From financial consultant to gallerist: An Interview with Oana Visoiu Cutucache (Demo)

By Dana Tudose Tianu

After 20 years in banking and financial consulting, Oana Visoiu Cutucache, 45, opened the Renaissance Art Gallery in Bucharest in 2017. Oana was born in Bucharest and is the mother of two children: Ana Maria, 12, and Matei, 9. Candidly, she tells me that she is unsure of how much inspiration her children are drawing (yet) from her work as a gallerist, as it has been taking up an important chunk of time she would otherwise be allocating to them. (Note: Female entrepreneurs all over the world, who have children, share and empathize with this personal frustration and conundrum).

What is inspiring about Oana’s story is her financial mentorship to the artists she works with, but also her desire to make contemporary Romanian artists well known abroad. 

Oana is both comfortable with people and numbers. A question she still finds amusing, from friends and strangers alike, is “and do you make money from an art gallery?” Wisely, she told me, too, what she usually answers back to those who ask: “Never start a business just to make money. Start a business to make a difference. Ten years from now, I hope my small contribution to the art world in Romania would have made a difference.”

In the two-and-a-half years she has been a gallerist, Oana ran 13 exhibitions, and she has 3 more to come before the end of this year. The bonds she created with the artists she worked with have been one of the greatest added values of her work. 

What follows is a short interview which took place in the latter part of October: 

What did you learn and what did you have to unlearn in the past 2 and a half years since you opened Renaissance Art Gallery? 

I’ve learned that I have to stick to my plan, and not say “yes” to things that are not in line with my dream about the gallery. I needed to unlearn saying “yes” all the time, to everything, because I thought I had to. I had so many proposals for collaboration in the beginning, and, because I felt I couldn’t say “no” to them, I became overly stressed. 

How is the life of a gallery owner in Bucharest? What does your regular day look like?

I opened the gallery in March 2017. In the first year, I was really living the life of a “regular” gallery owner. The gallery was open from 8:30 am, when I got there after dropping my kids off to school, until 4:00 pm, every day. It was obviously open during the evenings when I had events, exhibitions or special meetings with potential clients. Of course, the gallery was also open on the weekends. Buying art is a family decision, too, especially if it goes in the family home, so family members would come together during the weekends to choose something and be in agreement about their choice. 

Now my gallerist life is different. I closed the permanent gallery space and I do exhibitions in different spaces, depending on the theme of the exhibition. I work mostly from home. I have two companies: the gallery and a financial consulting firm, specializing in title insurance. Currently, there may be a day in the week when I don’t have any gallery-related activities, but I highly enjoy all my art-related work. I like to go and visit the places where I have art exhibitions. I love to visit the studios of the artists I work with, to discuss future projects. I like it better like this, without having a permanent gallery space where I store the art. I enjoy working with different spaces because I feel that every single exhibition has its own personality. 

Are you involved in educational art projects? 

In the first year after I opened the gallery, when I had a permanent space for it, I was organizing art courses in the gallery. Now, I feel that my role is to educate the artists financially, to educate Romanian artists on how the foreign market works, because, in the meantime, I gained more experience by  going to international art fairs. A year ago, I was accepted as a partner gallery on Artsy, the biggest international website specializing in working only with galleries. What I’ve learned from the foreign art markets is that artists have to produce art and galleries have to represent them. Gallerists are more like managers for the artists, whereas, in Romania, I felt that gallerists are perceived more as offering a nice space where someone can pay and exhibit. 

How was the first exhibition you ever put together? 

Elysium, my first exhibition as a gallerist, will always stay close to my heart. It was a group exhibition and I thank the artists for putting their trust in me. Thank you Vali Irina Ciobanu, Ramona Pintea, and Mariana Villanueva.

Iulia Toader, who is an architect, interior designer, painter and curator, curated it. I worked with her both as a curator and as an exhibiting artist afterwards, for the Hide & Seek exhibition. 

What are the latest exhibitions you have done, and who are the artists? 

This year, in February, I had an exhibition called “Essentialism”. The artist was Alexandra Andone, from Cluj. The exhibition took place at the Intercontinental Hotel, in the Intermezzo Lobby Bar at the ground floor. It was a big success and now you can find the paintings on Artsy. 

Another project dear to me is called Portal, an exhibition of the Romanian artist Anca Irina Lefter,  who lives in Bucharest and is also a designer. This had its opening in November 2018, at Palatul Universul in Bucharest, and consisted of 10 paintings with special meaning, representing the five elements. Now, Portal is actually exhibited at the Intercontinental Hotel and was a part of NAG (White Night of Galleries) which happened just recently, in October. 

“From the Darkness into the Light,” by Victor Andrei Ionescu, took place at the Renaissance Art Gallery Art Space. On Nov 14th I will have another exhibition with Victor and another artist, a sculptor, Darius Hulea, at Intercontinental. The theme is still a surprise. 

How many exhibitions have you organized so far? Is there one particular artist you feel you’ve developed a special bond with? 

In two and a half years, I’ve had 13 exhibitions, with 3 more to come this year. Two of the previous 13 were group exhibitions. I worked with 16 artists until now. Two have left the country, as they were foreigners living in Romania. I have a special bond with all of them.

I have a special relationship with an amazing artist, a Syrian living in Romania for 15 years now, Ammar Al Nahhas. We had an exhibition called “From East to West” and we organized several events together.  

What projects do you have for the future? What’s your big dream?

There are three exhibitions coming up: the first, on November 2nd,  is called Journey to a Drifting Star, by Painter Mirel Vieru, who is from Cluj. Mirel spent 1 year in Iceland and was inspired by the sky and Aurora Borealis. 

The second will be on Nov 14th at Intercontinental, Intermezzo Lobby Bar. 

The last exhibition for this year will be on Nov 21st, at Qreator by IQOS, by surrealist graphic artist Marian Simon, a student of Marcel Chirnoaga, and it will be called Nirvana. 

My big dream is to participate in international art fairs with my artists. I have to make sure I have a good group of artists and a good program. 

You can follow Oana’s Renaissance Art Gallery on Facebook here

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