Leila and Alexander Heller at their new gallery space on the Upper East Side in New York. Courtesy of Leila Heller Gallery
Since its establishment over three decades ago in New York, Leila Heller Gallery has gained worldwide
recognition as a pioneer in promoting creative dialogue and exchange between Western artists and Middle Eastern,
Central and Southeast Asian artists. It has garnered a reputation for identifying and cultivating the careers of
artists leaving a lasting impact on contemporary art and culture. Currently representing a diverse roster of
Western and Middle Eastern artists, the gallery is also active in the American, European and Middle Eastern
secondary art markets. In November 2015, Leila Heller Gallery opened its first international location in Dubai’s
Alserkal Avenue. At 14,000 square feet, the state-of the-art gallery features three exhibition spaces, making it
the largest gallery in the UAE. Showcasing leading regional and international artists, many of whom will be
presenting their work in the Middle East for the first time, the gallery is dedicated to supporting the evolving
practice of established artists.
Leila Heller Portrait. Courtesy of Leila Heller Gallery
Leila Heller Portrait. Courtesy of Leila Heller Gallery



What did you do before you opened your first gallery in New York City?
After graduating from Brown University and getting a Master’s from Sotheby’s and from George Washington University in art history and museum management, I worked at the Guggenheim Museum from 1979 to mid 1980. I then joined an investment bank in New York as the curator of their corporate collection. After two years, I opened my own gallery on Madison Avenue and 82nd Street and represented an international array of artists including a number of Middle Eastern artists.

Could you tell us about your first exhibition, which acted as a statement for your programme?
My first exhibition was a solo show by Marta Minujin, an Argentinian feminist artist who was and still is an inspiration to women not only in her country but globally. The UN purchased a work from my show.

Do you feel the intention you set for the gallery when you first opened is still the same today?
My programme has changed tremendously as I now have two galleries globally. My gallery in Dubai mainly shows international prominent artists from around the world, including Middle Eastern artists, as well as representing the estates of Farideh Lashai and Marcos Grigorian and doing shows of modern Middle Eastern masters. My gallery in New York represents a number of American and international artists, but also has major curated shows of contemporary and modern masters, themed curated exhibitions. My last show was a show curated by Jane Holzer, who was Warhol’s first superstar and muse, known as “Baby Jane.” My current show is the new works by Arthur Carter, a well-known American sculptor
whose public works are in front of the UN, Brown University, NYU and in New Milford Hospital. My current show in Dubai is of the prominent artist Reza Derakshani and is a retrospective of his work and the biggest show he has had in a gallery.


What does sharing your name with the gallery mean to you?
I don’t know if having my name as the emblem of my gallery makes sense anymore as my son works alongside me with and has equal responsibilities, so somehow I think I should rethink the name pretty soon.

Why did you feel it was important to open your gallery in the UAE?
I had been exhibiting at Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art for 10 years before I decided to open a gallery in the UAE. Dubai has become an adopted country for me, and I so enjoy its people, the nature, the sea and the warmth. I feel it is a home away from home, and I love every moment I spend there, so it was natural that after 10 years of going three or four times to the UAE for two art fairs and seeing my clients to open my gallery in Dubai, which is an art hub.

How do you see the art scene today and your relationship with it?
The New York art scene is as vibrant as ever and quite happening. Of course it is not
like the 1980s where the New York art scene was the epitome of contemporary art and where all the action took place. Times have changed as the relationship between gallerists and artists was so much more intimate then and the stable of artists in galleries were much smaller rather than mega galleries with their big rosters of artists. All of us hung out at Studio 54, Xenon and Area with our artists and were very close friends of all our artists. We were like a family. I feel the art world has become much more money-driven, and the spirit of camaraderie and the innocence that existed in those days is no longer relevant.

How would you define the identity of your gallery?
I find that my gallery is really me and my personality. I have to connect with my artists or my clients, and it is really a personal relationship that I develop. I cannot show an artist for financial gain, I passionately love the art I sell or the artists I interact with.

What can you tell us about the roster of artists you represent?
The roster of artists are quite diverse, but I must say that I love and admire their works with passion and have tremendous respect for them.

