Learn about the Romanian contemporary art scene in an interview with Andreiana Mihail, a gallerist and the curator of the VIENNAFAIR 2014, organized by VF Betriebsgesellschaft mbH, special presentation DIALOG: NEW ENERGIES, co-initiated and supported by OMV.
Kristina Kulakova: Who should be followed in the Romanian art scene? Why?
Andreiana Mihail: In the last decade Romanian art has gradually entered into the focus of international attention. Some young artists like Mircea Cantor, Victor Man, Ciprian Muresan, Mona Vatamanu, and Florin Tudor or Adrian Ghenie have achieved spectacular careers, while some more established ones like Ion Grigorescu, Dan Perjovschi, and Geta Bratescu got well-deserved recognition after years of being completely shadowed during Communism. I think we cannot just draw a line and say you should follow these artists: Romanian art is a whole; it has a multitude of braches, tendencies, underground manifestations, and it is a matter of taste if someone mentions some names. I believe in a more democratic education of taste. The important thing is that people can have a diversity to choose from. That’s why I recommend this year’s edition of VIENNAFAIR, where you can make a free and enlightening stroll through Romanian visual art from the last fifty years.
How does participating in an art fair affect the future of non-profit projects?
I strongly believe that art needs funding to survive. In Romania the sources of funding are close to zero. So what is the choice? Either to become a commercial gallery or to try to get funds. Ultimately, to participate at an art fair and to be able to sell works is totally vital for a non-profit space in order to produce works and projects in the future.
What kind of art interests you? What draws your attention?
I am drawn by conceptual art, political and in general intelligent art, which doesn’t blow up in your face, and then you stop thinking about it. I highly value “slow art”, art that has multifaceted layers of ideas, works that revisit you, haunt you. I enjoy art that has clarity and coherence, which is well produced and at the same time respects the viewer.
What do you find striking about Romania?
That is a very general question, and it is quite hard to be objective because I am Romanian and I am part of its “strikingness”. I think the capacity of adapting and catching up.
What are the advantages of being a contemporary artist today in Romania?
I don’t know if there are really advantages to being an artist in Romania as there are many issues and obstacles you have to overcome. And to be honest only a very small percentage of the artists succeed in having a recognized career. Some artists chose to leave Romania probably for better exposure and for immediate contact with “Big Art”. The advantage would be that there is an international focus on Romanian contemporary art right now, so there may be more opportunities.
What are the disadvantages?
Lack of financial or logistical support (e.g. studios provided with a negligible rent, spaces to exhibit), a lack of interest in contemporary art in general, a lack of a real public.
What is the way forward?
This is always a personal approach. My approach is that if you are diligent and disciplined, do your best in what you are supposed to do, and you are also armed with a considerable amount of patience, things will move forward. There are no miracles, and almost everything is the result of a lot of hard work, study, and passion. This explanation I can summarize with the expression “vocation of success”.
How is collecting different in Romania?
The amount of contemporary art collectors is shockingly small. Because of that, the market is very slow or I might say almost inexistent. Hopefully, if the government proposes a law of patronage, and moreover plans some incentives for the collectors, the situation might change. That is why international fairs are of paramount importance for Romanian galleries, not only the commercial aspect but also the contacts they make, the relationships they build, and the promotion of the artists they represent.
Andreiana Mihail is the director of Andreiana Mihail Gallery Bucharest, which opened in November 2006. The gallery focuses mainly on promoting Romanian artists – but also those from Central and Eastern Europe and abroad – and creating a public in Romania who are interested in contemporary art. The gallery hosts solo and group exhibitions and invites curators for specific projects. It has participated in international art fairs like Art Basel, Frieze London and New York, sites of the most important meetings in the contemporary art world.
VIENNAFAIR 2014 was organized by VF Betriebsgesellschaft mbH.