Emerging art with Rebia Naim

We speak to the curator on the eve of DIFC Art Nights on making art accessible & its digitalization.

18 Nov 2020, words by Aneesha Rai in The Lifestyle

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Rebia Naim founded Emerging Scene in 2011 - a platform promoting the work of emerging visual artists in innovative formats by creating concept events in partnership with art galleries, cultural institutions, public and private spaces. Rebia is the curator for Elevision Media's digital art gallery, the UAE's largest digital media broadcast network. Rebia cumulates over 15 years of experience working in the fine art industry. We had a chat with her before the opening night of DIFC Art nights of her WOW Art exhibit, along with artists Nathaniel Alapide and Massaratfatima Sulaimani curated with Tina McGonagill.

Q: It's been 10 years since the launch of Emerging Scene. How has the art scene in Dubai changed? 

Rebia: We basically started with an art prize, which was the first international art prize at the time. At the time, the emerging art scene was pretty quiet; it needed a bit of boosting in a way or another. Around that time, that avenue was to create an art prize. And from there, it just  expanded. We started to promote a limited number of artists from the prize, so we would get winners and bring them to Dubai and support Iraqi artists at the same time. But as we we promoted the price we received so many applications...and very good applications! So for many artists was not about the ability anymore. Soon it came to the top 30. So we were like, okay, what can we do with these 30 artists or more? How can we expand the platform for them? And from there we started to create group shows. Through these shows we would partner with venues. The idea of promoting the emerging art scene was very appealing and our popularity grew organically. Now we are requested to curate many stars for DIFC Art Nighs and bring the artists that we uncover ourselves.

DIFC Art Nights

Q: Tell us about the artists you have chosen this year, besides your own venture, Wow-Art.

Rebia: For this edition of DIFC Art Nights, we have have Nathaniel Alapide, who's really famous for his stand art. Then we have Massarafatima Sulaimani as well. Nathaniel is someone I met a long time ago, and stayed connected from over seven years. And that's the beauty of what I'm doing because I'm able to see the progress of an artist. He started really as a young creator and progressing to like this now famous artist that everyone knows in the region. So I love that because it's very exciting for me to bring him and to show how he progressed through our, you know, network and curation project. 

As for WOW-Art, we moved from an art scene which was very elitist and had UHNW art collectors towards a newer generation eager to collect. And this generation is the millennial or generation Z, you know, the much younger. They really want to collect art. We partnered with and curated this exhibition with Tina to bring that collection that would fit this new generation of art collector, which is a big community here in Dubai. Our big statement is literally that you can start your art collection for under 1000 dollars. The new collection speaks to the young collector. But the style speaks to my generation of the 80s, you know. The pieces are fabricated in Italy from a creative collective from fibre glass and resin and assembled in an atelier.

Rebia Naim

Q: Tell us about your journey with digitizing art.

Rebia: This is something I started eight years ago, when they first installed the first Elevision screens in elevators. And I forgot and I just saw the advertisement and I just launched the art prize. I thought that we need to showcase people the artists on these screens, especially those who can't access our gallery. The problem is, the artist has the impression at the moment they create art, it's going to be straight in the gallery space. But it doesn't exactly work that way. So we wanted to fill that gap and create more avenues for emerging artists to showcase their art to the digital world at that time. It was exciting for me, because I majored in art and new technology of communication in my master's degree in 2004. The whole art world was so skeptical about the idea. Now the art is showcased on a thousand screens across Dubai, including giant screens in DIFC. It's an amazing avenue for the emerging artists. I mean, they are published 24 hours weekly in the rotation of 24 hours or seven days in all.

Q: In terms of art for residences, what seems to be the trend currently?

Rebia: On my end, we have the responsibility to create a trend, but we're not following a trend. We like proposing new ideas for the art collector and for us. We have a strong focus on technology, for example, we focus on educating the art collector on how to collect digital art, which is not really known. It's not a common thing, you know, to say, okay, you can just click and place a screen on your wall in your living room and rotate actual art, real art. It's not just the screenshot of a background image. They'll be showing the diversity in how we collect. And at the same time, we also check the collector's financial capabilities. We try to access all of these aspects and propose accordingly so we can convey them to the artists who would have the right fit. And this is how we generate trends. We don't just follow them blindly. 

Catch Rebia's & Tina's curated exhibits and more at DIFC Art Nights 2020 running from 17-18 November 2020.

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