At 25, Arushi Kapoor is the Gallery Director of an international art gallery with a 12,000-square-foot space in Echo Park, Los Angeles, as well as locations in London and Delhi. Kapoor has worked with numerous art galleries and is the youngest member of Tate Modern’s South Asian Acquisitions Committee. She most recently gathered an all-female team for a global NFT project called Shama Shorties.
Kapoor hails from a family of art collectors; she grew up in a home where prolific artists such as M.F. Husain and S.H. Raza were regular visitors. She began her career as a teenager with an internship at Sotheby’s.
An avid art collector herself, she has three clear divisions when collecting and her favourite regions to collect from are Southeast Asia and Africa.
How did you get started?
When I was 16 I started working with Sotheby’s, and when I was 19 I started a tech company with my ex-business partner. It was connecting artists with galleries. The business did not do really well but we got a lot of data and information from it and from that, I started the consulting, and then we grew into alternative investments like the primary and secondary markets. There are a lot of different things that strung out from that, but I started very young and I started at the bottom. I was doing exhibitions, putting up artworks, and cataloguing. I worked with several different galleries from when I was 18 to 20. So I got a lot of experience with that. But the way my business started was very much on autopilot. Things were in the right place because I was at the right place at the right time, and I had the right information.
How did your new space in Echo Park, Los Angeles come to be?
Our company was growing and we wanted to have a permanent space. We’ve been doing pop-ups in LA for probably 5 or 6 years, and it felt like the right time to purchase permanent space. The idea of the space is to build a primary market for artists that are based in LA but are from around the world. The focus is to bring emerging artists into the established artist’s category, mostly focusing on female artists. Our first show was with the artist Lindsay Dawn, it did phenomenally. Her collectors were absolutely insane, we had everybody from Lebron James to Kylie Jenner.
Could you tell us a little bit about the all-female NFT project?
We are launching an NFT project called Shama Shorties soon, it’s an all-female NFT project and, it is inspired by Lindsay Dawn’s work.
What is your role as the Youngest Member of Tate’s South Asian Acquisitions Committee?
It is contributing towards supporting Southeast Asian artists in the museum realm, not only at Tate but all around the world. This is something I have worked with for a long time, vernacular, aboriginal, contemporary Masters from Southeast Asia and the role is basically providing a fresh outlook to the Southeast Asian Committee and acquiring the best artworks that we can for Tate Modern.
What distinguishes your collecting approach from that of your family?
I grew up internationally, so the way I would describe it is that I grew up in a melting pot of cultures. My family’s collection focuses on Southeast Asian contemporary artists, my personal collection focuses on artists from all around the world. I have three different focuses in my art collection, my one focus is up-and-coming prints which have become a huge market in the last two years. Southeast Asian and African diaspora of artworks and I clubbed them both together only because they are severely undervalued and both of them are probably going to be blown up at some point. The third one is black and white prints and artworks, black and white papers, and canvas. So those are the three areas I focus my collection on and I will say that there are actually three different collections with the only common denominator being me.
What about your NFT collection?
I’m bullish on NFTs and I’ve been collecting NFTs from the very beginning. I have everything from the Bored Ape Yacht Club to Metaforce to up-and-coming cool projects to ENS pro coin. I don’t do day trading with my NFTs. My last purchase was a Dumpling Mafia NFT, which is created by artist Narrator and inspired by two-time Top Chef finalist Shirley Chung. I am a huge foodie so I invest in NFTs which I’m passionate about and projects that have potential. I am just starting to get into the music NFT world as well.
As a young artrepreneur, what strategies have you implemented to empower yourself and lead as an authoritative figure during your career?
Before the pandemic, I would say we trenched very deeply into digital marketing and sales of artworks through platforms like ARTSY and several other platforms. I think that was a game-changer because the galleries that didn’t do that haven’t survived very well. The way I treat the art world is with a lot of transparency, which historically has not been the case for most galleries and dealers. I truly believe in dealing with everyone in the utmost transparent way that I can and the other thing that I also do focus on is, trying to find the new in-thing in the art world. Humans evolve and things evolve, if you don’t go with the times, you lose out. Strategies change all the time.
Who are some of the art dealers and gallerists you’ve idolized during your career?
Definitely Larry Gagosian. Paul Schimmel is another person who is a very dear friend and mentor of mine as well. There are younger art dealers that inspire me as well. Lekha Poddar is someone who has an exceptional eye for Indian contemporary art. Jeffery Deitch is another person that I think is absolutely phenomenal in terms of picking up the right artist at the right levels. There’s Bettina Korek who is honestly a revolutionary.
What would you like to say to aspiring Southeast Asian artrepreneurs?
Put yourself online. I understand not everyone is able to travel but everyone is able to put themselves online on different platforms. Look at smaller chat rooms, discords, and forums online, and become a part of it. Don’t put yourself in a box. Familiarize yourself with as many international aspects of things as you can. Put yourself in uncomfortable positions because uncomfortable positions will make you grow.