: What's your view on NFTs and digital art?

LH: It is very foreign to me, but some of our artists such as Melis Buyruk, Anton Baker, Tarik Currimbhoy and Sacha Jafri have been working on NFTs, which is very exciting.

TK: What is the big goal for the gallery?

LH: It has always been a dialogue between global artists being shown with artists of the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia. We did that this year for our contemporary booth, putting global artists such as Wim Delvoye alongside modern master Mohammed Ehsai, Lebanese artists Marwan Sahmarani and Mouna Rebeiz, Iranian artists Reza Derakshani, Aref Montazeri, and Parinaz Eleish Gharagozlou, Emirati artist Zeinab Al Hashemi, Portuguese artist Ana D’Castro, and Turkish artist Melis Buyruk.

It has also been about educating the public on art. Currently, we have a large sculpture park and indoor exhibition of all our artists including the works of Zeinab Al Hashemi, Azza Al Qubaisi, Abdul Qader Al Rais, Anton Bakker, Melis Buyruk, Eduardo Cabrero-Perez, Tarik Currimbhoy, Ana D'Castro, Reza Derakshani, Wim Delvoye, Mark Hadjipateras, Shahzad Hassan Ghazi, Richard Hudson, Sacha Jafri, Naeemeh Kazemi, Aref Montazeri, Arash Nazari, Mouna Rebeiz, Marwan Sahmarani, eL Seed, Mia Fonssagrives Solow and Amir Tehrani.

TK: Do you feel the middle art scene has matured over the years?

LH: The Middle East art scene has matured tremendously. I remember coming here 17 years ago before any museums opened. The emphasis was on auctions and there were only a few galleries. Dubai has now become a hub of international, regional, women artists. Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art are thriving and are a point for great talks, panels, and education. Additionally, the Jameel Art Foundation, Museum of Future, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Zayed Museum in Abu Dhabi are all great institutions that have, or will enrich the region with even more culture and education.