With its Moving Gallery, Project ArtBeat Brings Georgian Art to the Countryside—and the World

May 31, 2016 7:06PM
The Doukhobors in Georgia, 2014
Project ArtBeat

So you don’t know much about Georgian art. (Not that Georgia; the other Georgia, the tiny Eastern European country wedged between Turkey and Russia on the Black Sea.) Natia Bukia is determined to change that. With her fledgling organization, Project ArtBeat, she’s helping introduce contemporary Georgian art to the rest of the world. Ahead of her busy summer schedule, we caught up with Bukia to discuss the power of the internet, emerging Georgian artists, and transforming a shipping container into a moving gallery space.

Untitled, 2014
Project ArtBeat

Artsy: Tell us about the inspiration behind Project ArtBeat.

Natia Bukia: Project ArtBeat was born from our desire of helping Georgian artists become internationally recognizable and our belief that the internet could be the main means to do so. The main part of the project is our online gallery, where you can view all our artists and their artworks. You can purchase art online. We also have a blog where you can read about all news from the Georgian art world and artist interviews.

Before Project ArtBeat, there was no place on the Web where you could find information about Georgian art and artists. We tried to fill that gap. We believe that the internet will take over the art world, as it has many other sectors, and we wanted to do something innovative. But Project ArtBeat is also a traditional gallery; we represent artists and go to art fairs. That ensures that our artists are also physically present internationally.

Mirror as a Reflection Space, 1999
Project ArtBeat
Untitled, 2015
Project ArtBeat

Artsy: The gallery has two spaces: one online, the other mobile. Can you comment on the unconventional decision to structure your exhibitions this way instead of in a traditional gallery space?

Natia Bukia: While working on the idea for Project ArtBeat, we realized that Georgians don’t have access to good contemporary art exhibitions. We think that art is a real inspiration to people, and that having an ability to view good art enriches everyday life. We didn’t want to open a traditional brick-and-mortar gallery, as, from the beginning, we wanted our project to be innovative and break away from the norms of the conventional rules of the art industry. And we believe that contemporary art can be much more interesting when shown in unconventional spaces.

This is why we created our Moving Gallery, which is housed in a shipping container. The idea is to move it around the country together with the exhibitions so that people living in Georgian peripheries can also have access to art.

First, we were thinking of creating a glass cube, inspired by the Glass Tea House Mondrian, a unique temporary pavilion in Venice by Hiroshi Sugimoto. But then our friends from Multiverse Architecture helped us come up with a better idea: a shipping container which can be easily moved around and which has a very interesting space.

Art is for everyone, not only the knowledgeable few, so we wanted our exhibitions to be accessible to as many people as possible. So we came up with the idea that we wanted our gallery to move, so that we could take contemporary art to people and it would no longer be necessary for them to specifically come to see the exhibitions. This would also ensure that we could organize shows in locations where museums and galleries did not function.

Untitled, 2014
Project ArtBeat
Series: Great Games, 2010
Project ArtBeat

Artsy: How does it work? Where will Moving Gallery go?

Natia Bukia: Usually the way our gallery space works is that exhibitions are always created for the container, although sometimes an artist might have an existing idea, which can work well with our Moving Gallery. So exhibitions are always site-specific.

As the location constantly changes, exhibitions also reflect the location of the gallery and sometimes can be created according to it. For example, Gio Sumbadze’s show, held in the city of Kutaisi, was based on the idea that the city doesn’t have a metro system. The artist created a video installation inside to re-create an underground so that locals could experience being in a tube train.

We also give full freedom to the artists regarding the interior of the gallery, so the space constantly changes. The young Georgian artist Nika Sakhanberidze created a kind of magic box in the container for his exhibition, and our last show by Mamuka Japharidze changed the gallery into a camera obscura. As the location was on a hill overlooking Tbilisi, the views—of the city on one wall, and the TV tower on the other—were reflected in the container.

Series: Untitled (Sovieticum), 2013
Project ArtBeat
URB EX Series: Art School, Kutaisi, Georgia, 2009
Project ArtBeat

Artsy: Project ArtBeat promotes the Georgian art scene. How would you describe that scene, and who are some of the notable artists working in it?

 Natia Bukia: There has recently been rising interest in the region’s art. We have seen works by Georgian artists selling at Christie’s and Sotheby’s for large sums of money. The problem is that interest is mainly for modern Georgian art with better-known artists. This is what we are trying to change.

The market for contemporary Georgian art is small; this is a hindrance for the artists. We believe that there is a lot of potential and talent in Georgian artists, but they need at least some motivation to create. Giving them access to international markets will ensure the development of the scene.

Judging from the first six months of our existence and our first art fairs, I can say that Irakli Bugiani, a young Georgian artist with a solid educational background, has a lot of potential. He received fantastic press coverage at the Contemporary Istanbul art fair. He was named as an artist to watch by artnet.com together with another very talented Georgian female artist, Maka Batiashvili.

Photographer Beso Uznadze has adopted a new technique in his recent series and does amazing collages. His portraits were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery several times, and his new series proved very popular at Pulse Contemporary Art Fair in New York.

A more established artist, and one of our personal favorites, is the multimedia artist Gio Sumbadze. His project at the 55th Venice Biennale, “Kamikadze Loggia,” was linked to his passion for documenting bizarre Georgian architecture.

Our new exhibition, opening next week, will be by the Georgian artist Maia Naveriani. For the first time, we’re staging a more conventional show in the shipping container: We are going to paint the interior all white and hang drawings on the walls. We are very excited about it.

Little Red Riding Hood, 2006
Project ArtBeat
აქTV and OptiMystic Translookations, 1995
Project ArtBeat

Artsy: The gallery has been up and running for a year and a half. What have you accomplished so far? What are your goals moving forward?

Natia Bukia: Since our inception, we have staged seven shows at our Moving Gallery and collaborated on three other exhibitions, one at Art in General in New York. We brought Oscar Murillo’s “Frequencies Project” to Georgia and participated in international art fairs in Istanbul, New York, London, and Paris.

In June, we are participating in two art fairs, Volta Basel and Kiev Art Week. Then comes START Art Fair at Saatchi Gallery in September. We just closed a show by Mamuka Japharidze and are opening a new one by Maia Naveriani next week at our Moving Gallery. In October, we also are getting ready for a major solo exhibition of our artist Irakli Bugiani at the Georgian National Museum, Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery, which we are very excited about.

Moving forward, our main goal is to be able to participate in more art fairs so we can increase the exposure of our artists, collaborate with international galleries, and increase the popularity of our online gallery. And in Georgia, we’d like to find ways to transport our Moving Gallery outside of the capital city to more remote places. We want to bring art to more people.

—Bridget Gleeson

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