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Interview Part II

1. Ilya, in the last interview you touched upon the picture sales technology. When you present a new work, of course, you want it to speak for itself. It would seem unreasonable to explain to everyone why the works from your gallery are worth buying, isn't it? Moreover, you do not want people think you are an annoying art dealer, persuading them to buy something from you. Unfortunately, paintings do not often speak for themselves. The right description of works and the story behind them help potential buyers and collectors to realize their value and understand why they need these paintings. Could you, please, share the secrets of proper marketing?

There is a number of issues. As for the pictures speaking for themselves, it is a tricky question. It is a matter of interpretation and meaning allocated to a painting. Sometimes it is self-sufficient and understandable, showing a scene with characters. It may even seem trivial if you do not know the background, its plot, why the artist turns the spotlight on this or that thing, what details the author adds to the work. For example, when Italian Renaissance artists painted scenes from everyday life featuring people, the characters prototyped by people who were already dead at the time of creating the picture had pale gray faces, and those with rosy-cheeked faces were prototyped by living people. It could seem so subtle, but either you should know it, or somebody should explain it to you. It is when the meaning of a painting and its mystery are revealed.

Therefore, even in the Podorvanov Art Gallery, if we give a description of a painting, it does not mean that it is the only truth. This is our interpretation of the artist's idea, which we convey to the audience in our own words.

And audience, as you know, is different. Therefore, proper marketing comprises several aspects. There are people who make a visual assessment of a work, they process a painting, sculpture, jewelry, and see whether they like it or not. They feel it, they start understanding and thinking like the author, they just fall in love with what the artist created and want to buy it in their collection.

And there are such connoisseurs who really need something to read: artistic interpretation, conception. They need not only to see, but also to read with their eyes. It is a well-known fact that men buying a painting need numbers: weight, size, technique, the year it was created, how long the author spent painting it, etc. A picture itself may be silent, and what we write in the explanatory note can make the viewer think in their own way, either agreeing or disagreeing with us. Any artwork should interact with the viewer, initiate an obvious or nontrivial dialogue. Even if connoisseurs or ordinary people, having faced a particular artistic movement for the first time, do not appreciate the work, it means that the artist has achieved the goal: he causes a certain feeling to arise in the audience, receives assessment feedback.

2. Continuing on the topic of selection of artists for the gallery program portfolio, could you tell us more about it? Without revealing all ins and outs of one of the great mysteries of the art business, could you, please, tell us about your experience of forming a pool of artists, which would be different from the collections of other galleries, transmit your aesthetic views and attitude to art?

For me, there are several key components. One of them is the independence of an artist. Every artist feels their mission, their program, following which he wants to create. It is important that an artist try to tune in to their own wave-length, master the language of self-expression and move forward with it. It is necessary that an artist show the individual self.

Of course, it is normal when young artists imitate and copy more experienced ones. But, making these steps, they can develop their own language only if they bring something of their own and do not stick to one artistic movement. This is great.

The second point is sheer hard work. In fact, I don't want to force a person to do anything against their will. If an artist is ready to develop in this direction, it can be seen by their efforts, mistakes, and attempts. I prefer to work with those who persistently and diligently steer their course. I like a systematic approach. Maybe I got it from my mother, a math teacher who taught me to be systematic. Again and again, you should solve problems occurring at work, which you are ready and want to do.

Finally, it is a pleasure for me to communicate with intelligent people, who constantly develop and internally assess themselves and the world around them. It is important that people grow mentally, that artists create for Podorvanov Art Gallery something that makes sense, something thought-out and clever.

3. You have already mentioned the international format of contemporary galleries. Globalization accelerates the integration of new Russian artists with the international art market, as well as their active promotion among Western collectors. Podorvanov Art Gallery's strategy is aimed to develop partnership relations with Western galleries, and therefore, to actively participate in international fairs. What is the main trend of galleries in the world? The desire to amaze in any way?

Right opposite, Podorvanov Art Gallery does not seek to participate in international fairs. It is a waste of money. I don't like taking such a big risk: maybe you will sell a painting at the exhibition, if they notice the artist, or maybe not, so I prefer to avoid such events. I believe that it is necessary to invest in the development of an artist by promoting them in social media, on online platforms. Nowadays, there are many international resources that offer great opportunities for artists. It is necessary to keep your eyes on the ball, because it's great when an artist can come into the spotlight of an auction without leaving home.

As for the volume of this market, it is enormous. For example, an artist from a Chinese town may exhibit at online auction sites and may be noticed. An art dealer will contact him and find out the information needed. But it is not always possible to fly to a remote province of China, so globalization brings people closer together.

Globalization means a shift to the online space and this is the main trend of galleries around the world. Of course, if you are physically standing in front of the work, it causes other emotions than when you look at it on the screen of a PC or phone. But it is a matter of technological progress, as 3D technology is now being actively developed, when you can download any painting and get photos of such a quality that they would give a full idea of how everything is created. We just need to prepare ourselves for this step into the future and not to stay enclosed into the physical space, although it remains important. In this way, it is most likely to promote an artist and earn money, which is what every gallery strives for.

4. In this respect, a question arises: do you work with non-commercial artists? Why do you think galleries work primarily with contemporary art? Is it due to the need to integrate into the international art community?

It seems to me that most galleries work with commercial art, more understandable for a wide audience and more effective for business. There are different galleries: those working with old masters (but it is closer to the antique) or with the artists who no longer paint. Not all galleries promote contemporary art.

Every artist sometimes creates something non-commercial, like performances. They do not care if it fits on the wall or not, just creating art objects that are not explicitly commercial. What do they do it for? To try to express themselves in a different context, materials, space, to popularize their names. If an artist creates art objects, for example, a huge sun, or a sugar sphinx imitating a black woman, of course, they are not for sale. This is rather self-expression of a person, a kind of self-promotion. I strongly support this, because in addition to the business component, I aim at promoting new artists and Russian conceptual art in general.

5. If we talk about the current state of the world art market as a whole, there are three hegemonic countries in control: the United States, China, and the United Kingdom. As for the auction houses, there is a duopoly of two giants, Sotheby's and Christie's. Are there auctions in Russia, if not of this level, but at least gaining momentum and popularity? Do they compete with online auctions?

Yes, it must be admitted that we have such auctions in Russia, maybe not of such a high level, but rapidly evolving. They have emerged since the 1990s, but have not yet entered the international market. The Russian market is young, but not immature. The economy continues to grow rapidly, and turbulent processes have given it a hard time over the past 30 years. And this market is sensitive to what is happening in the economy. We can wish them good luck, they are doing a good job, but I cannot say for sure whether they will be able to gain a foothold in the future.

Auctions can exist in a very limited local market. For example, in St. Petersburg, there are auctions, which take place once a week, presenting young artists. The works are exhibited in a bar, people are invited. They sell paintings for little money, and the rest they burn. Such an original approach makes artists look at their works from a different angle, and encourages art lovers to show empathy and, sometimes, save these paintings.

Auctions in Russia constantly emerge and develop.

Today, the number of Internet platforms specializing in art is growing in all countries. They create significant competition to real auctions. If you take good pictures of a painting and put it on auction, you may well sell it. Thus, they take a share of the market from Christie's, Sotheby's, and other major market players. But internal competition is increasing as well. Contemporary art grow 17-19% annually. This means that artists have to keep up with international trends, including concepts, materials and quality of work.


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