So East European university training is not really worthless, as some local self-haters would tell you. At least when it comes to the world of galleries. You hear a lot about meth skills, maverick cinema, computer wizards but painting? And Cluj, Romania?
FT reports about an unheard of side of Romanian exports:
Both sides claim it is a happy incidence, but this week in London Christie’s-owned Haunch of Venison goes head-to-head with Blain|Southern, as both galleries inaugurate shows by painters from the Romanian Cluj School.
There has been a lot of buzz about Cluj, the “capital” of Transylvania: man-about-town Nicky Haslam has recently bought a house there, and its cultural centre, installed in a former brush factory, is a hotbed of artistic creation. Haunch is holding its second solo show of Cluj School painter Adrian Ghenie, and displaying the works in its original Haunch of Venison Yard premises, spiffily refitted by Annabelle Selldorf. Meanwhile Blain|Southern, whose directors founded Haunch but left last year to start their own gallery, are showing another Cluj painter, Marius Bercea.
So what makes these artists so popular? Jane Neal, curator of the Bercea show and a specialist in eastern European art, says that their training “has kept traditional techniques alive” and that they have “great technical skill”, while Ben Tufnell of Haunch says the artists’ work is also infused with a “very strong sense of philosophical and ideological engagement”. The market has followed: Ghenie’s first show at Haunch in 2009 was a sell-out, and the gallery tells me everything had already gone before this week’s opening at prices between €35,000 and €100,000. Work by Bercea is equally popular, and just one remained before Blain’s opening on Wednesday: his prices range from €4,000 to €50,000.”
Some of the money coming from the sales went to support Fabrica the Pensule (The Brush Factory), a collective where this ebullient art spirit has been cultuvated during the past few years.