Stéphane Custot’s got a sense of optimism about him that is envious, but also infectious. Construction delays and an apartment in flames on New Year’s Eve in Dubai’s The Address aside, the French-born dealer says there is a gap in the Dubai art market for Contemporary Western art and he’s here to fill it.
He oozes matter-of-factness and says buoyant things like: 'What’s happened until now is the past. What’s important especially here in Dubai is what’s happening now and what’s happening next,' and 'To be an art dealer is to be intuitive, it’s not to be reasonable.'
It was intuition, admits Custot, that first led him to Dubai just over two years ago. It was Alserkal Avenue, Dubai’s preeminent art district, that convinced him to set up an outpost in the Arab world after 25 years of operating from Europe.
Marc Quinn, Ian Davenport, Bernar Venet, Pablo Reinoso and Fabienne Verdier all took time out of their busy schedules to show their new Dubai dealer some support at his inaugural show, 'The World Meets Here'. The space is marvellous, all 700 sq m of it enveloped in nine-metre-high ceilings. This is what Dubai can do that London can’t: large-scale sculpture and a new conversation.
With the region in flux courtesy of a plunge in oil prices and a war with Yemen, finance is the name of today’s game, but Custot retorts: 'When you have the best thing, you always find a client.' What about Custot’s blue chip art and its hefty price tags? 'Of course there’s no market for Western art here because there’s no dialogue yet.'