Lidija Khachatourian spoke to ART AFRICA and shared some of her thoughts on the market, collecting and appetite for contemporary African art in Dubai – and her intentions to showcase Mozambiquan artists in her new gallery in the San Marco district during the 58th edition of La Biennale di Venezia.
ART AFRICA: How did you go from being an accountant to an international artist representative and exhibition organiser?
Lidija Khachatourian: I moved to Dubai in 2008 and managed the accounting department in the family business for a few years, but did not find it fulfilling. It is normal for expats living in Dubai to travel a lot. We explored Asia and Africa often coming home with a unique piece of art or artefact. It then dawned on me that I wanted to be more involved in the art world and not just collect artworks.
Why have you chosen to focus your efforts on African art?
Artists from Africa and its diaspora have been working hard to be recognized by the World Art Market, but in the UAE at that time, nobody was truly representing and exclusively engaging with African artists. I decided that AKKA Project would focus on promoting Emerging African Artists, and offer a chance to those with potential and little opportunity.
How do you select your artists and what kind of art do you showcase?
I like to meet the artists to understand, not just their body of work, but also their stories. Collectors also love to come to the gallery and hear the stories of the artists and learn more about the artworks. So, we like to create an environment where collectors are able to come and explore a variety of artists and styles.
What would your advice be to anyone looking to invest in their first piece of art?
Buy or invest in art you like. Art gives us all a different feeling or experience, therefore if you look at a piece of art that you like, and can afford it, then take it home. A good way to start for young collectors is to give themselves a yearly budget to spend on art. It doesn’t have to be thousands of dollars, buying art from art students can also be very affordable, without even mentioning the hundreds of art fairs popping up everywhere. If you are going to invest a lot of money in a single work it is better to seek the advice of a professional.
Tell us about the AKKA Project. What are you trying to do? Can you share with us any upcoming exhibitions?
As I mentioned previously AKKA – A Kostic Khachatourian Art – Project was born as a creative art space to exhibit and promote Emerging Artists from the African Continent. Our major project in 2019 is “Venezia” and we are really excited about the programme. We recently opened our gallery in San Marco district and will be showcasing a group of Mozambican artists in the stunning Palazzo Mora during the La Biennale di Venezia, together with a lively programme planned to represent Mozambican art and culture during the 7 months of the Biennale.