In the last few months, the word spread around the city due to the opening of a new gallery of modern art, one of a kind exhibition space which Belgrade hasn’t had the opportunity to meet before. According to international standards, the gallery itself has got an exclusive location, just like its counterparts, which are situated in Chelsea, NY. Our curiosity got higher and all of our were questions explicitly answered during the opening ceremony of the Laufer || Eugster Belgrade – a new contemporary art gallery. Numerous art lovers attended the world premiere of new series of works by the internationally recognized photographer from Belgrade – Boogie. We took the chance and rushed to meet David Laufer and Jan Eugster, owners of this unique space.
You have surely heard of these two interesting men when they organized the exhibition in the residence of the Ambassador of Switzerland and further presented the works of four outstanding young visual artists from the region – Emir Šehanović, Saša Tkačenko, Ivana Ivković and Vladimir Miladinović. The exhibition was organized with the support of Jean Daniel Ruch, Swiss Ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro, whereas Laufer and Eugster provided proper privilege to the Belgrade audience.
David Laufer and Jan Eugster talked to us about international exhibitions which will create the necessary cultural dialogue and impact on our artists, and also about contemporary art – which is often perceived as a student hobby among the artists and art consumers on Belgrade scene. Most of all, we talked about the Laufer || Eugster gallery.
How would you describe Jan Eugster and David Laufer?
What we have in common? We are more Swiss then we would like to admit, shorter then we would like to be and more queries than what’s good for us.
David, Jan what brings you to Belgrade ?
Two separate, very long stories. A better question would be: what keeps us here? We really like Belgrade and we believe in it.
The World Economic Forum has recently found that Serbia was penultimate when compared to other countries at talent retention. The circumstances in Serbia generate young demotivated individuals who leave the country in a never-ending search for a better tomorrow. Could you please elaborate on your idea and decision to start your prominent project here, of all places?
Ok, now it gets serious. What is the “World Economic Forum”? Kidding. This may be Serbia’s most serious problem. Many people leave with entirely false assumptions about life abroad. They think it’s going to rain money just as they cross the border. It is true that the local market gives little opportunities – it’s very difficult in Serbia to build a career and professional experiences without knowing the right people. For most of the people it’s good to leave for a while, gain some knowledge and then come back and use it in a market that has potential to grow. Serbia, actually, also gives the opportunity to start with relatively small investments and then grow bigger. This is proven by the dynamic IT sector and all labor-intensive areas. European countries don’t really offer that any longer, their stagnant growth and very expensive prices are rather discouraging. Our gallery project would have been simply unthinkable in Switzerland or Germany, without scary financial backing. So that’s something very positive in Serbia, which surprisingly few young people seem to be aware of.
What is the main idea/concept behind your project, aiming at authors and art admirers?
We spent many years in Belgrade and were always involved in culture and art. In time we have discovered some really good artists. Until now their best chance was to sell over internet galleries to an international audience, which is closer to interior decoration than to art. That can be problematic for an artist’s career as it might ruin a name instead of building it up. With our gallery we want to create a platform, a network and a center where art by great artists is visible and sold to collectors and art lovers. Also, we want to attract not only international, but local buyers and build value with them on the market.
How would you define your project?
It’s a gallery with an international standard and network, based in Belgrade and showing regional art. Contemporary art is too often viewed as some student hobby on Belgrade scene. Prices do not reflect the huge investment in time and money, the education and the dedication of many artists. We aim at changing the context of the contemporary art scene with the intention of making it more professional, as well as to place it in line with international standards.
Which artists do you currently represent?
We’re just starting. You can see the artists we represent on our website. Our selection of artists and exhibition program are being planned very carefully. Contracts still need to be signed and scouting is at the beginning. Portfolios can be sent to email@example.com.
Only a handful of individuals succeed in realizing their ideas nowadays, although everyone seemingly strives to be unique. What is your take on the current art market?
Indicators for investments and changes in Belgrade are positive. Business and cultural investments have been steadily growing over the last few years, which might finally bring Belgrade back on the map of European cities. Art and culture have become major exports worldwide, and Serbia will not be an exception for long. The region still has an exotic and original flavor – which is amazing in a world where McDonalds, Starbucks and H&M have uniformed everything.
For the last decade and more, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the National museum have been closed. Even though galleries are reappearing again, the lack of continuous support given to artists is evident. What advice would you give to artists that wish to knock on your door?
It’s not really a question of lack of support from the government for the artists; the government does what it can with very little means. Mostly, it’s the lack of museums, especially the Museum of Contemporary Art, which really leaves a big black spot on Belgrade’s map. This museum should be considered an absolute priority and become international exhibition space once again, as is the case in all major cities. International exhibitions would in that case create a necessary cultural dialogue and inevitably influence artists here. Bear in mind that in Switzerland there are more visitors in museums than in cinemas or at concerts.
Why did you pick this location precisely?
We didn’t want a tiny space in the city center, but a place where we can have a solid show with many works and big formats. We also decided it should be a destination rather than something to pass through, yet close enough to the city center.
What makes your gallery even more specific is the opening hours; can you tell us more about it?
The gallery will work on openings and then mainly on appointments. It is a personal approach, for people who are interested. In the first 4 weekends we’ve decided to be open from 14:00 to 18:00, in order to give the ones who couldn’t make it to the opening the possibility of seeing the exhibition and the gallery itself.
What are we to expect from Jan Eugster and David Laufer in the future?
More of everything.