Interview with Isabella Ritter and Katharina Schendl, founders of the gallery LambdaLambdaLambda in Pristina
A country torn apart by war that is now a place full of young people and possibilities, Kosovo is usually not considered to be in the central spot of the art map. Yet two Austrian women fell in love with Pristina and opened here, in October 2014, the first international gallery of Kosovo.
Who are the founders of the gallery? What are your backgrounds?
Isabella Ritter is an art historian, while Katharina Schendl is an architect. Before opening the gallery, Isabella was working for contemporary art galleries and Katharina for an artist and later in an institution.
Where are you from and what did bring you to Kosovo?
We are both Austrian. We first visited Kosovo in 2012 upon the invitation of a friend and we were taken by the city, the people and the art.
What motivated you to open a gallery?
When we decided that we wanted to do something in Kosovo, it was clear that it needed to be a self-sufficient model. Since there are extremely interesting young artists in Kosovo, we thought it would be great to work with some people in a long-term perspective and somehow break the dependency of artists from institutions and public funding.
Here we envisioned working with artists from Kosovo as well as from other places and establish relationships between them.
Can you tell us about the name of the gallery?
The idea was to express something communal and bonding and to playfully use the concept of a sorority. Furthermore, in physics, the lambda is the sign for the frequency of transmission which is also meant to reflect the dynamic character of our enterprise.
What kind of art do you represent? What connects the artists you represent?
We represent artists who comment in a poetic manner on our contemporaneity; oscillating between the personal and the public realm.
What are the “rituals” on your website?
We invite artists – sometimes also musicians – to perform a ritual prior to every exhibition. The idea started when Astrit Ismaili did the initial ritual “to protect the future,” when we first moved into the gallery space.
As rituals vary across every culture we thought we could experiment a bit on the concept of the ritual per se. Rituals define our everyday life but very often we are not aware of it, so it is interesting to build on this concept. The rituals that have been done so far vary a lot range from art historical references to very abstract ideas. What is also great about them is to get a group of people in one place to experience something together.
Can you tell us about Pristina and its art scene?
Kosovo is a very young country with a very young population. This is reflected in a lot of young artists and creative people who are working in arts, film, music and theater. The scene is quite vibrant, however it misses a certain infrastructure – hence it is not comparable to what we know about “art-centers.” What is great about this, however, is that young artists are free to express themselves without having to try to be read in a certain context.
What is the role of the gallerist today, according to you?
The role of the gallerist hasn’t change so much over time. In the best case scenario, good gallerists believe in the talent and vision of the artists they work with and do everything possible to realize their ideas with them. The most important thing is to have a mutual vision and to make it happen together with the artist and to grow with each other rather than just providing an exhibition space and selling works.
Which artists are you showing at Paris Internationale?
We will show Tatjana Danneberg, an artist from Vienna, and Norwegian, Berlin-based artist Hanne Lippard, who will also do a performance in the frame of the fair program.
If you could choose to exhibit any artist, even from the past, who would you pick?
Katharina: Miroslav Šutej
Isabella: James Coleman
What would you do if you were not a gallerist?
Katharina: I’d be a winemaker.
Isabella: I would do something else in the arts.
LambdaLambdaLambda takes part in Liste–Art Fair Basel from June 13th to 18th, 2017. The gallery will present a selection of works by Tatjana Danneberg, Hanne Lippard and Dardan Zhegrova.
LambdaLambdaLambda has participated in the 2nd edition of Paris Internationale in Paris from October 19th to 23rd 2016.
St. Garibaldi 1 / Johan von Hahn 8