Maliha Tabari: A Brush With Success On The Mideast Canvas

By Muhammad Riaz Usman
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Maliha Tabari, managing director of Tabari Artspace, has been exposed to art since childhood and she’s never thought of leaving it to pursue other passions. She considers art to be a medium through which she can express herself.


“Art is something I can create with my imagination. Take away my passion, and it’s like taking away the one thing that makes me who I am as an individual,” says Maliha.

Maliha has been operating the Tabari Artspace gallery for almost 15 years in Dubai since her return from the US after completing her BFA as well as a minor in Art History at Otis College of Art and Design, California, and Ringling School of Art and Design, Florida.

“Once I completed my education, I realised I can have a voice back home to nurture artists, tell their stories and give them a platform on which to be heard,” she says.

“My goal has been to create greater awareness about the Middle Eastern art scene internationally. When I started in 2003, there was no platform or place for artists to grow and to be seen. I’m most proud to see Middle Eastern artists recognised in the East and West and have their works showcased at international biennales, museums and foundations,” she explains.

“It creates cultural awareness and makes the UAE the main art hub in the Middle East. With museums, fairs and auction houses, it brings the international scene closer and more interested in our region,” she observes.

Maliha says her idea of establishing an art gallery was not a game changer — art has been in the Middle Eastern history for many years.

“However, opening a gallery in 2003 when Dubai was a young city focused on construction and development was forward-thinking and a passionate risk that ended up being very positive in enriching the culture,” she says.

Maliha says the UAE’s strongest point is its diversity and the mix of cultures. “Under the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the growth and development in Dubai is incredible. I am grateful to be a part of this city,” says Maliha.

Talking about her strategy, Maliha says that setting up the business in 2003 gave her time to grow and understand the market in the past 15 years.

“One, investing in artists and believing in them supported them in building a journey to the East and West. Two, persistence and passion are key in this business. You have to love what you do and not give up. Three, engage with clients all the time, help them connect to the art/artist, do not let them feel intimidated to ask more information about the artwork. Four, being down to earth is key in this business. I never take myself too seriously as we are still in the learning and growing stage in this region,” she elaborates.

Other than her present business, Maliha also plans to explore new areas for expansion. “I’ve been into distribution for the last two years. I represent two well-known luxury publishers in this region [Taschen and Assouline].

They are the leading publishers for coffee table books. This month, I launched an art platform called Arternative space, a story-telling platform that targets a specific clientele through consultancy and activations,” says Maliha.

“My dream is to create an app that connects people together,” she says.

Maliha, who is also a painter and sculptor, says: “I like all forms of art as long as it triggers an emotion, symbolism or has a spiritual element. I’m especially compelled by pieces that are thought of conceptually or are process-driven.”

A strong believer in long-term investments, Maliha has built up a reputation in promoting artists and finding the right home for each piece.

She advises young art collectors to keep three points in mind when planning to buy a piece of art. “One, buy a piece that you’ve fallen in love with; two, ensure the artist has a recognizable style and DNA; and three, invest in something/someone that could retain a good, long-term value.”

Maliha urges young entrepreneurs to stay committed and focused in what they believe in. “Never compare yourself to anyone else, be true to yourself, take advice from people you love, take criticism in a positive way and learn from it, understand your numbers and love your accountants,” she advises.

Maliha wants to dedicate and attribute her success to her parents. “I attribute the success to my family for the strength and emotional support they’ve given me to push beyond my limits without giving up. I am also glad that I am hard on myself and not scared of failure.”

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