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Roxana Gamart: Bucharest’s Growing Art Scene

2 years ago

Last week I interviewd Roxana Gamart, founder of Mobius gallery, to find out more about Bucharest’s Art Scene.

Mobius aims to boost awareness of contemporary art – both in Romania and Internationally – through a varied and dynamic programme of exhibitions and events.

Elena Scarpa: Your new gallery space is right in the center of Bucharest, could you tell us a bit about the choice of the location and the choice of having a gallery on the basement floor, with no windows facing the city life? Was it a conceptual choice?

Roxana Gamart: You know how things happen when someone builds something – that thing tends to encapsulate some of the features of those who created it…I wouldn’t say it was a conceptual choice, not in the rational way. When we started off, we were basically looking for an open space that would allow us to play with it as much as possible. We also wanted it to be in the heart of the city, as close to the public as possible. So, the location is great from this point of view. At the same time, as you mentioned, there are no windows, so it’s not that kind place that sticks out and encourages walk-ins. But I actually like it this way. I don’t know, we just “felt” it from the very beginning; in a way this space resonates quite well with our philosophy – people need to find their own way to art. So, Mobius is in the heart of the city, but it’s a gallery that needs to be discovered. Another thing is, I don’t like limitations of any kind when it comes to art, and most of the time a space has the downside of creating limits. So, what you see now as Mobius was initially an open space basement, populated by seven or eight heaters and nothing else. We removed the fake ceiling, the heaters, the plugs, added the light and that was it. The space is not too big, but not too small either. What’s for sure is Mobius is big enough to become the scene for spectacular exhibitions, even the kind one usually sees at biennales or in contemporary art museums (for instance, last year, we exhibited, for the first time in Romania, the Russian mega stars AES+F, with their latest video installation, Inverso Mundus.)

At the same time, the space can be challenging for curators because they no longer deal with the traditional four walls, but with twelve – arrayed in asymmetrical angles and diagonals. But so far, so good – it’s always been a good kind of challenge and Mobius is a great playground for artists and curators.

(Mobius is located on D.I. Mendeleev Street, # 2, Bucharest. The gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 6 pm and Sunday by appointment.)

E.S.: What’s your personal relationship with Bucharest, do you feel its contemporary art scene continues to evolve?

R.G.:I am completely in love with Bucharest. That doesn’t mean I’m not aware of its imperfections – but they do have their own role in keeping everything in motion. I think the art scene could be more dynamic than it is at the moment, and maybe more articulated. But it is a growing scene, that’s for sure, and this growth requires a lot of work. Mobius is part of this scene and I dedicate most of my time to the gallery – nothing out of the ordinary, so far. There is a lot of work to do – and I love – absolutely love what I do! I always find the best feedback in people’s reaction to what they witness at Mobius. I know most of my colleagues working in this area are very much dedicated to their jobs, so, to answer your question – I positively believe the scene continues to evolve; it changes from one year to another. Mobius was not the only gallery that opened in the fall of 2015. Only a month away from us, Suprainfinit Gallery had its grand opening, then, some months later, H’Art Gallery opened a new space on Calea Victoriei – H’Art Appendix; Nicodim Gallery moved to, what I believe to be, the biggest gallery space in Romania (a place known as Combinat that has the potential to grow into a real hub for contemporary art). This year, in New York, galleries from Bucharest were present in three of the most important New York art fairs – Armory Show, NADA and Volta – and Mobius was one of those galleries, participating as an exhibitor at New Art Dealers Alliance. So, yes, things definitely evolve, both in terms of local dynamics and international visibility. Maybe the rhythm is still slow at times, but you know challenges are not the same, they change from one day to another and we always need to adjust and re-adjust, and be creative, and find solutions. And many times, you find content and discover possibilities that were not there to begin with, but simply showed up along the way. At the end of the day, what matters the most is that we find meaning – no matter what the nature of this meaning is – to continue doing what we do.

E.S.: What about the relationship with other Romanian art centers such as Cluj? Is the Romanian art scene developing at the same speed throughout the country?

