Diana Stomienė on International Contemporary Art Fair ARTVILNIUS'14
From 18th to 21st June the International Contemporary Art Fair ARTVILNIUS will take over Litexpo centre for the fifth time. Today it is one of the major catalysts in expansion of the creative industries in Lithuania and a place where Lithuanian and foreign representatives from art galleries, collectors, famous and young talented artists meet. Nearing the opening of ARTVILNIUS we interviewed the director of the fair, Lithuanian Art Gallery Association and gallery “Meno niša” (“Art niche”), Diana Stomienė and asked her to choose some of her favourite pieces from Art-Cart.
Are you able to describe what sets the art fair ARTVILNIUS apart from other international contemporary art fairs?
First of all, we think about our region as the crossroads between East and West. We are in a very good location, there are no other art fairs nowhere near Vilnius – our neighbouring countries do not have them and the nearest art fairs are Art Moscow, Art Vienna and Budapest Art Fair. The best galleries from Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Russia and Poland participate in the fair. So, you can get to know what is happening in Eastern Europe.
In addition, a lot of young galleries and young artists participate in ARTVILNIUS, which you might not so often see at other fairs. Gifted young artists truly have an opportunity to launch their career – some come here whilst still studying. Thus, the fair itself is young and is open to ideas from the young artists.
How will this year ARTVILNIUS be different to previous fairs?
This year will be the fifth time the International Contemporary Art Fair ARTVILNIUS will take place. Our highlight this year is photography. More than twenty art galleries will present photographic works. Also, a solo exhibition of photographs by Antanas Sutkus will be held, where the majority of photographs are new and have not yet been shown. Also, the theme of Sutkus’ solo exhibition – women – has never been characteristic of his work.
Since our aim is to promote art collecting, this year we will also present Lewben Art Foundation art collection, which includes works by famous artists, such as Žilvinas Kempinas, Ray Bartkus, Aidas Bareikis, Kęstutis Zapkus, Patricija Jurkšaitytė. We had a dream that with the expansion of the fair each year we would present at least one collection, providing visitors with the opportunity to become acquainted with them and thereby promote contemporary art collecting. Our collectors are more accustomed to buying traditional art – painting, graphics. As the world is taking larger steps forward we want to present examples of the best collections and to show that contemporary art is worth buying. In the future we would also like to introduce foreign collections as well.
This year the curator Eric Shlosser, who in 2013 curated the international art fair Art Moscow, was added to the organisers’ team. Can you comment on his contribution as an art fair director to this year’s event?
Firstly, the focus on photography was his idea. As a foreigner, he is familiar with Lithuanian photography and knows a wide circle of people, who regularly visit photography-based art fairs. Shlosser is also curating Antanas Sutkus’ exhibition, where he wanted to present the artist in a completely different way to how it has been done before. He discovered some of the unknown works by Sutkus, because as you know, Sutkus’ portfolio of works is endless and it is possible to find some very interesting pieces within it. There are plans to hold several stage discussions on the topic of photography.
Shosser is from France and currently lives in Moscow – this had a great impact on the international advertising of the art fair – many of the younger galleries from Russia are taking part in the art fair and it will be visited by journalists from other countries. The art director also participated in the selection panel along with me and the art critic Ernestas Parulskis.
What are the main criteria for the selection of the participants to the fair?
There are no random players in this game. There are criteria and rules set by the fair – they are very long and strict. Still, many of the galleries approach us, but we only select those, which hold at least 6 exhibitions per year and maintain a relatively high art standard. We do not accept design-based galleries, because it is a separate discipline. We also do not accept antiques as we focus on the art of the past 50 years. If the gallery is still young, we normally look through their webpage, recommendations also play an important part.
ARTVILNIUS stands out because of its well-planned exposition and architecture. How do you deal with the visual aspect of the fair? Which parts of the exhibition planning are most important to you?
We have a wonderful exhibition and congress centre where we are able to play with the space. We take the unconventional route, unlike many of the other fairs, which only separate the space into “boxes” and assign them to the galleries. When designing the architecture of the fair we consider the location of each gallery, the type of works on show and where they could possibly go. The whole exposition of the fair is divided according to content, because we know exactly which artists and galleries are involved. The architecture of the fair is completely unique and the quality of conditions and materials is very high. Last year, the overall approach to the layout of the fair was completely justified. It is extremely important to present art that is well curated.
When planning the fair we not only think of its aesthetics, but also of its functionality – it is important that each gallery is seen and that there is a free flow of visitors. The layout of the fair is a separate work of architecture. We work with highly professional architecture specialists “Processoffice”. This year’s project manager is Rokas Kilčiauskas.
The architects are also responsible for the overall visual style of the fair, however, we provide an opportunity for the galleries to implement something unique – we don’t propagate strict dictatorship.
The art fair is organized since 2009. Have you noticed any changes in the local art market starting with the first fair? How would you describe the relationship between ARTVILNIUS and the local art market?
The first fair was organised at the beginning of the crisis. People went to the first fair as though to an exhibition, nonetheless the sales were relatively good. Now visitors better understand the aim of the event, but some time had to pass until this was achieved. I know that business people, who work long hours, find the time to come and see the fair. This is because here they have a wide range of choices, a lot to learn, see and buy. We want to bring those people, who do not have a lot of time but want to buy art, to one place so they can enjoy walking, looking, buying art, having fun, meeting, or even, noting down the name of the artist they like. We know that the sales do not end with the fair – the contacts last and as such works are bought.
We feel the change in galleries as well. The fair brings many practical benefits and builds on experiences, and everything is turning for the best.
And finally, do you have any recommendations to the visitors of the fair who want to buy art works this year?
First of all, before buying, it is important to assess how much you can spend. The price range at ARTVILNIUS has always been very broad – starting at a few hundred and going up to hundreds of thousands. You can start with a smaller investment. Of course, the most important thing is to love the work of art. If you really like the work, you can look into the artist’s biography, consult with the gallery owner, find out if he has more of the artist’s works, perhaps you will find others that you like. Still there are no random works for sale – artists whose works are a risk to buy are not included in the fair. And I would suggest haggling over the price. Yes – haggling! This is a normal thing. Negotiations over price also take place at art fairs.
Thank you for your time.