What’s On teams up with Hype to meet co-founder of Drawdeck. Alex Dunn wanted to create somewhere to buy art in Dubai by regional artists.

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Where are you from? I’m originally from Gateshead in the northeast of England, but I grew up in a small town just south of Manchester.

What do you do here?  I helped set up a company called Drawdeck. We’re a small team, which means I have to contribute to most aspects of the business. I predominately focus on artist recruitment and marketing.

What is Drawdeck? It’s a socially-driven online marketplace that offers authentic art to the MENA region. Artists and illustrators from all over the world can sign up, create a profile, organise, showcase and sell their artwork directly through our site. We handle all the promotion, printing, framing and delivery, meaning our artists can do what they do best – be creative!

What was your involvement with art before you started Drawdeck? I’ve always loved art but wasn’t greatly exposed to it until university. My business partner, David Hammond, is from a design background and is an aspiring digital artist, so he’s got more of a connection with art. I’m his biggest critic; I like to keep him grounded.

What were you guys doing before Drawdeck? I worked as a strategic planner for an advertising agency in Knowledge Village. David was working as a landscape architect based in Abu Dhabi.

What inspired you to start it? There’s a lack of choice in the MENA region for consumers to buy quality, authentic artwork from local and international artists at affordable prices. There are so many amazing artists all over the world that never get the exposure they deserve, and there aren’t many platforms for them. We wanted to bridge the gap and give artists a platform to showcase their work here, whilst supplying consumers with artwork they might never have found.

How long has it been going? The basic function of Drawdeck – as a tool to showcase artwork – has been live for just over a year. However, the marketplace, for people to buy and sell their artwork, has only been going for around three months.

How many artists are connected to Drawdeck? We have over 600 artists signed up to the website, and around 50 of them have been accepted to sell their work through us although that number’s growing every week.

Tell us more about some of the local artists involved. There’s a real mix of artists based here, which personifies Dubai as a city. For instance, there are students from Zayed University, as well as expats like Matt Ryder and Qinza Najm. In 2015, we’ll be concentrating more on local, young and emerging talent. One of our philosophies is to ‘promote the unpromoted’. It’s become our catchphrase.

Tell us about the international artists involved. Balazs Solti is one of the most popular artists at the moment. He’s a digital artist based in Budapest, Hungary, and he really tries to create images that elicit emotions and make people smile – it definitely works. Terry Fan in Canada, Francisco Valle in Brazil, Ali Gulec in Turkey and Florent Bodart in France are also very popular.

What’s the art scene like here in Dubai? It’s actually a really exciting time, and I think it has a very bright future. The most notable change is seeing how negative connotations that go with street art, such as vandalism and rebellion, are slowly being ironed out, and such artwork has been heavily supported by the government, which is great to see.

What’s your 50/Collection all about? We’ve just launched our first limited edition 50/Collection with the very talented street artist, Myne. He’s an Iraq-born artist raised in London, and he’s created a piece specifically for Drawdeck. Only 50 prints have been created, all signed by Myne himself. We’re looking to release six collections a year, which will see us collaborating with some big names. We’re hoping the project will be a great way for collectors to start adding unique pieces to their collections, without paying high prices.

What’s the secret to success here? There’s so much opportunity here and most people seem to be open to hearing your ideas, but you have to put yourself out there. Building relationships has been key for us. Just asking someone for a coffee to explain our idea sounds so simple, but it’s been really effective. There’s always someone who knows someone in Dubai, so it’s always worth meeting up for a chat.

With digital prints starting from Dhs55, start your art collection with a visit to drawdeck.com. Follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via @drawdeck.

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