Mara Firetti is undoubtedly one of my favorite gallerists in Dubai. Not only she has founded one of the best galleries in town, she also stays true to her vision of bringing the most relevant art with a message to the region as well as helping the local emerging talent flourish. Recently Mara has returned from Art Verona, where she has participated with her gallery Firetti Contemporary and we had a chance to chat to her about her experience in Italy, her participation as a judge of the NBF Art Competition and her views on art in Dubai and in general. Read this interview to learn more about Mara and her gallery Firetti Contemporary.
What inspired you to start your own gallery and what is your vision for it?
I always had an artistic spirit which was inherited by both my parents. I have worked in the art industry for more than 16 years and established so many interesting connections with both artists and art professionals. It was time for me to share all I discovered and learned. It is also a passion that my daughter shares with me so we decided to embark upon this journey together. We challenge each other’s visions and bring different perspectives forward which is highlighted in our gallery programming. We took this decision during covid when I realised that travelling would become a limitation.
Art is the purest form of human expression, it is a mirror of history and society. It’s a gift of freedom. For the artists, it’s freedom of expression and for the viewer, freedom of interpretation.
How has the journey been so far? What are the biggest challenges and satisfactions?
The journey has been beautiful and rewarding, in under two years we have curated and organised more than 13 exhibitions. Each exhibition has introduced a new artist to the region. We have always received positive feedback from both local and international art professionals. Our programming embraces cultural exchange and brings together artists from all over the world. The topics of exhibitions are mainly related to social and environmental issues and we have successfully used and continue to use the gallery as a vehicle for change through our exhibitions, panel discussions, talks etc.
The biggest satisfaction has been the public reaction to the artists we have introduced, especially when the artist is emerging. It is the ultimate satisfaction to receive positive feedback and praise from the public and art professionals.
The biggest challenge faced as a new gallery in the UAE has been to build a collector base locally, however, this is improving as time goes by and as we gain more exposure. We have found that educating on art investment has helped to create a larger circle of younger investors.
Recently you judged the NBF art competition, what do you think about all the entries? (Variety, multimedia, is eco subject important)
All the artists in the competition brought forth interesting works with strong messages behind them. The techniques and mediums of the artworks were diverse and choosing a winner was a difficult task. Some of the artists needed to present a more refined approach to their works in terms of both research and execution.
In your opinion, what was more important, the message of the artwork or the execution?
The message is the starting point of the creation of an artwork and therefore the execution will have to be in line with it. The fundamental part of the realisation of the artwork is the thought that inspired the artists. Both the execution and message of the works are of equal importance.
You have generously decided to show the 13 winning pieces at your gallery, what inspired this decision?
First of all, I truly respect the message and intentions of NBF towards sustainability and supporting local artists. This is in line with the core values of our gallery. Additionally,
I know how important it is for an artist that is at the very beginning of their career to have a connection with a gallery space. This is not an easy process as there is a limit to the number of artists a professional gallery can represent. We personally receive 30/40 artists’ CVs or visits in a week, all looking for representation. Even though I can’t offer a representation the selected artists will have opportunities to be in a collective show at Firetti Contemporary and hopefully, this will help them in finding a suitable representation.
Do you have a favourite work? Which ones do you admire the most?
I believe all artists tried their best in producing artwork in line with the context of sustainability.
Personally, I truly loved the work of Yousra Wahba. Her works are unique in their composition and they hold in-depth research behind them.
You joined Art Verona for the first time. How was it?
It was an outstanding achievement for a young gallery such as ours to be invited to participate in the curated section of Artverona. It’s a confirmation that our curated programs and exhibitions are well received and appreciated by the international art scene.
We were the only booth exhibiting middle eastern female artists and we were truly impressed by the interests expressed by the visitors. It is very important to us to engage in a cross-cultural exchange between the UAE and Italy.
What the participation in Art Verona brought you?
The participation brought us a lot of joy as we received excellent feedback from important players in the Italian art scene. One of our participating artists, Sawsan Al Bahar won an award which brought us tears of joy. Seeing our artists appreciated and given the recognition they deserve in an International context is very rewarding.
Sawsan won the “MASSIMILIANO GALLIANI AWARD FOR DRAWING UNDER 35” her works have been purchased by the artMacs Cultural Association and the Municipality of Montecchio Emilia, which joins artMacs in both the process of recognizing memory and supporting new talent. The municipality will also organize in 2023 a bi-personal exhibition of the artists in the spaces of Casa Cavezzi in Montecchio Emilia (RE), a 15th-century palace a few steps from Massimiliano Galliani’s atelier.
How is the art scene in Italy different from that in UAE? And what are the similarities?
We felt the presence of a larger number of younger art collectors. The Italian art scene has significantly more collectors than the UAE however, this is changing, and more individuals in the UAE are approaching collecting art and understanding its value.
Have you discovered new artists that you would bring to UAE?
We already have a portfolio of 21 artists at the moment so I’m not looking any further. it’s a huge commitment for a gallery to engage in representing an artist as their success involves commitment and support through exhibitions and marketing. At the moment we are only going to focus on our existing artists.
Are you open to UAE based artists? What are you looking for?
We are currently representing quite a few UAE and GCC-based artists as this is part of our cross-cultural program. We are proud to represent local artists and we aim to gain the exposure they deserve within the international art scene. We look for art that has a strong research and message behind it, we work with artists that have their own unique style and that distinguish themselves from other artists.
What advice can you give to an emerging artist?
It takes time for an artist to research and establish their artistic language. Experimenting with various mediums and techniques over time is a must but once an artist has established their authenticity it’s important to keep a distinguished design within their works.
I always advise artists to not overproduce and to keep a record of their sold works by issuing certificates of authenticity that are numbered and dated.
Pricing artwork should be done by using a coefficient related to the dimension of the artwork. The coefficient can increase over time in relation to the growth of the artist’s career. Collectors monitor the growth of the artists by the number of works available on the market and the increment of their price. Selling directly to clients at huge discounts will slow down the process and discourage investors.
Interview by Slava Noor