NEW NOW art space is artist Gabriel Stoian’s most recent initiative to promote his own artistic vision in a personal space, used as both studio and artist-run space in Frankfurt. NEW NOW is shaping up to be a platform for promoting emerging artists, both Romanian and international, with the goal of establishing connections with a new audience, potential collectors, and new curators.
Gabriel Stoian first became known throughout the Cluj art scene, then left to Bucharest after his MFA where, following some independent projects and a collaboration with Alert Studio, was invited in 2014 to take part in BB6 (Bucharest Biennial 6) with the installation Peace. Numerous solo and group shows followed, such as Ikea Temple at the Multimedia Center for Visual Arts in Bucharest, Here and Against at WASPSTUDIOS in 2013 or Marotte, a group exhibition at Victoria Art Center during the same year. In 2015 he moved to Frankfurt, Germany where he has two solo artist open studio projects at AtelierFrankfurt: Glitter, Queens and Other Future Beings and Welcome to The New Now.
Gabriel Stoian’s choice to create an artist-run space started with this desire I think everyone who works in the visual arts field must have – to attract people who are interested in common or similar topics, who can outline the context for new collaborations and create a network or connect to more complex networks from the local or even international context. NEW NOW was not the artist’s Plan B, as Adrian Ghenie described his route when the gallery with the same name first launched, but rather a next level for the activity he began at AtelierFrankfurt (a center for artist studios). I enjoyed that interview because it sincerely and directly described the organic need to generate interests that creates bonds between people, that offer a context for coming into contact with art production. The context makes the art come alive. I also remember what an old professor of mine said to me about reading a work of art from the artist’s perspective, you are the first spectator of your work. From then on, only the context/new contexts will determine how the work is perceived and the route it will take. NEW NOW is a space created by an artist for artists, and this is probably the most important aspect of this entire equation. Gabriel Stoian prompts an invitation to “a dialogue” starting with a new self-made present (NEW NOW), towards a new future.
The exhibitions that NEW NOW has hosted up to the present day are People Before Clouds by Gheorghe Naum, Gheorghe Gh. Naum and Gabriel Stoian, A Robot’s Hand in a Supermarket by Andreea Anghel, and Wayfarer Collection by Julian Riedel. The first show brought together works by three generations of artists – all from Brăila – who explore the image’s capacity to suggest temporality. Gabriel Stoian integrates his works alongside the two artists from different generations, creating a contemporary context for some apparently traditional pursuits in terms of approach, where the main coordinates are identity and time.
A Robot’s Hand in a Supermarket by Andreea Anghel was a solo-show entirely made of new media works in which the artist analyzes contemporary man’s customs: lack of empathy towards immediate reality, chipping away at his humanity, framed in a futuristic world that man conceived as an illusion out of the organic need for progress, which becomes absurd through means of omitting its substratum and its purpose.
Wayfarer Collection by Julian Riedel shaped up to be a pictorial experiment similar to a visual journal – made out of fragments of reality with a little abstraction here and there, in a lyrical manner. The very sensorial reception of reality has coagulated a spectacular show in terms of aesthetics, with its symbolism left for the viewer to read and only slightly suggested.
This came to be a space opened towards various types of art shows and artists with different artistic approaches, with the common denominator being contemporary relevance. I had a short discussion with Gabriel Stoian about NEW NOW art space in order to find out more about this project:
When did you first get the idea of making your own exhibition space? Tell me a little bit about the process you went through to open NEW NOW art space.
At first, same as every artist, I wanted a studio to work. After I finished school in Romania, for a few years I activated as an emerging artist without a studio and I think that influenced a lot of what I was doing back then. My projects from those days were produced in a limited space where I also lived and most of the time I would have to take my projects in the streets or in parks to finish them. Of course, there was a limit, and over time this process became more and more difficult. So the need for a space grew and grew, yet the conditions in Romania and my Bucharest context did not permit me to rent a studio. In 2015 I made the decision of leaving to Frankfurt where, after a few months, I managed to obtain a space in a building (AtelierFrankfurt). There are around 120 artist studios there, as well as other alternative spaces and art galleries. I started working, but because I was in a completely new environment, I didn’t know the people or the place’s dynamics. So, out of my desire for interaction, I began organizing open-studio events where the few people I knew showed up. As time went by I realized that I need consistency and persistence in order to attract an interested audience. Consequently, in mid 2016 I started to seriously consider opening a space with a well defined program. It took about a year, during which I attempted to create a model of activities to launch an artist-run space and also continue my own practice as an artist. And in 2017 I opened NEW NOW art space Frankfurt.
You moved to Frankfurt quite recently. How were your last years from the perspective of artistic production?
The nomad lifestyle always suited me, I am the type of person that doesn’t stay in one place for too long. Long story short, I moved from Cluj to Bucharest after I graduated and then to Frankfurt almost 3 years ago, but I also lived in Amsterdam and other European cities. I think it’s important for an artist to travel. I am also convinced I won’t be staying in Frankfurt forever, but for now it’s the most fitting place. From a professional point of view I think things are going in the right direction: as long as you don’t pursue titles and awards and everything is limited to your own route, there is no way of failing as an artist. The fact that I have the freedom to work on what I want, when I want, means so much, not to mention the fact that for a while now I am also trying to help other artist exhibit their works. Even though this takes up all of my time, there is nothing else I’d rather do. The fact that I had the privilege to live in so many interesting places (mostly thanks to my wife, Andra) helped me expand my creative horizons. Of course, I am convinced that the creative act and vision are not determined only by the geographic and geopolitical context, but I believe things become clear once you see them in their respective places.
