Preserving the past and protecting the future

Through their Open Crate initiative, global art experts and entrepreneurs Amina Debbiche and Nora Mansour are ushering in a new era of documentation and valorisation for the region’s art and design.

Amina Debbiche and Nora Mansour

There’s something incredibly satisfying about buying a piece of art you’ve fallen in love with, hanging it on the wall in your favourite room and noticing something new in the composition each time you walk past or are relaxing on the sofa.

However, as you begin to assemble more pieces in and around your home and, perhaps, your office too, can you say, hand on heart, that you have an accurate, reliable and up to date inventory of your acquisitions?

This is one of several key questions that global art experts and entrepreneurs Amina Debbiche and Nora Mansour have been asking collectors since they teamed up to co-found The Open Crate in 2018.

“It’s easy to lose track of a collection as you add to it, especially when, like many art lovers, you buy out of passion and are emotionally invested in the works,” Amina said. “Unfortunately, all too often we find that when collectors are attached to their artworks in this way, they can overlook the importance of having their collection cleanly, confidentially and securely valorised and documented.”

The Open Crate was set up to tackle this issue and provide a welcome solution for collectors, advisors, cultural institutions and art professionals in the form of a unique, members-only, transparent digital inventory and management system. 

Promoting the ethos ‘Preserve the Past, Protect the Future’, the digital inventory space represents the first independent online solution for managing art collections in the Middle East and Africa

Describing themselves as ‘cultural engineers’, Amina explained that the team use their expertise to create a full, digital inventory of clients’ collections, meticulously researching and cataloguing them, before overseeing the full migration of inventories to their online space.

Owners are able to access the digital inventory via a user-friendly, confidential and secure login section. They can then maintain, manage and explore the works in their collections as they wish, wherever they’re based, and also share pieces with the outside world if they wish to do so. 

The idea for devising a digital inventory space came to the two professionals out of an encounter and chat they had when working in Dubai, as Amina explained.

“We were both working in the cultural field, in different areas of specialisation, and became aware that while the region’s art and other collectibles looked lovely on walls and in spaces, there were important links missing when it came to archiving and documentation,” she said. 

The Open Crate was launched with the aim of addressing this issue and filling an important vacuum in the market, against a backdrop of rising interest in art and artefacts in the region, fuelled, in part, by the opening of new museums and art centres.

“Previously, it felt like the region’s art history was held in private hands, but there was a sense that this was changing,” Amina explained. “There was more interest in pieces in private collections and more requests for loans for institutions that were opening. Change was happening at a fast pace. We quickly realised that there was a need to embark on a process of documentation to protect the region’s art and cultural legacy at large.” 

The Open Crate’s co-founders began their project by speaking to collectors on the ground and explaining their mission. “We wanted owners of the region’s wonderful art to understand the importance of having their collections cleanly documented, valorised and protected,” Nora said. 

In the initial stages, their meticulous work was undertaken as a hard copy, but over time, they became aware of the fragility of what was increasingly becoming an outdated process. “It occurred to us that books can be destroyed, lost or stolen,” Amina said. “Tapping into technology and innovation by going digital was the natural next step. We felt this was the right approach for taking archiving to the next level and dovetails with the demands of today’s evolving art market.”

Amina explained that once collectors became aware of the benefits of having a thorough, clean reference of their work, The Open Crate was soon in great demand, with word-of-mouth recommendations generating new business. “Clients were very positive in their feedback, recognising that our services had made keeping track of their collections much easier and providing welcome reassurances, whether it was because they were loaning a piece out to a museum or updating a list to include a new gift,” she said.  

Nora added that archives also provide peace of mind for collectors looking to ensure that the significance and value of artworks will be understood by the next generations. “Children and grandchildren will often be the protectors of a legacy of art, but they won’t always be art afficionados,” she said. “Our digital Inventory and management system provides them with the information they need to be informed and make decisions with confidence.”

The Open Crate has several exciting projects in the pipeline, which include opening a virtual museum for one client and launching a website for a foundation. 

Nora explained that the team are also working on a new version of the platform where curated sales will be open to the public or specifically for members. “These will provide opportunities for curators, writers and art lovers to discover collections that members wish to open up to the public,” she said.

The Open Crate’s services include:

A Digital Inventory & Management System

A Collection & Inventory Book

A Digital Development Identity

An Art Project Agency

More information is available at: and @theopencrate on Instagram 

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