Art Meets Mart

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The idea began with the need to make affordable art available to all and promote local talent at the same time. And with over a decade of experience in the arts industry between them, Deepa Bhatia and Rachael Brown set out to do just that. Sharon Carvalho finds out how art changed their lives

How did the idea come about?
Deepa Bhatia: Capsule Arts is a boutique art consultancy founded by my partner, Rachael Brown, and myself in 2012, bringing bespoke art commissions to hospitality, commercial and residential projects across the Middle East. We provide full-service consulting, from developing an artwork strategy, through to commissioning and sourcing, framing and installation.

Rachael: A central part of the business has always been fostering local artistic talent and helping artists to build sustainable art careers in the region. With our print collection, we focused on collaborating with artists living and working within the UAE and GCC to develop high quality prints of their work, offering them another platform through which to promote and sell their art. We also aim to work with artists in the region for our art consulting projects. It’s been great to find that more and more hotels and restaurants are very keen to work with Emirati artists or artists living and working here, to ensure their property has a relevance to the local art scene.

What makes the concept unique?
Rachael: We definitely did want to offer something different with the idea. The print collection was a response to the need for affordable, high-quality art in the local market. In 2012, there was a strong scene of contemporary art galleries offering art for mid to high-range collectors but there wasn’t as much catering to art lovers who were looking for something at a lower price point. With us, you’re getting a high-quality print that can’t be found everywhere, at a more affordable price than buying original artworks. In addition, we work with a lot of emerging artists so customers are feeding into supporting the local artist community.

Deepa: In terms of how we work as art consultants, I feel we’ve taken a very fresh approach in terms of how we work with interior designers and hotel operators. As much as possible, we try to commission bespoke pieces from both local and international artists for our projects to give every project we work on a truly tailored and unique selection of artworks.

What challenges did you face while setting it up and how did you overcome them?
Deepa: The biggest challenge that every business faces is funding at the initial start up stage. Rachael and I were very lucky to be approached by two investors when we developed our business plan. It was fairly easy to start our operations from the investment money we received.

Initially, it was an incredibly busy time as it was just Rachael and myself handling everything. That meant a lot of long nights, especially when we were working towards launching our print collection.

But now, three years on, our team has expanded and that has been a great help in ensuring Rachael and I have the support we need. It has allowed us to take on more ambitious consulting projects and grow the business.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Rachael: In the very first steps, writing your business plan is essential as it’s something you’ll need when looking for investment. This will also help you lay out a clear vision for your business. When it comes to making tough decisions in the future that affect the development of your business, being able to revisit that clear vision that you have laid out will really help you in making the best decision. I would also say know your market and ensure you’ve researched this thoroughly. If possible, test your market first to ensure you don’t spend a lot of capital on your idea and then find out it doesn’t quite work in that market.Above all, make sure you’re passionate about the thing that’s at the core of your business. A love of what you are doing will get through any tough times!

Deepa: Also key in getting you through the tough times is having a co-founder. They support you and it is also really great to have someone to bounce ideas off of. I’d also add, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t beat yourself up if you do make a mistake. Take it as an opportunity to learn. And don’t be afraid to admit when something just isn’t working and you need to rethink or adjust your business model.

How have the arts benefitted you on a personal level?
Rachael: Art has always been a true passion for me and I really can’t imagine working in another field. Simply put, it’s given me a fulfilling career.

Deepa: I echo what Rachael has said. Art is such a personal thing and it’s been great being able to work closely with artists and create a platform for their work through both our consulting services and our print collection.

What are your hopes and future plans for Capsule Arts?
Deepa: We want to continue to grow the business and establish ourselves as leaders in our field in the Middle East region, and even become the preferred art consultancy of hospitality brands and interior designers.

Rachael: Ultimately, our aim is to provide truly engaging art for leading hotels and commercial projects, encouraging designers and hotel operators to see how much value art can add, whether by enhancing the experience of a space or creating a valuable artwork collection for a property.

What have you learnt about your co founder through the process of running the business together?
Deepa: After partnering with Rachael, I feel like it’s really opened up what we can offer as art consultants. Strategy, having vision and seeing the bigger picture for the company is a real strength in her. I also admire her creative approach, which I think complements what I bring to the table.

Rachael: That I have complete trust in her, which I think is essential to a business partnership. She is very practical and fantastic at problem-solving, especially when it comes to production. Deepa doesn’t know the word no! Her background in interior design is really helpful to what we do since we’re working closely with interior designers for projects

How do you split roles?
Deepa: Rachael is Creative Director, responsible for developing creative concepts for our projects with her team, liaising with artists and overseeing the artist design process.

Meanwhile I am Business Director. So once a project is moving from the concept stage, when all the artworks have been finalised and the artists have begun to develop their artworks, I handle the commercials while heading the manufacturing, artwork framing and installation for projects. We both jointly handle business development.

What are your thoughts on the art scene in the UAE?
Deepa: In the past decade Dubai’s arts scene has grown enormously where a community and audience for art is gaining real momentum. That’s partly to the huge influence Art Dubai and the high end galleries have had on encouraging appreciation of art, arts education, and public debate.

Rachael: I think it will continue to flourish. I do strongly believe though that for an arts scene to be sustainable and flourish it needs to have, at its core, artists, critics, and buyers that are home-grown. And very importantly – more dedicated arts institutions offering art courses at degree level to help develop our homegrown
artist talent.