World’s First Art Incubator and Accelerator, Debut Contemporary, Ubiquity University

By Etienne Verbist - Wednesday, April 19, 2017
World’s First Art Incubator and Accelerator, Debut Contemporary, Ubiquity University

Ceric Samir, Art Coach: "I am an entrepreneur and disrupter in the art market aiming to change the fabrics of the art market that’s lacked transparency and serious and credible structure for centuries when it comes down to it being run as a business (perhaps with an exception of a few blue chip galleries and auction houses). I set up the world’s first art incubator and accelerator, Debut Contemporary, designed to assist ambitious and talented artists turn their practice into a viable business and a successful long term career."

World’s first art incubator and accelerator, Debut Contemporary, Ubiquity University

Etienne Verbist: Who are you and WHY do you do what you do?

Ceric Samir, Art Coach: I am an entrepreneur and disrupter in the art market aiming to change the fabrics of the art market that’s lacked transparency and serious and credible structure for centuries when it comes down to it being run as a business (perhaps with an exception of a few blue chip galleries and auction houses). I set up the world’s first art incubator and accelerator, Debut Contemporary, designed to assist ambitious and talented artists turn their practice into a viable business and a successful long term career. More than 300 artists have gone through the system in the past 6 years however my ambitious was always to empower and equip thousands and tens of thousands in the process; physically it would take me a couple of lifetimes to achieve that; however digitally that is possible within 1-2 years. And this is where Jim Garrison of Ubiquity University and I connected and fully understood each other’s’ aspiration and ambition and joined forces in creating the world’s first School of Entrepreneurial Art with me at the director of this New School (and Special Adviser to the President of Ubiquity) which will not only offer university students an opportunity to learn and develop their creative skills as other degrees offer them, but also be trained in entrepreneurial, real world-real business, skills and have a VC component plugged into it so they could even raise investment for their business practice. There is not school in the world that can match that however we are not necessarily just competing with the existing establishments. 100 million fully able and somewhat financially viable high school graduates cannot enter the higher education either because their own countries don’t have the necessary infrastructure or barrier to entry is too high. We want to change it and educate and empower more and this is why I believe Ubiquity will become the next big network orchestrators in the educational arena, like UBER, Facebook and ALibaba did in their respective industries. I am super excited about this new partnership and I recently introduced Jim to an amazing business incubator called Rockstar Group, run by a very charismatic  and successful entrepreneur Jonathan Pfahl whom I met when he both sat on the panel of successful leaders of the 21st century in the digital world.

Workshop with Guy Portelli

EVB: What’s your goal?

CS: My real purpose in the art world is a 3-fold:

1. to democratise the entire market in order to attract trillions of pounds of investment in the forming years and decades; historically it is the last remaining market that lacks transparency and is not run by serious and successful entrepreneurs with experience how to scale and exit a business (it’s mostly been run as a lifestyle business); hence I am working with a number of ex City analysis on deploying data in order to assess and establish a value behind both blue chip art and emerging artists’ art;

2. My ambition is to promote art to a much wider audience and in the process aim to introduce art to every single household in the UK and eventually the rest of the world by 2050;

3. Assist ambitious artists to access and own a toolkit necessary for them to succeed and achieve what they’ve set out to achieve, explaining to them that a gallery representation is nothing but another distribution channel and does not guarantee a career success (in most cases it’s the reason why artists fail). It is often compared to a department store for fashion designers and one could be stocked and selling in many department stores all over the world, as well as have their own flagship stores, and success is still not guaranteed. Why would it be any different in the art world?; 4. Creation of the world’s first art stock market modelled on LME as opposed to LSE by working with some of the biggest financial brains in the world, between China and the UK.

EVB: What will be the impact of what you do?

CS: The art world will be changed for good and that is the legacy I am after. Both the practicing artist as well as the ‘art consumers’ will mutually benefit from these positive changes and art will be a lot more appreciated across the board including the corporate world. Artists will become the new ‘rockstars’ and we will have a more fulfilled society as a result of this change.


Ram Shirghill at BBC

 Curating with Barry Martin

EVB: What about the fine art market?

