Interview with Photential

Saying that 2020 has been a testing year is an understatement. More than ever, artists, photographers and multimedia artists need support to promote and showcase their work. Photential is a platform that isn't a gallery, neither an agency but a new kind of kids on the block who hope to change the way we look at photography and digital art. Generating value from art, supporting the art communities is what the .ART is all about. It is with that in mind that we have interview Leila Antakly & Dmitry Kurbatov from Photential!
Cover photo by Dmitry Lookianov

Tell us more about Photential

I am Leila Antakly, director of this bold new platform, and with Dmitry Kurbatov, the founder and creative director, we are Photential. The idea came about because Dmitry wanted to create a hybrid between gallery, agency, and media platforms to help expose photographers and multimedia artists’ artwork outside of their countries of residence. He spoke with many artists. Some well established and others very talented but with little experience. All of them explained how difficult it was to invest in production not only abroad but even locally. His desire to find a solution became a passionate mission. He felt it was essential to support them by giving them the occasion to showcase their work and provide them with opportunities to collaborate with institutions, fairs, foundations, galleries, and brands worldwide. I, of course, jumped on the chance to join him on this creative adventure. We have worked closely this year, putting the platform together. Despite all the obstacles we have faced, we are confident this is the time to support artists more than ever.

Photo by Lena Tsibizova

How different will be Photential showcase for artists? Is there any innovation that you are bringing to the table?
We will work in different ways with the artists. Each one is unique, and audiences will respond differently to their work or their trajectory. The goal is to give them exposure and provide them with opportunities to develop their talent. Innovation is key, and we are continually adapting our approach to times and ever-changing technology.

On your Instagram, there is a post that says: “Get ready to engage with photography in a new way” – how will you do this? What is the new way?
The idea is to create a new experience when engaging with the artworks. Our creative department teamed up with an animator and a sound producer to create a virtual reality show mixed with 8D sound. The result is unique. Check out our website to see the show. The artworks are beautiful, which is why we had to make sure we designed something unique to display not only the photographs but also the curatorial theme.

How do you see Photential as a potential game-changer?
Photential is potentially a game-changer because we want to do more than just sell photographs. We want people to enjoy their interaction with them. It’s about how they will engage with photography, find exclusively designed objects, use the platform as an educational tool to learn about collecting, and be interested in the artists themselves. We believe that photography is not only an image, but it is also a generator of critical thinking and physical experiences. We will carry out exhibitions in collaboration with different curators and cultural agents, institutions, and fashion brands, understanding that art is always a space for exchange and a meeting point for different perspectives both virtually and in physical spaces worldwide.

Can you let us know who are some of the leading experts are working with you? Also, who and how did you choose the people sitting on your advisory committee?
We’ve spent a long time thinking about the kind of people we wanted to be involved with Photential. We knew it is crucial to find a balance between the old school and the new one. Dynamic and bold, as well as intellectual and classic. We were ecstatic to receive the feedback and support from our advisory committee when we approached them about the project. All of them fundamentally agree on the importance of supporting young talent. We can count on the guidance of Alejandro Castellote, an academic in the field, He Yining, Sandra Maunac, Roger Ballen and Moritz Neumüller.

Photo by Julio Galeote from the series Inside Out

You mention that the Photential is global, is there any ethics you follow to ensure artists’ diversity and where they are coming from?
We want to work with innovative and talented artists, curators, and creatives from all over the world. We want to appeal to potential collectors/buyers who love photography. Diversity is everything, and never has this been more relevant than today. We thrive on creating cultural dialogues.

How would you qualify your relationship with artists and collectors, with the entire scene?
We love the art world. Dmitry and I also understand it’s incredibly competitive, complex and saturated, so we wanted to ensure that we weren’t going to be just one more art platform out there. Dmitry took a long time coming up with the concept because he wanted to ensure we were working on something different. We don’t want to change how things work in the art world. Currently, we just want to provide other ways for people to experience art and provide opportunities for artists. What is interesting is the timing of this launch. While the world feels like it’s kind of on hold at the moment, we aim to keep this medium alive and kicking.

