For more than a year the world has been moving in slow motion. To most people, COVID-19 will always be synonymous with the challenges and frustrations of lockdowns, working from home, face masks and social distancing, among other things.

Some, however, saw this global upheaval as an opportunity. As many markets and sectors stalled, the disruption caused by the pandemic to normally hectic activity in fast-moving environments gave some people a chance to adopt new ways of thinking that are more in line with aspirations rather than the requirements of work.

That was certainly the case for Jean-Marc Shammas, founder of TheWincolab, a marketing platform that connects art with luxury. He recently contributed to “Sense of Women,” an exhibition that opened on March 28 at the ME hotel in Dubai and continues until April 20. The event — organized in in partnership with ME Dubai, MIA Art Collection, and Arab News and its international editions — highlights the creativity of female artists from around the world.

Rather than adopting the classic approach of using art to promote luxury brands or lifestyles, or vice-versa, Shammas said the aim of TheWincolab is “creating beauty that generates emotions.” With that in mind, the challenge is to bring together “mindsets that meet and click to create winning partnerships, for better exposure of luxury brands and greater promotion of artists.”

Jean-Marc Shammas, founder of TheWincolab, a marketing platform that aims to combine luxury and art. (Supplied)

Emotion, said Shammas, is a strong pillar of the trending “artketing’’ concept that aims to bridge the gap between art and luxury. Traditionally, luxury consumers purchase luxury products and art collectors invest in art, he explained. However these two distinct investment activities share a strong common value: emotion.

“We certainly buy emotions,” said Shammas. “However, awareness, perspective and knowledge of the latest trends in both luxury and art is demanding. This is where TheWincolab comes in, advising clients and helping them develop a successful ‘artketing’ plan.

The idea for TheWincolab was “born during the confinement,” a time he said gave him a chance “to take two steps back, to reflect on the past and to project myself into a new future.”

After recently leaving his job with Piaget, known for its luxury watches and jewelry, after 15 years leading and managing the brand in the Middle East, Shammas said he “was amazed to see how the confinement had slowed down the incredible professional vortex, leaving more room for reflection, creativity, and a new focus on roots, important inner values, families and close friends.”

Clearly passionate about luxury, he said pandemic confinement gave him a chance to spend more time on another of his passions: art. During that time he “felt the very strong connection between art and luxury, and how genuine and interlinked are the synergies between the two worlds.”

The realization, and a friendship with art collector Alejandra Castro Rioseco, ultimately resulted in the creation of TheWincolab. His vision strongly echoes a global trend of high-end brands that increasingly seek to combine contemporary art and luxury. The Saudi and Emirati markets are no strangers to this dynamic.

TheWincolab advises clients and helps them develop a successful ‘artketing’ plan, according to founder Jean-Marc Shammas. (Supplied)

“Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Jeddah are all investing heavily in promoting the arts,” said Shammas. “Saudi Arabia is a prime example of a nation that has a strong luxury market, which has clearly invested in the promotion of art and culture in recent years. This country, like others in the region, realizes that its heritage, traditions and a talented new generation have not received the support they deserved in the past.”

This, he added, is why such countries and cities are now investing in the promotion of art and culture, as part of their efforts to attract visitors from all over the world.

Meanwhile, said Shammas: “Western Luxury brands have invested in the region in an attempt to establish close links with local customers.” As a result, art and luxury are combining in these places to “bridge the gap between modernity and tradition, between ancestral Western crafts and the local traditions of Gulf countries.”

In this new context, Shammas believes TheWincolab can play an active role in guiding luxury brands to invest more creatively in forging connections with local populations that display talent in, and knowledge of, art.

A prolonged downturn that has lasted more than a year has given many entrepreneurs a chance to think outside the box and realize that “we live in a region where dreams can turn into reality very quickly,” said Shammas.

“The Middle East is home to some of the most successful start-ups in the world, such as Careem, Anghami and many others, which were born thanks to a dynamic ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship and facilitates the creation of businesses,” he added.

His message to the next generation of young entrepreneurs in the region is this: “If you have an idea, go for it, meet new people, discuss your project — you will be surprised to see how many open-minded people will help you, mentor you, guide you. Be passionate about everything you do.”