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Partner Gallery Interview: Gazelli Art House

Meet Mila Askarova, founder of Gazelli Art House, a gallery between Baku and London that specializes in digital art and virtual reality.

· Gallery Resources

Could you introduce your gallery and briefly describe its activities?

Since 2011, Gazelli Art House London has been championing a diverse group of artists from all over the world, some at the height of their careers, others at the start. With our Baku space reopening in 2016, the gallery also started to exhibit and support artists from Azerbaijan and neighbouring regions, more prominently. In 2015, through the Gazell.io residency, the digital arm of the gallery was created. Over the years it grew into its own physical Project Space and a VR library that contributes to the expansion of the market for VR art specifically.  

Mila Askarova, founder of Gazelli Art House, photograph by Tony McGee

You launched the Gazell.io Project Space and VR library a year ago, how did you prepare and organize this project?

Gazell.io as a digital residency has been operating since 2015 so over the years we have amassed a great group of digital artists who we were able to reach out to ahead of the VR library set up, and the launch of the Project Space. It was a natural progression for the residency to grow into a physical space, and have a permanent display of works through the VR library. 

What led you to create an online residency for artists in 2015? Did you know at the time that you would invest a lot in digital art later on?

It was always an interest of mine to look at artists working in fields outside the ‘traditional’ realm, medium, market, so putting together a digital residency that would allow us to connect with artists we wouldn’t normally cross paths with made sense. 

With time, I understood it was a good idea to start building on what we have created and start growing this digital arm of the gallery. 

Jake Elwes's exhibition, Zizi - Queering The Dataset, 2021

What are your current projects? Where do you see yourself in the near future?

We are celebrating our 10th year anniversary and given that this year is a short one for us (with the lockdown), we have decided to host a show per floor to enable us to get through the scheduled exhibitions we’ve had for 2021. This nicely coincides with Gazell.io Project Space which has its own programming. So, currently we have gallery artists Naqsh Collective and Giovanni Ozzola on ground and first floor with their new bodies of work and a Jake Elwes AI video piece at Gazell.io Project Space. 

I see us expanding Gazell.io further, and reinforcing the positioning of Gazelli Art House on the international marketplace through both London and Baku and potentially a third location. 

You represent a wide range of international artists. How do you choose the artists and artworks you showcase?

It’s important for artists to have a clear idea of what they’re trying to say – even if their medium changes over the years, their narrative should be consistent. It’s that consistency that we look for, as well as the longevity factor – where does the artist see themself in 10 years time and beyond.  

Group exhibition, Let's Talk About Text, 2021

What is it like to promote Azerbaijan’s (and its neighboring countries’) art in the UK? What is your communication strategy?

It has been really rewarding as there has been a very healthy interest in artists, from the Azerbaijan region, that are new to the local audience in the UK. We have to be careful when we market the shows in both London and Baku spaces, to an international audience, so as not to confuse the messaging and the separation of programs of the two galleries. 

What works in Baku might not work in London (commercially), so careful planning of which shows get the attention is key. 

What piece of advice would you give to a gallery that wants to enter the world of digital art? 

Do your research as there are a lot of platforms and digital/virtual spaces that offer similar services but might not fit the gallery’s program or profile. 

Brendan Dawes' artwork at .ext NFT exhibition, 2021

You joined Artsper in 2015. What did you take away from this collaboration?

We have had great exposure for artists and artworks that were featured on the platform, allowing us to reach out to an audience we wouldn’t otherwise connect with. 

It was also great to see the platform grow and develop the many angles it has now allowing for a streamlined collector experience. 

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