Do you intend to be a content creator and participate in knowledge creation and exchange?
We plan on giving our input, but our goal is to work with creatives who will all partake in the content creation process. We are proud of our team. Everyone exchanges ideas and input, which makes the process fascinating, thanks to Ana Folguera, Ivan Lozano, Claudio Fillipo, and all the creatives that we’ve been collaborating with so far.

You mention being a non-commercial platform but are hoping that there will be sales for artists, and then later, you are citing editions and sales? I must say this has confused me – could you enlighten me on this.
Of course, we want to sell art, but the benefit is that we put up the production costs upfront, so the artist doesn’t have to. We put equal importance on getting them exposure in the art world that will increase their exposure and value as artists or develop their potential.

Photo by Jorge Fuembuena

Is your programming only digital or also presential?
Due to the pandemic, we are digital, but we are already developing physical shows for 2021.

I am sure this question is in every reader’s mind – how do you select the artists you work with?
Both Dmitry and I would love to take credit, but in fact, it is our curators who make this selection. Ana Folguera from Madrid first developed the theme, Rehome. We selected co- curator Kristina Romanova, who is based in Moscow and closely associated with The Rodchenko School. Both worked together in the final selection of artists.

You choose a .ART for your domain name, why was that important to you? What are the reasons behind that decision?
We appreciate that .art has always focused on protecting intellectual property rights and ensuring royalties for artists while increasing the digital art market’s size. We feel that is entirely in line with our vision, and of course, we want to associate ourselves and the brand with innovation in this space. It was a natural choice for us!

What do you hope to see in 2021 in the art world?
We can’t wait to visit and produce physical shows.

What piece of advice would you want to give to the artists?
The world was moving really fast before the pandemic. We know that there’s a lot of uncertainty now, but if anything, maybe this is the time to connect more than ever to yourself and your creativity.


The most significant influence in your life  
L: When it comes to photography, I would say the late Franca Sozzani for her vision with Vogue Italia and my mother for always believing in me.
D: My mom, who’s always supporting my ideas, even the crazy ones.

An object you can’t live without  
L: I hate to admit this, and Dmitry would probably respond the same, our phone!

Favourite book 
L: The Count of Montecristo by Dumas
D: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1966)

When I say “art,” what is your first thought? 
L: Botticelli’s Birth of Venus
D: Impressionism

What’s your idea of happiness?   
D: Freedom
L: A picnic with a beautiful view

Your favourite art moment? 
L: Every first visit to a museum, anywhere.
D: My first time in the Sistine Chapel

A myth you would like to debunk?  
L: That photography is not really art and that anyone can take a good picture.
D: Same.

What the art world should be more of and less of?  
D: The art world must be more open for all types of collaborations – precisely our goal with Photential. This will give the artists the possibility to create something new and exciting.
L: Let’s make less Instagrammable artworks popular by not glorifying them so much on social media. I’m a culprit myself, but that’s all changed now…

About the humans behind Photential

Leila Antakly spent several years representing models and photographers as Director for Wilhelmina in Dubai. She began her career at Vogue Italia, where she had the opportunity to work on some of the most iconic covers with fashion photographers, models and fashion designers in New York City, where she is from.

Dmitry Kurbatov is passionate about art and photography and has spent his career in advertising as the founder of one of Moscow’s most successful agencies.

The .ART is delighted to be the domain of choice for this new platform. Visit to discover their work, and of course, one of the artists. Make sure to follow their Instagram account @photential to keep ahead of the curve with their new releases and announcements! 

evlyne Laurin
evlyne Laurin
is a self-titled Creative Chaos Manager; people collaborate with her to investigate and analyze their overload piles of compelling ideas and concepts that she rationalized and polished until there is a final product with substance and style. She is also a seasoned art administrator & writer who loves colour-coding things and has a pigeon phobia. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Instagram.