The idea for a gallery space came about when Rakeb Sile, a London-based art collector and businesswoman, grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of Ethiopian representation. In 2013, her ambition led her to Los Angeles, where Haileleul, a veteran collector and exhibitor, was living. Haileleul had run a series of pop-ups and a small gallery, with a focus on Ethiopian contemporary and modern art. A trip home would be the source of his inspiration. After 18 years away, he found a very different country to the one he left: almost three decades under rigid communist rule and horrific famine had left Ethiopia shattered, so discovering a thriving art scene was a surprise to Haileleul.
With his connections in Africa and abroad, Haileleul was the obvious man to help. The pair had some initial success with a temporary gallery space in London, but soon agreed that if they were going to represent Ethiopian art, they’d need a space in East Africa.
“I spent most of 2014 trying to see if it was even possible. To see what it would take to open a gallery, not just a space here in Addis, but an international gallery that could link up with people outside of Ethiopia,” Haileleul says.
In 2016, a permanent gallery opened its doors, supported by a temporary space in London shortly after.