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Romanian Art Scene


I want to start off saying how tentative I am when writing about this topic. I feel that I am so uneducated about the current state of the Romanian art world. As a disclaimer, anything that I write here should be understood to be only my impressions. I respect and admire the artists, gallerists, and academics that I have met so far, as well as the rich artistic history of Romania. I don't want to give the impression that my musings are meant to speak for them. They are quite capable of doing that themselves. What I am proposing however is that I have a point of view. Mine are the impressions gleaned from someone who is starting to research and understand that region's beautiful and significant artistic tradition. I believe that my perspective is an interesting one, though I will grow to understand and appreciate more as that knowledge grows over time. So don't be mad at me if I say something you disagree with. I welcome any help, clarification, and correction.

Now that my apologies are taken care of, let me start by reinforcing the notion that Romania does indeed have a very rich artistic tradition, both in the visual arts, as well as literature and the performance arts. There is also a great depth of traditional craftwork as well, in as much as craft is distinct from fine art. It is also important to remember that Romania is not an isolated region that developed in a vacuum. The ancient European traditions, combined with the introduction of Greek, Roman, early Christian, Turkish, Slavic, and Russian influences all form part of this aesthetic puzzle. 

But art history aside, much of what I have observed with respect to Romanian artists is the huge influence of communism on the psyche of the artist. Don't forget, the communist countries had a great appreciation for the arts. Unlike in the West, artists, writers, poets, dancers, and musicians, held high societal positions. These people lived well, and were highly respected. Those who showed talent were developed in all sorts of disciplines, from the arts, to sports. The competition for these coveted appointments were fierce, and once and artist was chosen, his/her career was secure. Artists were provided with education, a good standard of living, exhibition opportunities, international exposure, and elite gallery spaces for life. Some of those folks are still alive, and are still considered national treasures today.

Imagine now that you are a young, emerging artist in Romania. Since the revolution, the entire political and social structure has been turned upside down, and yet many of the values and expectations from the past are still in place. There is still a strong sense that artistic talent is rare, and requires a strong academic background and traditional training. Many of the Romanian artists I run into believe that they must have an art degree before they can be considered an artist. Then, once that degree is obtained, the opportunities in the art field are very limited. To make money, you must show your artwork abroad. To exhibit your work at international venues, you need to be represented by a gallery. I know a lot of younger artists who have moved elsewhere in Europe to have access to a better market for their work. Unfortunately, that's not an option for everyone. Nor should it be. Galleries are understandably selective, in that there is only so much bandwidth they can support, and the museum world is much the same. Studio space is very hard to find, and rents are rising. I just heard today that one studio complex is raising rents to such a degree that almost all the tenants are having to vacate. 

So if you are an emerging artist, with no formal education in art. Imagine how powerless you would feel when faced with a small, and shrinking, opportunity environment to explore your art. The galleries are full. You are rejected for a lack of a formal degree. You can't sell your art, and therefore you are unable to afford to go abroad to art fairs. Even art supplies are barely accessible on your budget. It has to be crushing for these artists, and yet they continue to paint, to sculpt, to write... They don't really have a choice. They work for themselves, and no one ever sees their art.

The reason we created the nonprofit Aripa Arte was to address some of these needs. What's important to remember is that there is no one doing anything wrong. The museums and galleries should be selective in whom they invest their time and resources. Studio landlords need to make a living too, and their expenses rise yearly. There may be some bit of corruption in the mix at higher levels, but that's hardly rare, and is certainly not what creates the roadblocks faced by many artists. We can search all over for an evil oppressor, but my hunch is that there isn't a villain to blame.

The whole idea behind the nonprofit is to find ways to support Romanian artists outside the traditional art world structures and institutions. The NGO will attempt to work with artists to unblock the obstacles they encounter in their art careers. If that means if they need education, we can help. If they need art supplies or studio space, we can help. If they can't afford to ship their artwork to a solo show featuring their work in Berlin, we can help. Obviously, that support will depend upon how much money we can raise, but the hope is that we can take pressure off of the institutions, and the artists themselves. We want to allow more of the world to see the amazing artistic talent coming from Romanian creators, wherever they are on the planet. 

In addition, we want to work with those existing institutions that might need support to further their services to Romanian artists. The thing is, we don't want to compete with any great work that's already being done. If there is an organization, or an art school, that needs funds to make their programs stronger, more inclusive, more expansive, then perhaps we can support their mission as well. I think one of the reasons we are being well received by Romanians so far, is that we're not a competing organization. We're not trying to steal a gallery's collector list, or trying to take a percentage of an artist's earnings. We want to find generous people who are willing to support Romanian artists in the way that makes the most sense for those particular artists, or organizations, galleries, or art schools... You can see more about our mission at www.aripaarte.org.

Bogdan is currently in Romania, doing some personal and family things, but also meeting with artists and gallery owners to get a better understanding of the needs there. He is also creating some video interviews that we can use in our fundraising endeavors for the nonprofit. We feel that having a personal connection with people can make a huge difference. Additionally, he is also purchasing some artwork that we can sell in a silent auction here in Texas at our first gala event on March 1st. It's an ambitious start, but it's all viewable on our social media and YouTube channels. Take a look, and wish. us luck. We are very excited about the work we're doing, and the good that we can do for the Romanian artist community.

By the way, you can still download a free copy of our new book, Art Collecting: An Artist's Perspective. It's our gift to you. Just go to www.johnbishopfineart.com for the download. If you could leave your email for our newsletter, that would be great too.



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