Leila and Alexander Heller at their new gallery space on the Upper East Side in New York. Courtesy of Leila Heller Gallery
Leila and Alexander Heller at their new gallery space on the Upper East Side in New York. Courtesy of Leila Heller Gallery

Your son Alexander Heller has joined the gallery a few years ago. Do you feel the new generation will change the art world?
I definitely think the new generation will change the art world in a big way. The new generation works heavily through social media, WhatsApp and there are a lot of instant deals going on. My tendency is to always meet the client and do face to face. I see how my son sells works all over the world without ever having met the client, but it seems to work very well.

Which photograph from 2019 best represents your gallery and activity?
I think that the above picture shows the new direction of the gallery as working as partners together in New York and in Dubai. This photo was taken at our inaugural show in our new space uptown at 17 East 76th Street off Madison Avenue.

Could you tell us about your programme for 2020?
My first show for 2020 in New York will be Nick Moss, who will exhibit his new series of wall sculptures. In Dubai we will inaugurate the first solo show of Melis Buyruk, a Turkish sculptor whose medium is porcelain.




SELECTIONS is a platform for the arts, focusing on the Arab World.

Selections editorial presents a quarterly print magazine and weekly online publication with high quality content on all subjects related to Art and Culture. Full of world-leading artworks, exquisite brand imagery, original creative illustrations and insightful written articles.
Selections Viewing Rooms presents carefully curated online art shows aiming not only to shed light on contemporary art executed by living artists, but also for viewers to buy contemporary fine art, prints & multiples, photography, street art and collectibles.
Discover the previous and current shows here.
Cultural Narratives foundation is an extensive collection that is travelling the world by leading established and emerging talents aiming to reflect the culture of the region in their works.


‘Sunday in the Park with Tom’ by Marwan Chamaa at Mark Hachem Gallery Beirut

On show at Mark Hachem Gallery Beirut is ‘Sunday in the Park with Tom’ a show by Marwan Chamaa. Marwan Chamaa’s artistic journey took him through esteemed institutions such as the American University of Beirut, Beirut University College (now LAU),…

‘Black & White’ by Wissam Shawkat at Mestaria Art Gallery

Mestaria Art Gallery is presenting the work of the award-winning Iraqi artist, Wissam Shawkat, in his exhibition “Black & White,” which will be on display from November 11th to December 12th. This exhibition beckons attendees to explore the core of…

On Show at the Qatar Museums

Qatar Museums is launching an array of exhibitions at the end of October, catering to diverse tastes. Here’s a glimpse of what’s in store: Dan Flavin | Donald Judd: Doha October 25, 2023 – February 24, 2024 – QM Gallery…

“Past Echoes: A Journey through Middle Eastern Product Design” curated by Babylon – The Agency at Villa Mokbel – We Design Beirut

“Past Echoes: A Journey through Middle Eastern Product Design” curated by Babylon – The Agency founded by Joy Mardini and William Wehbe – stands as a tribute to the rich heritage of Middle Eastern design interwoven within the historic Villa…

“The Beauty of Impermanence: An Architecture of Adaptability” at the Sharjah Architecture Triennial

The Sharjah Architecture Triennial opens its 2023 edition, titled “The Beauty of Impermanence: An Architecture of Adaptability.” Curated by architect Tosin Oshinowo, the event features contributions from 29 architects, designers, and studios representing 25 countries. Their collective endeavour revolves around…

“Hybrids of Creativity” Tashkeel, in Collaboration with Dubai Future Foundation at the Dubai Assembly for Generative AI 2023

Tashkeel, an incubator for art and design in the UAE, has partnered with the Dubai Future Foundation to present “Hybrids of Creativity,” an exhibition comprising 54 artworks primarily created by UAE national artists utilising generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools. This…

november 2023

03may(may 3)09:0026nov(nov 26)20:00LOBI LOBI - BOBO LAND - Comic Craze Vol. 3

27may(may 27)09:0014jan(jan 14)09:00THE CASABLANCA ART SCHOOL

31may(may 31)09:0019nov(nov 19)09:00WHAT PALESTINE BRINGS TO THE WORLD