On Duran Mashaal Gallery, Art Investments, Going International
Sarah Mashaal is the co-director of Duran Mashaal Gallery. She co-founded it with business partner Andres Duran four years ago. On Montreal’s most renown street Sherbrooke West, the gallery boasts over 2500 square feet of contemporary artistic heaven. The walls adorn with paintings from established Canadian artists such as Paul Béliveau, to international artists such as Adriana Oliver. She recalls her own coup de coeur with the art world when she was merely 25 years of age, and like a good wine only gets more refined with age. A connoisseur of art, a vivacious personality, and mother of three, she is the epitome of an icon leading an industry.
Photo Credit – Marjorie Guindon
Tell me about yourself and your background
I got my bachelors at the University of Southern California in film production. My dream was to be a production designer in the film industry. It was a way to mix both art and film. Production designers and art designers are usually trained architects and interior designers because they’re building sets and drafting plans. I ended up getting a second degree in interior design in Toronto. I quickly got snatched up by an architectural firm. I ended up working in the high-end residential interior design industry for ten years. Unfortunately, I never really got to carry out my dream of being in the film industry, but I’m pretty happy where I am now.
Did you go straight into the Duran Mashaal gallery?
I transitioned quickly out of the interior design field into the art world. I had never imagined myself opening up an art gallery, but the opportunity just fell in my lap. I ended up meeting my partner, Andres Duran, 15 years ago when I was first sourcing art for design clients. He actually was the first person I bought a piece of art from when I started collecting when I was 25 years old. We decided to join forces, and with our combined experiences, we hit the ground running.
You were collecting art since you were 25?
Yes! It was a way I felt I could invest my money. As soon as you get into learning and researching about art, it’s like a rabbit hole. It’s very addictive and you really get into it. There are so many artists, types of art, and galleries out there to explore.
Are you familiar with Perrotin gallery? Is that something that you see yourself doing?
Yes of course. I feel like I found a niche here in Montréal. I really love the fact that we’re accessible. I remember going into my first gallery in New York and feeling very uncomfortable. Some of these large galleries aren’t very approachable. The art world, for some people, can be daunting. I wanted to create an environment that was accessible to all people, where people can come in and browse and not feel like they have to buy something. Where they can just ask about the artist, about the art and learn.
What brought you into collecting art at such a young age?
When I was sourcing for clients, I didn’t know anything about art. I was researching art so that when I presented the artwork to the clients, I was informed and could give good advise. When I did meet my now business partner, he took me under his wing and made me really understand and appreciate art. I was able to learn a lot from him and was quickly fascinated by the art world. I kept collecting throughout those years. Our partnership and the art gallery happened naturally. We both had a similar vision and understanding as to what was missing here in Montréal, and we felt like we were ready to bring that into fruition.
Photo Credit – George Pagakis
What is the specific type of art that you support?
Our roster is about 50% Canadian artists. Most of our artists are emerging. Some of them are mid-career. Our original intentions were to bring in more international artists in order to represent a wide variety of different artists local collectors had never seen before. It is an expensive venture because of costs importing art internationally, so many new galleries only show Canadian artists. It is riskier, yet we felt it was important to bring something fresh and new to the Canadian art market.
I want to know about you and your journey about art because I want women to know that they can start investing in it, it is investment that appreciates over time, isn’t it?
It is. Art is always a great way to invest. It’s always stable and isn’t volatile like the stock market. It might not give you the fastest return, but it is a great way and easy way to invest your money if you do the research and have the right guidance. There are so many programs out there now that allow people to purchase art interest-free over a period of time where they’re paying monthly. When you think about it that way, forego those Starbucks lattes and you could afford a piece of art in no time!
Photo Credit – George Pagakis
What advice would you give to a new collector on investing in their first piece of art? How does a new collector ensure that they are making the right decision?
When a client comes to me and knows nothing about art, of course, I would love to sell them their first piece of art, but I always encourage them to go and look at other galleries. To educate themselves and to go to museums. Really refine their eye. This takes time. I know people can have a coup de coeur, they see something and they have to have it. It is important to have something that you love. It is important because it’s going to be with you hopefully forever. Note to just take your time and see what else is out there. A lot of people end up changing their minds. It’s important to educate the clients, and I’m very happy to hold their hand throughout that process.
Do you find that when people start to invest in art just end up falling in love with it and their obsession grows more over time?
Yes, they do. It can be a genuine addiction. At least for me it was. Once you’re able to take that first piece of art and put it up in your home, there is a real sense of ownership…like “this is mine!” Something that is so special and was created by someone that you love and are connected with. It’s a very special thing to buy your first piece of art. I don’t know one collector who has only bought one piece of art and hasn’t caught the “collecting bug”.
Do you see that people are investing more in art over the years?
I think across the board, when it comes to home improvement, I think a lot of businesses have done really well during the pandemic. We have had our best year ever. We have to think outside of the box and think of other ways to reach larger audiences, be it an online viewing room or 3D tours, or having online catalogues. I feel like we have been reaching a broader audience. More people are buying art sight unseen. They’re fed up with looking at empty walls in their homes. They’re ready to pull the trigger and purchase that piece of art that have possibly been put on the back burner. Now that they’re not spending their money on lavish vacations, they’re spending it on their homes.
Photo Credit – George Pagakis
What artist do you currently have in your art gallery?
We have 23 artists right now. A mix between Canadian and international. We have painters, photographers, sculptors. A lot of them I’ve actually collected before I opened the gallery. The first painting that I bought when I was 25 was that of an artist I now represent. A lot of younger and emerging artists in this day and age have taken platforms of social media, especially Instagram, in order to put themselves out there and get their art recognized on an international level. It’s one of the best ways of discovering new talents and I’d say a lot of my newer younger artists I have found via social media and Instagram.
What makes you choose an artist to work with? Are you inspired by their work?
For us, I think that the artists’ individuality is key. We want to represent artists who are super unique and distinctive so that when people see their art they’re like, “oh, that’s an Adriana Oliver.” They’re so uniquely their own and that’s one of the things that gravitates me towards an artist and wanting me to represent them.
Describe three words to define Duran Mashaal Gallery
I would say we’re approachable. We’re cohesive. All of our artists blend really well together. And bold.
As an entrepreneur in the art world, what is your definition of success?
I want to create a gallery where people come in and it’s an escape for them, not necessarily because they want to have the hottest piece or whatever, but because they want to look and be here and it makes them happy and they want to learn. For me, that is success, for sure. When people come into the gallery and go, “oh I just love coming in here. It’s the best part of my weekend.” that, for me, makes me feel like I’ve done my job well.
Is there a goal that you’ve set or things that you really want to see in the next five years?
The art business is fully International. Even though we are local, we want and strive to have an international presence. We love participating in our fairs all over the world, meeting new clients that are international. I would love, one day, to open up a second gallery in London, England, or another metropolitan city.
When people get a better understanding of art and the art world and they really feel super happy with their purchase, whether it’s through me or if I’m working as an art consultant helping them find artworks from my peers — I love supporting my peers and my other gallerists. Our gallery is in a hub here next to the museum. There are around four to five other galleries next to us. People come down here and gallery hop. I’m like, “there’s this great artist down the street. You should go check them out.” and my gallerist friends do the same as well. We have a great and supportive community in Montreal, in Canada actually.
For more information, visit Duran Mashaal Gallery here.
Instagram : @DuranMashaalGallery
Trending Now : Curated exhibition with Sylvain Louis.
Cover Photo Credit – Marjorie Guindon
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