What is the gain of your artist-run space? What is the concept behind NEW NOW?
The gain of this space is quite simple: NEW NOW is a space dedicated to promoting emerging international artists. It showcases contemporary art with the help of alternative curatorial approaches, offering a less sterile environment which is more open to a vast community. NEW NOW art space works as a double platform where all activity happens in one place by alternating functions. On one hand, the space hosts the NEW NOW events, exhibitions, openings, workshops, etc. The second part is focused on personal production where the space is used as an artist studio. The idea was to create a space that fits more that one type of perception. A space for testing and a launch pad. Nowadays, art can bee seen, understood and marketed during intimate meetings in apartments or less official and more common spaces. They are the small islands of activity that serve the public, temporarily catering to those needs that the art world cannot handle. Sometimes, these spaces are meant to be temporary, other times they can grow to become professional institutions that contribute to establishing a new generation of artists.
Why “new now”? What does it mean for you to be contemporary relevant?
The name of the space was chosen to match the title of a solo show of mine called Welcome to the new now that I held in the same space as an open studio model in May 2016. After a discussion with a friend and artist colleague, we concluded that what we need and what defines the concept of this program are these types of conversations. For me, being relevant in the contemporary era means asking some of today’s most intriguing questions in an interdisciplinary and phenomenological way. NEW NOW are two words that define the immediate reality while hinting at the future.
How do you select the artists? Is there a common denominator?
Seeing as the space is just starting out it is difficult to answer this question. The strategy I put into play when I first started developing this project space is still in its first phase. In my first year I decided to test things out, try to build relationships with the artist I know and artists that interest me and experiment new approaches. I did not set a very clear direction right from the get-go because I wouldn’t want to exclude mediums or artists without understanding what they’re doing. I think that in the beginning it’s best to keep an open mind and as time goes by, establish a route. NEW NOW’s program is not limited to mediums or approaches at the moment. As long as the proposed projects have a relevant and current concept from a contemporary perspective, we’re open to collaborations.
How would you position NEW NOW when compared with the art scene in Frankfurt or Romania?
The Frankfurt art scene is not very big, Frankfurt is one of Europe’s economic centers, but as far as contemporary art goes, there certainly is room for more. There are mainly two types of spaces in Frankfurt: large institutions like museums or kunsthalles and commercial galleries are a dime a dozen. What Frankfurt is really missing is an alternative, underground scene with small experimental galleries that can generate novelty and new approaches to art. From this point of view, I think NEW NOW has a lot to gain because it is much more accessible and attractive to the public. Because it does not need a heavy financial mechanism in order to function, NEW NOW is a type of flexible space that can easily be adapted to the medium. Right now, we are also negotiating with certain similar spaces in Romania for collaborations, but nothing is set in stone yet. I don’t believe in the idea of competition between spaces and I would be delighted to work with artists from Romania.
What kind of collaborations are you looking for? What is your vision for this space in the near future?
Right now I’m interested in collaborating with artists from our immediate surroundings, I would like to further work on the local context for now. Frankfurt has potential precisely because the art scene isn’t very big, there are a lot of resources and capital in this town. I think it’s important to work with local artists and institutions for growth and development. It’s also easier, infrastructure wise, to stick to local collaborations. My future vision for this space is natural growth and gaining experience in relation with artists and the public. Of course, in the future we would like to expand the NEW NOW team and collaborate not only with artists, but with writers and curators as well. The only condition would be to take our time, baby steps. Our first exhibitions featured known artists who I always wanted to work with. From here, we can start to build an identity and a program that are easily recognizable.
How would you describe the dynamics of your expat artistic life that runs an artist-run space in one of the most important financial centers in Europe? How do you relate to your audience?
I’ve been asked this question many times and usually there is one answer that pops into my head. I am attracted by anything that leads to the production of an art work, from the moment of purchasing the materials to the moment it needs restoration. But the idea of a bohemian artist lifestyle never really attracted me and I honestly don’t even think I’d have the time. My expat status is not so obvious because the area I activate in is pretty international. It is important to note that the work I do for the space is very demanding, but the way I see it, I work with the artists, not for them. I’ve never seen it as an activity separated from my attempt at running an art space, I see it as an extension of my own work as an artist. As a consequence, most of my friends come from other areas, as for the people who attend my shows, the public is assorted, but most people come from the economic sector. The discussions taking place during openings are extremely diverse, but one thing is clear: there is definitely a lot of interest for art.
What have you learned from your role as a cultural manager since you are also a visual artist?
I think the most important thing that I learned from my role as a coordinator is the importance of communication (the way in which the artist/public relationship is mediated). I consider myself to be qualified to run a certain type of space, but don’t expect me to pay for dinner for 25 art collectors at the Abu Dhabi Art Fair.
What kind of feedback did you receive following your shows at NEW NOW? How did the German public perceive the identity of your space?
The feedback that I got was good, people are delighted by what they see and by the fact that everything takes place is an informal and relaxed atmosphere
As a space, we want to support the creative community and I think we can achieve that by actively participating in the local scene, offering visibility for artists and a platform for whoever is interested.
Ada is a Graduate of University of Art and Design in Cluj-Napoca and has a PhD in Visual Arts (2019), conceiving a research thesis entitled "The Human Body as Image and Instrument in Contemporary Art....