The energy to embrace a new era

Mona Al Abdullah, founder of 369 HUB, consultant and art expert, takes Miriam Dunn on a journey from the early days of the gallery’s launch to the current Modern and Contemporary Art auction, which has been organised in collaboration with ArtScoops

The auction takes place at a really historic time for us, coming in the middle of the pandemic and marking our entrance into online initiatives

What was the inspiration for launching 369 HUB?

I created the art gallery 369 HUB at the end of 2019, following 15 years during which I worked as an art consultant and expert, while co-owning two art
galleries in Tunisia and Morocco. I was greatly inspired by the many people I knew with enquiring minds who shared a passion for art and were looking for a space to exchange and express their ideas on art comfortably and freely. We found the hub, or niche as I like to think of it, provided the perfect environment for both art lovers and artists to interact and converse. There was a great energy at these get-togethers and a real synchronicity about the way they developed, which paved the way for 369 HUB and its team to evolve. Energy and connectivity are both at the heart of the gallery, which is why the name 369 HUB was such a natural choice, acknowledging the inventor and true father of the electric age, Nikola Tesla, who believed that the three numbers 369 hold the key to the universe.

What prompted your decision to choose Jeddah as the location for the gallery?

When I first visited Jeddah in 2013 and saw the city’s beauty for myself, it really was a case of love at first sight. Jeddah has many attractions, which include a great location not too far from other regional hubs. It’s also home to a bustling art community, brimming with hidden talent, which has been a joy to discover. Significantly, too, Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a historic transformation, with many developments having a positive impact on the arts, such as the decision to set up a Ministry of Culture. Jeddah is at the forefront of these developments, helping to drive them forward, and it’s been incredibly exciting to be part of that sea-change.

Today, 369 HUB comprises three galleries, each in a city known for its art: Jeddah; Paris; and Beirut. How did you choose these locations and what’s next in your expansion plans?

369 HUB is based under the umbrella of 369 Labs, which currently has locations in Tunisia and Jeddah. Our ambition is to also have a base in Riyadh. Beirut is always in our heart; many members of our team come from Lebanon and we will be organizing many events there.

You describe 369 HUB as a home for daring creativity and innovation. How do you nurture talent and allow ideas to come to fruition?

I think the potential that a gallery offers for discovering new talent is one of its most exciting traits. I love the capacity that art and artists have to surprise me again and again, whether it’s through new techniques or unusual combinations of mixed media. Afterwards, there’s the thrill of delving into the philosophy behind a work and learning its story. An artwork inevitably brings together on canvas both the emotions of an artist and their philosophy. It’s up to the curator then to unearth the story and help the artist to tell it accurately and in a way that stays true to the original concept.

What is your perception about how artists are treating today’s topical issues in their work?

There’s no doubt that this has been a very difficult year for the arts. However, I’m an optimistic person by nature and believe that that humanity will always prevail. History has also shown that art helps the human race to survive and rise from the chaos; in fact, artists and other creatives often thrive in these situations. I’ve already begun seeing art this year that has reached new heights on a technical and inspirational level, full of fresh hope and energy. The Covid-19 pandemic will pave the way for a new order and way of life. In the coming years, more and more of the art being produced will reflect this.

You have just launched your first online auction of Modern and Contemporary Art with ArtScoops. What can you tell us about this collaboration?

The auction takes place at a really historic time for us, coming in the middle of the pandemic and marking our entrance into online initiatives. I confess that I’m guilty of having ignored the virtual world, perhaps because I’ve always been so attached to art in the physical sense, loving its touch and smell. But I was determined to find a new way of working and challenge the fate that the coronavirus threatened to impose on us. We chose to work with ArtScoops and it’s been a fantastic experience, producing a great chemistry between two young teams from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Collaboration is undoubtedly the way forward – perhaps the only way to survive in a new era. The auction also proved to be the ideal platform for us to introduce exciting emerging artists, some of whom haven’t been exhibited or collected before, such as Walid Ardhaoui and Maya Al Abdullah, and that has been incredibly satisfying for me.