Art Dubaï

The gamble paid off for this gallery owner, recognised as one of the most influential women in the art world today.

Meeting Leila Heller is tantamount to touching the stars for anyone with a sweeping passion for art. Originally from Iran, she studied art in New York, at Sotheby's in London and in Washington, where she took a master's degree in art history and museum management. Just as she was about to return to her home country, the Iranian revolution forced her to stay in the United States. In 1982, still only 24, she decided to open her own gallery.

Traduction | Céline Nickmans
4 minutes
VILLAS Decoration Art Dubaï
© AZZA AL QUBAISI, Between The Dunes (Dunes with dates), 2022, Mild steel with Dates leaves, 156 x 290 x 126 cm

A passion coupled with relentless work

It was a time when artists and the art world would patronise night clubs, a time when anything was possible. This nightlife put her on the path of Andy Warhol, who introduced her to her first artists. The list of names slowly grew, but winning over collectors was another story. However, art dealer Léo Castelli believed in her venture, an encounter that proved pivotal. Leila relentlessly promoted artists from the Middle East who were of little interest to the market. She visited studio after studio, from Paris to London, gradually putting together a solid programme of exhibitions. From New York to Dubai, she has since gained a reputation for her savvy choices, her galleries having become a representative showcase for the Eastern art scene.

VILLAS Decoration Art Dubaï

Leila Heller

VILLAS Decoration Art Dubaï


Bursting with energy

Nine years ago, her decision to open her second gallery in this constantly evolving city was influenced by the launch of new art spaces and auction houses as the market started to become aware of the quality of the artists in this part of the world. Once again, her dynamism and enthusiasm have succeeded in attracting the general public and local collectors and she still takes an unparalleled pleasure in introducing her artists to all those who push open the door of her vast space on Al Serkal Avenue, where creative energy flows freely. Lorenzo Quinn, an artist who has made a name for himself at the Venice Biennale for his spectacular installations, presented a solo show earlier this year. In New York, art is everywhere while, in Dubai, there is a new public that is eager to gain access to an artistic culture, and the knowledge that goes with it, that comes from having the opportunity to visit galleries and museums. Leila loves the challenge of turning a visitor into an informed collector. It makes her life as a gallery owner exhilarating, whether connecting the curious with Middle Eastern, European and American art or forging links based on dialogue, organised conferences or private dinners that bring together regular visitors, art lovers and collectors.

VILLAS Decoration Art Dubaï

LORENZO QUINN, Now and forever

Supporting women artists

Leila Heller’s intelligence lies in her knack for mixing genres and artists. The modern rubs shoulders with the ultra-contemporary. She has opened a breach where the influence of the environment rubs shoulders with the influence of religion. All nationalities are represented. Korea, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Latin America enter into an artistic dialogue with Europe and the United States. Wielding her clout as a woman gallery owner who is unanimously recognised, she has now turned her sights towards identifying and supporting women artists. “I see more emphasis on women artists here in the Middle East. Here, the government is anxious to have good galleries representing artists whose work deserves to be recognised, like Marwan Sahmarani. It supports the appointment of female museum directors, curators and gallery owners. We feel supported.” Sculptor Azza Al Qubaisi is one of the talents we will be showcasing at the forthcoming Abu Dhabi ART 2023 fair.

VILLAS Decoration Art Dubaï


Tarik Currimbhoy: Emotion in motion

Leila Heller came across Tarik Currimbhoy at a dinner held to mark a group exhibition at Sotheby’s New York featuring artists influenced by Asian and Islamic geometry. The work of this Indian artist and architect is an exercise in precision. The fact that his sculptures can be set in motion links him to the kinetic art movement and to the monumental works of Jesùs-Rafael Soto. The swaying invites the public to experience a moment of suspension. The mind disconnects from the present and wanders to the rhythm of the oscillations. The perfect geometric shapes are the result of elaborate calculations. The rigour of the gestures, apparent in the working of the steel or wood, ultimately leads to a pure and simple form. Whatever the scale, the balance achieved inevitably steals into the heart of those who take the time to admire it.

VILLAS Decoration Art Dubaï

TARIK CURRIMBHOY, assortment of “Wood rocker”, burnt wood, unique

VILLAS Decoration Art Dubaï

TARIK CURRIMBHOY, Pendulum, stainless steel, 3 feet, edition 1 of 4

VILLAS Decoration Art Dubaï

TARIK CURRIMBHOY, left: Cobra female (black), painted steel 18”x17”, edition of 7, right: Cobra, stainless steel, 18”x17”, edition of 7

Arnaud Rivieren: astonishing natural beauty

Arnaud Rivieren, a Belgian sculptor who is today based in Dubai, explores ways of reusing industrial waste that is stored on industrial estates. He takes an astute look at our consumer society and his work comments on the importance of celebrating the natural beauty that surrounds us. Preserving plants is our world’s priority, but this statement must encompass all living and non-living things. Arnaud invokes the sublime to celebrate, in this case, the beauty of an apple. The meticulous workmanship of the stainless steel pays homage to this fruit that we no longer bother to look at in our supermarkets. The artist’s assertive stance sounds like a warning to the consumer in us all. The sublime surrounds us in the simplest of things. From the organic to the mineral, our planet has given us its treasures and we have gone on to exploit them to excess. Global warming is no longer a remote possibility, but an established fact that threatens our entire ecosystem. The decision to create a monumental work demands a change in the onlooker’s perspective. It works like a microscope, in that we find ourselves confronted with the splendour of an ordinary production. If we do not pay it the respect and attention it is due, we deliberately put ourselves at risk. However, our negligence is no longer acceptable. The perfection of the sculptures testifies to Arnaud’s intimate connection with the natural world around him.

VILLAS Decoration Art Dubaï

ARNAUD RIVIEREN, La pomme Arnaud Park Hyatt Creeck, May 5 2021, Dubai © Pia Torelli