Mariane Ibrahim is making moves. The Somali-French curator just opened her third art gallery in Mexico City. “My choices are driven by the desire for the unknown and unexpected,” she says of the gallery’s surprising location. As one of the leading art dealers in the world, Ibrahim is dedicated to presenting art from the diaspora. “I entered the contemporary art world as a collector, and I began to immerse myself in the art world out of interest,” she shares. Through her many interactions and introspections, she concluded that “there was a lot to be done for artists less visible than their peers, the artists of African descent,” which led to her career shift. Ibrahim reveals more about the keys to running three successful global galleries and where her personal interests are steering her next in the world of art and culture.
EBONY: What is the driving force behind the locations of your three galleries, which pretty much span the globe?
Mariane Ibrahim: The choices for each of our spaces come from a personal interest. Chicago was a place of departure, Paris a place of return and Mexico City is a place of exploration. Each city is interconnected with my personal history.
How does your Somalian and French culture influence your art choices and what you invest in?
It’s very complicated to connect my heritage and ethnicity with my choices. I think it is part of a larger interconnected experience. For instance, we recently opened a gallery in Mexico City, that choice has strictly no connection with my Somali or French background but is rooted in an authentic fascination for Mexican history and art. Of course, my heritage gives me ways to maneuver various topics, but it is not limited to the perimeters of my cultural influence. Now I am keen on exploring live art, works by Black female artists and investing in Egyptian antiquities.
What influences the African art and artists you choose to present? Who are some of the most intriguing African artists on your roster right now?
It is a visceral feeling. The art picks me and I choose the artists, and that would be all of them. But I would say the upcoming show in Paris by Zohra Opoku is off to be an intriguing one.
What's the key to running your galleries as the top woman in charge?
It’s to be patient, introspective and relentless and to never steer from your mission. It’s also to immerse yourself around people you can trust and that have an aligned vision.
Where would you like to see African art curation head in the future?
Toward more experimental and conceptual curations. The exhibitions that integrate Africa are so literal. We need more intellectual and reflective exhibits matched with serious publications. We need more curatorial research and studies to prepare the next generations of curators.
Your personal style is also finely curated! Who are some of your favorite designers and looks?
Like everyone, I mix. I love suits for day and night. When I am off-duty, it’s Michele Deyawe, an up-and-coming French-Cameroonian designer. She’s the best-kept secret.