Off hours: British expat in Dubai has art at heart

Louise Duggan runs Ophelia Art Consultancy, which she set up in 2013, providing wall art for some of the UAE’s most prestigious new hotels – including The St Regis Dubai, W Hotel in Al Habtoor City and Palazzo Versace Dubai. The Briton, 42, previously worked for the Harrods interior design team before becoming an art consultant for Green Art Gallery, Dubai. When not sourcing or enjoying art, the Dubai resident is a keen horse rider.

How do you spend your weekends?

Weekends seem to fly by. Even after 17 years in Dubai I still find it hard working on a Sunday. Weekends are predominantly spent with friends, catching up, socialising. I have horses that live in Al Kawaneej so any spare time I am riding or spending time with them. We strongly support locally based artists so I spend a lot of time at exhibitions, art fairs and markets for anything new.

How did you become a managing director?

Three years ago I set up Ophelia, having worked previously as an interior designer in London and Dubai. My degree was in art and design and this has always been a huge passion and, when time allows, I still paint. When I was looking to set up a company, the obvious choice was to concentrate on artwork, sculpture and accessories. My design background was in hotel design so now I source and supply artwork for hotels in the region and beyond. We get invited to work in some of the most luxurious hotels in the UAE. We have our own printing and framing division so all work is completed in-house. The fun part is we also print and frame for individual clients and photographers so there is a variety of work and we get to work on some amazing projects.

What was the lowest point of your career?

Any low point has always made me strive harder to achieve my goals so I have never seen any low point as a negative, just a time to regroup and focus. Setting up a business was hard. Life had changed direction so I had no option but to make it work. I was able to bounce ideas off family and friends, which I still do, and the support I have had has been amazing.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

Double your budget. Starting any new business costs a lot more than you realise – and employ a very good PRO. I believe that if you are passionate about what you do that passion will be seen and felt by your clients. Be authentic and honest, and do your research. Know your field and don’t promise what you can’t deliver.

What is your most indulgent habit?

My two horses are a very indulgent habit, but what I get back in return is more than money can buy. I also have rescue dogs and cats so they give me a lot of joy and at times heartache. I review so much artwork that when I see something I really like, I tend to buy it.

What do you have on your desk at work?

Far too much paperwork, frame samples and a constant supply of coffee.

What is your go-to gadget?

I recently bought a scooter. Having never ridden one before I drive around slowly, but it’s great fun and so convenient to pop round the compound to visit friends. I need to practice corners over the summer.

What can’t you live without?

I hate to admit it, but my ­iPhone. How did we survive without a smartphone?

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

I try to horse ride in the mornings before work and find that sets me up well for the day. I can be accused of not having the best balance, but as a business owner I find it really hard to switch off completely. I really enjoy what I do so, in a sense, I achieve the work balance. At the end of the day I just want to relax at home; that is why I try to catch up with friends at the weekend. During the week I finish off emails, review new artwork, a bit of TV and it is an early night.

If you could swap jobs with anyone who would it be and why?

When I am in London, I try to visit as many galleries as possible, so I would love to be a curator at Tate Modern, going through their collections and bringing new exhibitions.

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