R.G.: Mobius is quite open to collaborations – both locally and internationally – of course, as long as they make sense to everybody involved. And obviously this kind of mind set, this wish to build up professionally healthy and honest relationships has to be mutual. Although Mobius has been open for only one and a half years, the gallery already had an artist exchange on the international scene, with Triumph Gallery, in Moscow. Thus, Mobius exhibited AES+F artist collective, and Triumph organized a solo exhibition with Roman Tolici. Back to Romania, this year we’ll organize a duo show in Timișoara, with Lea Rasovszky and Anna Khodorkovskaya, two of the artists represented by Mobius, as a collateral event at Art Encounters. Regarding your second question, the rhythm of the art scene development is not the same and actually cannot be the same throughout the country. Each art center has its own dynamic, its own vision and strategy, its own resources and connections, its own challenges and milestones, and eventually its own momentum. At some point in time, history will level everything up, but for now we have not accomplished everything yet, it’s still a work in progress. History has not yet been written.

E.S.: Could you tell us a bit about Mobius’ programming for 2017?

R.G.: To be honest, 2017 looks quite crowded on Mobius agenda. After Mobius’ first international art fair, NADA NY that took place at the beginning of March, we are getting back on track with our projects. So, we just ended Gărâna 20, the documentary photography exhibition of two talented brothers, Horațiu and Mihai Șovăială, and are currently working on Out of the Blue, a group exhibition curated by Ioana Ciocan. Then, April is dedicated to Bianca Mann, a very young, but very promissing artist,  followed by Crocodile Power, a spectacular artistic duo from Russia. Next in Mobius there are two solo exhibitions one of Lea Rasovszky, the second one – Claudia Brăileanu. The year will end with Hush, a group exhibition that explores the materiality of silence, followed by a solo exhibition of Anders Krisar, curated by Anton Svyatsky. I’ve already mentioned the duo show of Anna Khodorkovskaya and Lea Rasovszky, in Timișoara, but we are also exploring some proposals from outside Romania, for an exhibition of Andrei Gamarț. Meanwhile, we continue working on Roman Tolici’s itinerary exhibition – the next stop, after Bucharest and Moscow, is Lisbon – things will be communicated as they develop.  In terms of art fairs, in May, Mobius will be among the exhibitors at Art Safari and during fall we might be participating in another international art fair – information will be communicated in due time.

Another highlight on the Mobius agenda is the conference of Marina Abramovic, scheduled for the beginning of October.  I am currently translating her book, Walk Through Walls, and I hope the translation is ready in time, so we can also release the Romanian version of Marina’s memoir. So, this episode is actually part of Mobius work to facilitate a better and more profound understanding of the general context of contemporary art. People need to meet and listen to artists that have been making history. It can a be a life changing experience for many of them. 

E.S.: Who are the emerging Romanian artists you would suggest to keep an eye on?

R.G.: The first name that springs in my mind is Lea Rasovszky, whose artist book Dig The Inbetween has just been officially released this spring. I find Lea’s art fascinating, at multiple levels, because, you see, her artistic approach is such an interesting mixture of empathy and irony, and above all, there is always a hint of subtle, yet very strong, poetry there. Also, Bianca Mann and Claudia Brăileanu are very promising artists, although quite young. Bianca Mann is getting ready for her first solo exhibition – Stigma – with Mobius in April, and I’m positive she’ll be quite a surprise for the art lovers who encounter her work.

(Mobius is located on D.I. Mendeleev Street, # 2, Bucharest. The gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 6 pm and Sunday by appointment.)

Elena Scarpa

  • Sandor Szasz, Chamber of Secrets at Mobius Gallery. Courtesy of the gallery and Adi Bulboacă Sandor Szasz, Chamber of Secrets at Mobius Gallery. Courtesy of the gallery and Adi Bulboacă
  • Anna Khodorkovskaya at Mobius Gallery. Courtesy of the gallery and Adi Bulboacă Anna Khodorkovskaya at Mobius Gallery. Courtesy of the gallery and Adi Bulboacă
  • Mobius Gallery. Photo by Adi Bulboacă Mobius Gallery. Photo by Adi Bulboacă
  • SIMVLACRVM by Roman Tolici. Photo courtesy of Mobius Gallery and Adi Bulboacă SIMVLACRVM by Roman Tolici. Photo courtesy of Mobius Gallery and Adi Bulboacă
  • AES+F, Inverso Mundus. Courtesy of the gallery. AES+F, Inverso Mundus. Courtesy of the gallery.
  • SIMVLACRVM by Roman Tolici. Photo courtesy of Mobius Gallery and Adi Bulboacă SIMVLACRVM by Roman Tolici. Photo courtesy of Mobius Gallery and Adi Bulboacă