CS: It is still stuck in its old ways, as mentioned above, however the change is happening and it is great to see the new blood entering it both as dealers and art entrepreneurs as well as new buyers and art lovers. We are still a long way away from achieving some sort of balance in this world however working in a truly global market works in our favor. China will be the next big thing in the art market across the board and as somebody who has been a part of the Chinese networks over the past 15 years, I am excited about this fact.  The Chinese are so much more ambitious and innovative in the art market and we are to see some amazing innovation coming from far east. Europe is lagging behind and so are European artists…


Toby Brown Sky News

EVB: What is your dream project?

CS: Curating a pavilion at Venice Biennale for my home native country Bosnia and building the most amazing buildings where art is at the epicenter of it all and inspires architecture and design as opposed to coming at the end of the project. Watch this space; I am super excited about it.

EVB: What role does the artist have in society?

CS: A very important one as long as he/she further develops and invest in his/her understanding of the market and the society we live in. I find artists at times ignorant and arrogant living in their own bubble and expecting things to happen to them without working hard for it. That will just not happen. But once they understand how the system operates, they can go so much further and positively impact the society we live in. They should aspire and aim to become very successful and through their art forms, engage and empower others. I see them as an integral part of the corporate words as their thinking pattern is very different and similar to the one of a successful entrepreneurs and that is why they can create ‘something out of nothing’. They just need to invest more in development. Learning, improvement and aim higher. The society without the arts is a dead society hence art and artists are incredibly important. I could not imagine my own home without art and artistic impression. It would feel so empty and so poor.


EVB: What memorable responses have you had to your projects?

CS: My projects have won the most prestigious industry awards however the most memorable responses have been on a personal front when I have been told (more than once) that I have ‘changed’ somebody’s life and empower them to that level that they are now passing on their own knowledge onto the next generation of artists and other creative entrepreneurs. A number of my business ventures included one to one mentoring and I felt this part of my ‘career’ has been the most fulfilling and satisfying, regardless of the fact that at times it was also very hard on me physically and mentally. 


Alastair Campbell

EVB: What do you dislike about the art world?

CS: I don’t like the fact that it is still portrayed as the industry of the privileged few and there is still a great deal of snobbishness about it all. It needs a serious overhaul and thankfully many new and ambitious players are entering the market and in the process democratizing it. They also don’t place too much emphasis on how the industry had been run for centuries and that is a good thing. The ‘establishments’ are scared of these mavericks and unless they keep up with the new trends, they will go out of business and be squeezed out of the market place. Like in any other industry, the monopoly is being destroyed and the competition is in its full force.

EVB: What role does art funding have?

CS: I am not a big fan of grants but do understand that certain institutions still rely on it. The way I see it, whether you are non for profit or for profit, if you run your organization efficiently, you will always be able to raise funding and get funded. Otherwise you will not be around in a few years time. I feel with the digital era fully underway, we all have many more opportunities to raise funding and crowd funding platforms are flourishing.

EVB: What research do you do?

CS: I personally rely on other researchers and research organizations such as Art Tactic however I tend to watch the market very closely and am tuned into any exciting new trends and trend setters. 


Rory Blain-Sedition Art

EVB: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

CS: Keep on going, especially when the going gets tough. Having always done my own thing, there’ve been many occasions when I questioned why I was doing what I was doing as it’s never easy to bring your own ideas to the market and make it successful and viable. However I have the attitude not to give up and keep on going. By default, you are much closer to success as long as you keep on going and keep on evaluating your progress.

EVB: What would you have done differently?

CS: I would have chosen a couple of former business partners differently … Perhaps I would have turned down 1-2 business ventures and offers now in hindsight and I would have personally raised more money at the outset of a couple of ventures as opposed to trying to launch them at a shoe string budget. And on at least one occasion, I would have spent more money on the lawyers to protect my own interest in the business. 

More information can be found here.

Etienne Verbist is an authority in the field of crowd sourcing, disruptive business modelling and disruptive art. After a well filled career with companies such as GE, Etienne was an early adopter of crowd sourcing. Etienne is manager Europe and Africa for Crowd Sourcing Week, a board advisor to a broad range of companies on innovation and new technology, curator of the Disruptive Art Museum – the smallest museum in the world – and columnist for ArtDependence Magazine.

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Image of the Day

Roman Pyatkovka, “VELVET SADNESS”, (1996), photograph glued on velvet passe-partout (paper).

Roman Pyatkovka, “VELVET SADNESS”, (1996), photograph glued on velvet passe-partout (paper).


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