Your gallery developed out of an internet platform and magazine. How and when did that happen?
We started “Raster” magazine in 1995, while still at university. It was published irregularly, until 2000 when we turned it into the first Polish online magazine on contemporary art. The gallery opened a year later under the same name, and in 2003 we focused on it entirely, leaving other projects behind.
How would you describe the program of your gallery?
When we started the gallery our goal was to promote Polish artists of the young generation. So we promoted the early careers of such artists as Michał Budny, Rafał Bujnowski, Aneta Grzeszykowska and Wilhelm Sasnal. We work with them to this day, which now means that we represent established Polish artists of the middle and elder generations. We also value our origins so we strive to support and develop Warsaw’s local art scene. At the same time our ambitions have always gone beyond just the local scene, so we try to mix it up by working with new, intriguing figures of the international art world, such as the Slavs and Tatars collective, Eva Kotatkova or Ragnar Kjartansson, and young, up-and-coming names like Michelle Rawlings or Peter Puklus.
What do your artists have in common or how are they connected? How do you find them?
We are always looking for artists on our own, through our own paths, but sometimes that also means stumbling upon an artist we already know, who will tell us about another interesting artist, which is sort of like writing an oral letter of recommendation. But it’s a clean-cut vision and personality that we are always drawn to; we are intrigued by artists who treat art as a basic, even an existential form of communicating with reality, so to speak. And the thing that we might have in common with them is what our interests are; on the one hand we’ve always been fascinated by postwar avant-garde and post-conceptual art, but then there’s also the tradition of commenting on socio-political reality through painting, and the alternative culture—which is partially where our roots are.
What motivated you to open a gallery? Has there been an influential person?
Our friend from school that actually started the gallery with us—she was the one to convince us that we had to act, act now: which then meant to act while there were no private galleries with a regular exhibition program, no one representing the young up-and-coming generation of artists yet. We wanted to fill that void together with the artists we believed in, create a potential for them to be artists for a living.
The contemporary art scene in Warsaw is said to be one of the most exciting ones in Europe. What are the pros and cons of running a gallery here?
Despite its traumatic history Warsaw has a young spirit and is very dynamic, perpetually evolving. It makes working here exciting: there is still so many decisive moments to participate in, so many issues and processes to influence. But both the advantages and the flaws seem to stem from the same core: the art scene is small, young and dynamic, sure, but because of that it lacks in professional art handling services crucial for running this business. Sometimes it makes more sense for us to just do everything ourselves, which has it charm, but is too time- and energy consuming in a bigger perspective. Sometimes you prefer to trust a professional with handling even simple things, like framing a photo or sending a painting to NYC, just so you can focus on other things.
Have you ever thought of opening a space in another city?
We are bonded with Warsaw on too many levels—in regards to its gallery scene and its beginnings, but also simply emotionally— to even consider moving. But we like the idea of the gallery being also present in another part of the world, in another place. We have done it through temporary projects before, but the possibility of creating a satellite space/project together with a local gallery somewhere else is something we have been thinking about lately.
In 2006 you started the international artistic projects of „Villa Raster“. Could you tell us more about that?
It is an art event that moves from city to city every couple of years (hitherto presented in Warsaw, Tokyo, Reykjavík and – last year – in Toronto) creating a temporary art community in each of them, developing an inter national exchange for art based on experimen tal forms and its social aspects. We invite the most dynamic, young galleries from around the world to collaborate and thus using our joint curatorial experience we explore the potential of local art scenes through encounters that are innovative, stimulating, and not merely market driven. Each time we invite the public to explore new forms of communication and experience art outside the traditional commercial gallery space (like in a forlorn villa from the late 40s in Warsaw or Toronto’s Union Station). The project also recognizes the decisive role private gal leries play in deter mining the shape of con tem porary art field and the directions of explorations that take place within it.
Let’s talk about your publishing activities. How do you see the connection between your gallery and your publishing activities?
Part of it is naturally connected to our gallery activities: we prepare and publish artist books or monographs of artists that we collaborate with, sometimes teaming up with other publishers and institutions. But what distinguishes our publishing program is that part of it is autonomous and has no connection to the gallery at all: and it’s a part that we’re especially proud of, because it is a series of books and albums on the modern heritage of Warsaw. Our aim is to publish books that are not only an original intellectual concept, but are also distinguished by the perfect graphic layout and top-notch print technology, and have a unique quality: the print runs are small, and some books are marked by an artist intervention or available in special collector’s edition.
How would you describe the role of a gallery in the art world today?
It is a place where ideas—those that are impossible, unreal, fantastic and/or virtual—sort of infiltrate reality, slowly becoming part of it; in a tangible form of an artwork or an exhibition, or even as a conversation between two people.
How does digitalization affect your work as a gallerist?
You have to answer this one yourself by checking out our Instagram! www.instagram.com/rastergallery
What are your plans for the future?
They have not changed much through all those years. To run an international, important contemporary gallery that is not afraid to experiment, to stay in Warsaw and embrace it but also to travel the world in search of art, with art and for art.