Along with our usual galleries at viennacontemporary, artist and curator Alexander Petrelli from Overcoat Gallery presented his collection of artworks by the Vienna-based art collective Gelatin. Each piece was for sale at our opening for 2000 euros. To get to know more about this mobile gallery, we interviewed Petrelli on how he got started.
Alexander Petrelli, Overcoat Gallery, photo credits ©NikoHavranek
VC: Can you give me an introduction about you and your work?
Alexander Petrelli: This gallery appeared in 1995 in Moscow. It was quite criticized from an artistic point of view because it started quite late compared to the beginning of galleries in Moscow. I am an artist and together with friends we created the Overcoat Gallery, which is a moving gallery. The Overcoat Gallery started with the story of a small human being in a big world. It was just for fun and for a few times it was like a joke. But then it got more and more real but its still a game. I work mostly with Moscow artists. It works like this. If you want to collect art and you really like it, you can buy really famous artworks but the prices are low. The prices are set so that anyone can buy the art. It works as a gallery but artists make special projects for the Overcoat Gallery that are smaller pictures, graphics, photos or even sculpture.
Can you tell me a bit more about the concept of the mobile gallery?
It works like a normal gallery but I go to the spectators rather than the spectators coming to me. Just by watching people, I can tell who can be interesting. Everything happens through a private conversation with the audience.
So you open your coat and you show the artwork?
Yes, it was a big soviet tradition to sell things from the underside of the coat. It is a kind of gallery game. I never exhibit my own works. It is also a game with illegal selling.
Are you a performance artist?
I made some performances, drawings, pictures, paintings and animations.
The concept of the Overcoat Gallery is a performance in itself. You use a different medium to transport information and art to the audience.
It is not a question of the body because my body becomes the coat and it disappears into it. I spiritually show the art pieces and it is not in the discourse of the body. On the other hand it looks like body art. I put beautiful things on my body like paint but I use it as a wall or as a representation space.
Photo credits © Magarita Ignatyuk
What venues do you usually go to?
I only go to cultural events because if I go to public spaces then it will turn into another idea. It will no longer be a gallery and it will provoke people to react to the art. When you are in the city, you are not thinking about art. But when people are at a cultural event, then they have the intention to see art. I always use these events to be a parasite gallery. I use another event for my own show. In the natural world, there is a word to define this collaboration. It’s a kind of symbiosis or synthesis.
Do you always ask permission?
Yes of course otherwise I would be arrested immediately. Can you imagine me being here without permission? How many meters could I go with my coat? I was once in Art London and I already had permission from the organizers of the art fair. However the guards were not informed and they almost arrested me.
Do you think your format is emancipatory?
For me it’s just a game and as soon as it becomes real business then it will be boring for me. I am an artist and as long as its fun then I will continue. For the moment, how I think about it is that it’s just for fun. To me, once the game stops, then it could be a little boring.
Save the Date
27–30 September 2018
Marx Halle Vienna