Ulvi Kasimov

Observer’s Top 50 Most Influential Leaders in the Art World

.ART Co-founders Ulvi and Reykhan Kasimov
.ART Co-founders Ulvi and Reykhan Kasimov

In 2016 Kasimov and his London based company UKCI launched .art domain, the world’s only top-level domain designed for those who live and breathe art. Dedicated to the support of culture in a variety of forms, .ART empowers members of the art community to make strong statements in the online space.

.ART has also become the first domain zone in the Internet’s history to be granted ICANN permission for extending the WHOISTM domain information fields. .ART uniquely augmented the standard information to include artwork identification criteria. The extra fields are based on a standard established by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and endorsed by Interpol and other authoritative bodies.

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Ulvi Kasimov and Sam Keller, Director of Beyeler Foundation, at Art Basel Miami Beach
Ulvi Kasimov and Sam Keller, Director of Beyeler Foundation, at Art Basel Miami Beach

Ulvi Kasimov Shares the .ART Journey

Venture investment, en vogue right now, has been around for a relatively short period — at least compared to other ways of doing business. One of the core success elements in venture investment is faith.

Faith of the people in the ultimate success of their idea, and in the venture itself; and faith that progress and return on investment are in the imminent future.

A few years ago, equipped with this set of beliefs, I drew up the idea of the .art domain name registry. I relied on my support group: family, friends, associates and co-investors. The origin of the project is a long story. What I want to talk about now is a point of no return that I experienced, which is an integral part of any project.

The domain world is fully governed by a set of laws and rules administrated by ICANN; you can look it up on Wikipedia. Following these rules and instructions, my nine rivals, who also applied to operate the .art domain, and I, came to the point of no return. The decision on who will get to operate this incredible domain registry was to be made via an auction on July 17th, 2015.

At the Pushkin Museum director’s office during an event sponsored by .ART
At the Pushkin Museum director’s office during an event sponsored by .ART
By that date, I felt absolutely ready because my partners and investors were committed to supporting my auction bid.

This support made me feel confident and somewhat free when I considered bidding tactics. The first and most unexpected piece of news came just two days before the auction. All of my potential co-investors have withdrawn their commitments, arguing for the venture to be too risky compared to other opportunities.

So, two days before the auction, I was left alone with my rather strong competitors. I had no idea where to source the projected millions of dollars to participate in the .art domain auction. I’ve been in situations similar to this one — as challenging and difficult, but this was unprecedented. In the two sleepless days ahead of the auction, I kept repeating to myself one thing: «remember yourself, remember who you are, find the energy, the solution — like you did many times before.» This thought was my mantra.

Help came unexpectedly and not at all because of the mantra. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was seated on a sofa in a holiday cottage we visited with my entire family. I enjoyed some alcohol, can’t remember what kind, and was staring at the wall looking for a solution. My wife passed by. She stopped for a moment next to me and said: «Listen, Kasimov,» (this is what I am called when she’s cross about something), «stop suffering and step up to the situation. Take our savings, pawn the house or anything else if you need to, win this bloody auction and stop spoiling our vacation!»

You can easily imagine this as a movie scene, but life, mine at least, has little resemblance to movies.
Ulvi Kasimov and his son at the Triumf Gallery
Art Basel
Ulvi Kasimov at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Ulvi Kasimov together with artist and gallerist Aidan Salahova
Still from Ulvi Kasimov’s interview for TV Rain
Ulvi Kasimov at Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria

Her words didn’t get to me right away — this was the first time in our life together that she pointed out my cowardice; it simply hasn’t happened before. The comment my wife made worked like an ice bucket, or on the contrary — a bucket of boiling water. I jumped on the inside from how unexpected it was. Even more importantly, at that moment, I also realized that my family was more committed to and believed in me and this project than my so-called partners and managers. It was the most didactic moment of my life.

As you can guess, I did take up the offer. And we won the auction in the end. I continued to finance the project entirely with my family funds and no partners. Looking back, I am thankful for my luck and blessings. The .art domain registry has now over 110,000 adopters, many of whom I know personally. We are working together on partnership projects and charity initiatives. Over the years, .ART successfully introduced true innovation in the domain name industry and has been awarded a patent for our efforts. Together with my family, I have invested substantially in .art. So technically, we have sponsored every domain.

This sponsorship makes .art the biggest charity project for our family, although we do have several. Our beneficiaries include hospitals, schools, educational bodies, museums. We proivde stipends and support book publishing, among other projects, which are usually kept private.
This sponsorship makes .art the biggest charity project for our family, although we do have several. Our beneficiaries include hospitals, schools, educational bodies, museums. We proivde stipends and support book publishing, among other projects, which are usually kept private.
Ulvi Kasimov at The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy
Ulvi Kasimov at The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy
The .art Founder’s family gifts a rare book to The State Tretyakov Gallery. Read article

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LET’S GO
Digital presence
The painting "The Hope" by the Kasimov family was gifted to the state hospital in Kommunarka, receiving a letter of gratitude by the department of healthcare of Moscow. The initiative, led by Reykhan Kasimova, raised nearly 7 million rubles for charity.
We, our family, think this is the way to do it. Our goal is to make the world a better, friendlier, and fairer place – after all, it will our children who will be living in it. This is what we believe.
You can connect with Ulvi Kasimov on LinkedIn.

Video interview with Ulvi Kasimov