Ljubljana

Ask a local: Slavojka Akrapovič

25 Jan 2021
Architect, designer, gallery owner, and patron of the arts: all of these roles are related, but at the same time different. They’re all written in your DNA, but still: which one is your favourite?

Architect. Also designer – this was my life’s career orientation. I started my professional path as an architect, where I worked in the Andrej Kemr’s architecture studio as a designer, in an integral way. I also did graphic design for a while, and I also flirted with garden art. For me, it’s all the same expressive language, only the material is different. The rest of what you listed came as a result of my work, experience, and circumstances.

Did you always dream of owning your own gallery space?

No. I also never imagined that this would play such a big role in my life. As an architect who discovered this workspace of mine, I thought it would work best as a small gallery. Otherwise, I first had my own studio in it, a project studio. Over time, that became too small, and so I looked for another space and was inspired to turn it into a gallery. That’s how the studio became a gallery.

You’ve participated in and worked on quite a number of exhibitions. Which one are you proudest of?

I’d like to highlight my first exhibition, the sculpture and painting exhibition for the important Slovenian sculptor Jiři Bezlaj, who works in stone. That exhibition was based on a work of art, a very attractive oil painting that covered most of the wall, by the artist Igor Bravničar. Bravničar also created statues and set up an exhibition, which inspired this work of art especially for this space. The exhibition inspired the sculptor to use a previous piece of art as the basis for his own sculptures. Given that I was just starting out with gallery work, I found this to be a great tribute to my idea of how to carry out gallery activity in my own personal way. Otherwise, every exhibition is close to my heart. Each one is a new intellectual challenge; every time we design both wall and spatial installations, and in parallel to this we create a supportive gallery presentation of the artist. We also carefully design all publications. We also had exhibitions outside our gallery and Slovenia, and even in Beijing with the artist Leon Zakrajšek. That was at the 798 Art District, which we’re really proud of. The 798 Art District is the artistic part of Beijing and it’s viewed in high regard.

Various artists are presented in your art gallery. How do you pick the artists you work with? Or do the artists contact you?

There aren’t a lot of artists in my gallery; they’re carefully selected and represented by various genres such as sculpture, painting, graphics, illustration, photography, and design. At first, the artists themselves started contacting me. Then I started choosing them myself. Everyone who’s represented in the gallery and who we create a gallery profile for is special to me. I’d like to have their artwork with me – at home or where I spend time and work. Those are my selection criteria.

There must be certain criteria an artist has to meet to be featured in your gallery. Can you tell us what they are?

I’ve got very individual criteria. I perceive art as an impulse when it excites me so much that it occupies me emotionally. The same is true for music: you either want to listen to it or not. Colours are very important. The large formats dominate the interior space and enrich it. As an architect who also creates interiors, it’s especially exciting for me when a work of art (a painting, a large photo, or a sculpture) finds its place, as though it were commissioned for a specific location. Serving as an interface to facilitate this is really a special professional pleasure. This is also one of the criteria for selecting artists for the gallery.

How do you perceive art?

I feel art as a need. It’s an escape from the outside world. In art, everything is perfect and harmonious, and when you’re contemplating something in the presence of a work of art you calm down, become creatively rich, and also become more sensitive. When I was younger, I played piano for ten years and I almost decided to study music. Then I made another decision and decided to do something more applied. Over time, I began to miss these sublime artistic energies, and my profession wasn’t completely fulfilling me. This space was originally my workshop, and I began bringing works of art into it. These started offering me internal harmony, and so I gradually added more works of art and artists to the space around me. That’s how the gallery was born. It was also created because of my perception of space. Under other circumstances, I probably would have been just a collector. Everything is interconnected: space and art.

Could you tell us which Slovenian and foreign artists are your favourite at the moment?

My favourite painter is Igor Bravničar. He’s also a pianist, and he perceives the fine arts through music. We’ve been friends for a long time, and we were also classmates. He was the first artist in my gallery. I also appreciate Leon Zakrajšek and all the other artists in the gallery, as well as Marko Jakše, who I occasionally work with. My favourite foreign artist is Anish Kapoor. He totally overwhelms me every time with his ideas, innovative shapes, flawlessly executed sculptures in various materials, and placements in rooms or exteriors. I’m also fascinated by James Turrell, who’s a representative of the Land Art movement and expresses himself through light that he geometrizes. As an architect, I sometimes try to follow his example. In painting, I’d look back a little. Mark Rothko paints a musical atmosphere with his colours. He was ahead of his time, like all artists. My generation was marked by the twentieth century, starting with the constructivists, and this developed into pure abstraction for me. I think that fine art is seeking itself now, although artists are appearing all the time, including now, and they’re developing art further.

You’ve been active in the art world for a few decades now. Would you say Slovenia is an artistic country? How can we improve?

Slovenians as a nation are at the crossroads of various influences of cultures, represented in all artistic genres and architecture at the global level. I won’t list names now, but as a nation we’ve been very influenced by culture throughout history. We also identify with culture and art. When Slovenians had their own currency, the tolar, the banknotes almost exclusively bore images of cultural icons: literary figures, painters, musicians, and the great architect Plečnik. Now we’re living in a time of different influences of cultures from all over the world and therefore a search for artistic expressions. World exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale are a great display of this kind of search, and only a few individuals stand out.

Do you think Slovenians know their artists well enough?

Yes and no. I think interest in art has been declining in recent years. It’s as though there’s no need for art and no time for it. Lifestyles have changed a lot in a short period of time. Personally, I think lifestyles have also become impoverished. This doesn’t only apply to Slovenians. I travel a lot around Europe, and I see the same trend everywhere. Only where people are very thoughtful in designing and arranging indoor and outdoor space is art also presented. This should be the case in Slovenia as well, like it was in the past. There’s a narrow circle of people who are always present at exhibitions, who follow artists, and who also want to own their works of art and put them in their collections.

Can you tell us what you’re currently working on? Are you planning to launch a new project?

We’re currently finishing the renovation of the space above the gallery, where we’ve gained quite a lot of volume and walls, and the possibility for expanded gallery activity. We decided to dedicate ourselves to education. We’ll hold various art workshops, especially for additional art education for young people and children, because we believe they’re lacking this in the school system. For some time now, as an amateur program, we’ve been offering painting workshops for adults. We’ve seen that there’s a lot of interest in artistic creation because people also relax when they’re painting and at the same time they cultivate their creative sides. Especially children love creating with colours and drawing – in short, it gives a person a sense of proportions and harmony. Aristotle said that art fills what has remained imperfect in nature.

Even though Slovenian museums and galleries are closed, do you have any upcoming exhibitions that our readers should already mark on their calendars?

For 2021, we’ve prepared a very interesting exhibition of posters by the architect Bogo Zupančič, who has just taken over as director at the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO). These are posters that were created at the Faculty of Architecture in the 1980s and express the spirit of that time. When the galleries open again, we’ll open the exhibition together with the renovated space, where thirty posters and a short documentary and sketches will be on display. I think that the upcoming exhibition is very interesting because it presents Zupančič, who’s now working as an architectural historian, as an artist that the professional community is unfamiliar with. His posters have both interesting messages and artistic value: some of them also won awards at that time, and in 1987 one of them was chosen as the artwork of the month.
 

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