Renaissance Art Gallery, the newest gallery in town, has ambitious plans: not only to promote original expositions, mixing Romanian and foreign artists, but to sell them on the USA market. After all, art has no boundaries.
By Fulvia Meirosu
Oana Visoiu Cutucache, the owner of the gallery, has a 20 years background in financial services, so she is used to think in a different way. Until making it a profitable business, there is still a long way, but the most important thing is her passion for art. And this passion makes her happy. The idea of an art gallery was born last year, when she resigned from the title insurance company where she had been working for 7 years. “I had 6 months of non-competing in my contract and I knew I wanted to do the same thing, but I had to take this break. So I started to paint and I started to think about the gallery. At the kindergarden where my little girl was I found as a teacher a well known painter, Vali Irina Ciobanu. And I also found a Romanian artist who lived in London, Ramona Pintea. With the two of them, plus a very talented glass artist from Chile, Mariana Villanueva, I did the first exposition”, recalls Oana.
Renaissance Art Gallery was officially opened in March 2017, and until now it hosted 3 expositions. But Oana’s connection with art is a long one. It started in childhood: Oana’s parents had among their friends Savopol family, with artistic inclinations. Their son, Radu Savopol, was in the same highschool as Oana and he is today the owner of the well-know coffee business 5 To Go. “You always admire someone else’s parents, but you end up doing what your parents are doing. My father was an economist and I wanted to be like him. He wanted me to do something else, architecture, so I did drawing lessons for 2 years. But the drawings in architecture are more related to math than to art, and I have always attracted by art and colours. I ended up in art business, like Radu’s parents, and he ended up in food industry, as my parents”, says Oana smiling.
Many artists have been distrustful regarding the initiative of opening a gallery in the north part of the city (Pipera), not a traditional area for such thing, and also regarding the owner’s lack of experience in art. “In Romania the managers of the hospitals are doctors and the managers of the schools are teachers. In fact you need a very good and intelligent manager, and it’s the same in art. Beside this, the local art market is emergent, so the people need to be educated”, says the entrepreneur. It’s not an easy business, but what keeps her going is the relationships developed with the artists.
“I learn a lot about the artist in day when we arrange the works in the gallery, before the official exhibition. That’s a physical work and the galerist has to do it together with the artist. But that day is a day entirely spent with the artist, is the day when I get to really know the other person. You can’t know a person in the few hours when you go to his atelier. The visitors and clients of the gallery only see a beautiful exposition and nice photos and they don’t know how much work is behind all that. The evening of the exhibition is not my evening, is the evening of the artist”, says Oana. The works exposed in the gallery when we did this interview were the surrealistic works of Marian Simon. This exhibition, done in coffee colors by an artist who doesn’t drink coffee, has taught Oana more about surrealistic art than any book. The surrealistic art is the art where we see our dreams, uncensored, as strange and akward as they are sometimes; it has leitmotifs like the ladder, the flight, the labirint, the king, the jester.
The art market in Romania is emergent, and people are not educated. Many of them buy art as an investment “but I advise my clients something else: to buy only if they really like it. The value of an art work doesn’t diminish because the prices in Romania are anyway lower than in other countries. On the other hand, in my gallery I have decent prices and a painting, the older it gets, the more valuable will be”, says Oana, who advises her clients to be patient, to come to many expositions and after that to see what they like and what is a good match for their homes. Another problem of the market is that many artists sold directly from their ateliers, at very low prices. But if the clients are used and educated to buy from galleries, the artist’s market value is rising. Renaissance Art Gallery has a commission of only 30%, lower than other galleries. Also her policy is to have exclusivity contract with the artist only for the exposition, not for several years, like other galleries. In order to be able to go on the art fair in foreign countries, she needs to have a certain number of expositions and detailed view of the market. She also considers to have a type of membership, and the members will be invited to all the events and have special benefits. Since she started this business, Oana received so many questions from the visitors that she realized people simply don’t know how much effort is behind such a business: most of them see only glamorous photos from the opening night.
But she is used to educate people. Years ago, when the instrument of title insurance appeared on the market, she was working in a bank and she didn’t know either what that thing was. And in 2009, when she started to work in the business of title insurance, she had to educate the lawyers and the banks, explaining them how title insurance can help them. “It took me some years, but now I do it on my own and the deals are coming to me without too much work. It will happen the same with art”, says Oana. The name of her title insurance company is Renaissance Finance, because for the entrepreneur, to give up her well paid job in the bank and the nice position she had and to start on her own from the scratch, it was like a second birth: it was a renaissance.
Renaissance Art Gallery is the only gallery who hosts foreign artists, and this is another differentiate factor. The beautiful glass butterflies that one can admire in the gallery are crafted by Mariana Villanueva, an artist from Chile, who studied glass in UK. The spots on the wings of the butterflies are not painted – they are small pieces of colored glass placed on the wings and then melted together in a special oven. A butterfly has to stay in the oven 16 hours and its price, 100 euro, barely covers the cost of the electricity used in the making process.
The best sold artworks until now belongs to the American photojournalist John McConnico. John McConnico is a Pulitzer Prize and World Press Photo Award winning photojournalist currently residing in Bucharest, Romania. He has spent the past 20 years as a freelance photographer, wire service photographer and photo editor, working in over 90 countries to date. He is currently working on in-depth features and photo essays in Europe. He is fluent in English, French and Spanish and his clients include the New York Times, UNICEF, UNDP, Bloomberg and the Associated Press. The 25 square black-and-white photos exhibited in Renaissance Art Gallery, done with an Iphone, proved to be very attractive for the market. Part of the money from the sales were donated to the American School in Bucharest.
And Oana thinks the next thing we will see in the art galleries will be movies, short movies sold in 2-3 copies – at least this the latest trend in foreign art markets. Also another important trend is related to installation art works. But she likes all kind of art works and she buys for herself everything she likes. At home she has many paintings with trees, her favorite theme. In her office she also has one, but there are also there some newly bought photographies.
For the rest of the year, she planned already big things. In the autumn, another original exposition: a combination between the paintings of Ammar Alnahhas, a Syrian artist living in Romania, and the Turkish carpets done in Syrian refugees camp by an American friend.
Another project is a movie night with the movie Brancusi from eternity. “Ioan Andrei Ionescu, the actor playing Brancusi, was my colleague in highschool. His wife is an architect but she is launching now a fashion line and I think all these can combine in an interesting event”, says Oana. Everything is exactly in line with her strategy, to promote contemporary Romanian and foreign artists, but also charity projects which support art in all its forms. Because art has no boundaries. Just passions.