Prishtina’s artistic scene is often described as rich and alive. It is because of this factor that, in an effort to also enhance its qualities and bring opportunities to a new level, two Austrian women, Isabella Ritter and Katharina Schendl, decided to move on their endeavor of opening a new contemporary art gallery in the very center of Prishtina, named LambdaLambdaLambda.
The space, located in the alley behind Metro bar on Garibaldi street, is named after a sign that in physics represents frequency of transmission. “It also sounds like the name of one of the fraternities of college in the U.S.,” says Ritter, art historian and occasional independent curator. LambdaLambdaLambda, a name suggested to the owners over dinner by famous American artist Seth Price, “sounds a bit humorous,” says Ritter, “but the concept is a space of collaboration, of coming together.”
That is indeed the goal of the owners, who privately invested in this enterprise that will open on Saturday January 17th at 7p.m., presenting one of Kosovo’s most written about artists in the last month: Flaka Haliti. The representative of Kosovo’s pavilion at the next edition of the Venice Biennial this year will exhibit new works that relate to the neighborhood of the gallery. Viennese artist, Nadja Athanossawa, will also be simultaneously presenting a site-specific performance, connecting both artists’ creations.
Schendl, an architect with an arts background, has been coming to Prishtina since she came for the first time to an exhibition of Albanian artist Adrian Paci in the National Gallery of Kosovo in 2012. Only three months ago, despite having heard many good things about the republic’s art scene from Schendl, Ritter landed for the first time at the Adem Jashari International Airport. Knowing each other for over 15 years, they decided it was the moment to jump into such a project after seeing that the local property they now occupy was for rent.
“It’s never the right or the wrong moment,” says the very talkative Ritter, “just like when you fall in love, it just happens.”
Ritter and Schendl want to bring international and local artists to their space, and have room in the program for other curators, solo exhibitions, as well as talks in the future; they also do not discard the possibility of collaborating to bring artists from Kosovo to Vienna, where they are based.
“There is a high number of interesting artists,” Ritter says, “and you don’t have so many opportunities because there is only one real non-institutional space for contemporary art, Stacion, in the long-term; the energy is good and young people want to do something.” For Schendl, the scene has got more international visibility with the representation of Kosovo at the Venice Biennial and its first representative, Petrit Halilaj, with several shows abroad. “Since Erzen Shkololli took the National Gallery,” she says, “there has been more visibility for contemporary artists in Kosovo, but for a city like Prishtina, there is need for more.”
This “playful” project of “incubation” of artists, as they describe it, doesn’t yet have a fixed program and will start as a work in progress with care about its content and creation of discourse. They look at Kosovo as a periphery of art production where the artist doesn’t have the economic pressure of the big centers like New York, London, or Paris to fulfill the expectations of the art market. “The speculation in the art market,” explains Ritter “has perverted it so much that people are starting to look for the real thing again, the genuine artist, with a more individual look where they follow their interest; and that is more possible outside the big centers of arts production where the artist doesn’t have the pressure of the centers main taste.”
Both women are encouraged to help local artists build a career, and helping them to place their work on an international stage as well. “For us it would be fantastic that artists can rely on their art to survive,” says Schendl, to whose words Ritter adds: “Its not only about opening a space for art trade, but to work in the long term in representing and place them with curators and art institutions abroad too.”
For more information, you can visit the website of the LambdaLambdaLambda.
Exhibition Opening: Saturday January 17th, 7p.m.
Address: LambdaLambdaLambda, in alley behind Metro bar on Garibaldi street.
Artists: Nadja Athanossawa and Flaka Haliti.
Photocredit: Kosovo 2.0