Interview with gallery owner Farah Fakhri

Opening in late December 2023 in Abidjan, La Farah Fakhri Gallery enriches the contemporary art scene of Ivory Coast, a country where there is still much to be done in terms of cultural development and where, unfortunately, there is still a lack of government support in this area. Farah Fakhri tells us how this adventure came about.

Farah Fakhri. Courtesy of Farah Fakhri Gallery

Why did you decide to open a gallery?
I first developed my passion for contemporary art while working for Chanel, where I had the opportunity to cover events at leading institutions such as the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the Dongdaemun History Museum in Seoul or Ca' Pesaro in Venice. I was surrounded by visual art and realized that I would eventually explore this further.
Upon returning to Abidjan, I began building a family collection, born of both personal passion and strong local influence. At the same time, I began supporting artists across Africa, transforming what was once a personal social space into a platform for meetings and connections. I have been collecting African art for a long time and the decision to open a space dedicated to artists from the continent and the diaspora was a no-brainer.

What kind of tools and services do you offer artists?
The gallery is a platform for cultural exchange through residency programs and a meeting place for artists, collectors and enthusiasts. For the residency program and the exhibition program, I invite African artists from the continent and the diaspora to then interact with the dynamic, albeit modest, artistic community of Ivory Coast. By bringing African artists into dialogue with international audiences and creatives, my aim is to ideally expand the gallery beyond its walls for off-site projects showcasing established artists alongside emerging artists. When I launched the residency program in January 2023, I wanted to lay the foundation for an infrastructure that would promote ongoing dialogue between artists from the continent and the diaspora. It has also been a long-term goal of mine to open a space for the exhibition of contemporary African art and I hope that it will develop into a cultural center for creative discussions and artistic support in Africa and abroad.

How would you describe the contemporary art scene in Ivory Coast?
The country has a thriving community engaged in diverse forms of expression, including painting, sculpture, photography, dance, music, film and digital art – a diversity that underlines our cultural richness. Many cultural events, exhibitions, an art week and artistic meetings are already taking place in Ivory Coast; So far, cultural institutions in particular have played a crucial role in supporting and promoting local artists, but in recent years I have noticed a growing need for a more personal and career-oriented type of support, including greater networking with colleagues in the diaspora.
At a time when this is more necessary than ever, some of the artists we work with are actively engaging with contemporary challenges, be they environmental, social or political. Their work serves to raise awareness and stimulate social debates.

How did the public react? Are you interested in the exhibitions you organize?
The good response from collectors and enthusiasts shows a growing appreciation for different stories. Visitors from different backgrounds were fascinated by the diversity of the works on display. The inaugural exhibition documents my commitment to presenting works that address Africans' individual and collective identities as well as broader societal visions and has stimulated deep reflection.
This extraordinary community response is a good indicator of the gallery's mission to foster meaningful dialogue within its community. By providing a space in which art serves as a conduit for discussions about culture, politics and society, the gallery not only connects the public with contemporary artistic expressions, but also contributes to a broader understanding of the connections between art and the contexts from which it emerges arises, at .

What is the gallery's commitment to the younger generation?
We are proud to be able to offer you a wide range of opportunities related to the art scene. Our primary goal is to provide a comprehensive cultural education to those who grow up in our vibrant community.
We believe it is important to give students and anyone who desires access to the international art scene that they would not normally have, while remaining deeply rooted in our city. We are proud to collaborate with important institutions such as INSAAC and Beaux Arts d'Abidjan. These collaborations allow us to bridge emerging local talent and the global art scene, providing unique opportunities for learning and inspiration.
We also organize debates and symposia on the contemporary African art scene; Opportunities where young minds can engage in meaningful discussions, expand their horizons and promote a deeper understanding of their artistic heritage.

Niccolo Lucarelli

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