What brought you into contemporary art in the first place?
I almost became an artist, until I almost became a poet, until I ended up writing about art, while not exactly becoming a writer. At some point in my life, contemporary art seemed the only way out of this huge misunderstanding.
What inspired you to open a gallery?
Ambiguous reasons. Tell me, have you ever met my ghostly companion Marcel Janco? In the summer of 2008, I spent two weeks on the island of Hydra in the company of the one behind this quite obvious pseudonym. He managed to turn my inspiration into goal, so I left the island with the clear artistic plan of opening a gallery that looks like a gallery but acts like a work of art. I kept Marcel’s name on the door – without him, Sabot wouldn’t have survived that midsummer’s dream.
In 2017 you moved from your former location in the Paintbrush Factory to the Centrul de Interes.
I co-founded the Paintbrush Factory, an artistic community and cultural hub in 2009, few months after Sabot’s official opening in this old, unused factory, located right outside of the city center. There weren’t many options at that point, as I was looking for a building without much character, where I could create the perfect blank space.
I still think that the bourgeois, neoclassical buildings of Cluj are better suited to still lives and banquets than contemporary art. I eventually left the Paintbrush Factory in 2016, after a very painful realization that a cultural kibbutz can only survive among think-alikes, if at all.
Since 2017, Sabot is located in Centrul de Interes, along with 4 other Cluj-based galleries (Baril, Bazis, Camera and Spatiu Intact), four artist-run-spaces, and about 30 wisely chosen artists and designers.
Can you describe the art scene of Cluj-Napoca?
More diverse than its reputation, less dynamic than its potential, hypocritical. Cluj is a microcosm like any other.
Where does the name of your gallery come from?
How would you characterize the artists you work with? What connects the artists you represent?
What connects the artists I represent? – I connect them. To be honest, I’m more preoccupied with what disconnects them. Each of them has been chosen to complement (even to contradict) the others and hence to broaden Sabot’s definition of contemporary art. I don’t believe in conformity and uniformity and I’m not looking to prove my own taste by making equal, predictable choices.
How do you decide to add a new artist?
I don’t follow a particular routine, but, usually, I take this decision after at least a successful ‘one-show stand’. I am looking for complexity in the artists I plan to work with.
What is one gallery exhibition or project that you are especially proud of?
We are rarely proud when we are alone… I always choose happiness over pride; I’m afraid that pride would simply interfere with my common sense. Exhibitions that I’m not happy about are simply not happening at Sabot.
How do you see the role of a gallery today?
I see more dealers and less gallerists around lately, so the role of the gallery must have dramatically diminished.
What about institutional support? How do you seek their attention?
Sabot is still fully nonprofit and I am still running the project all alone. All of Sabot’s income is going back to the artists one way or another. Yet we rarely receive institutional support, most probably because I’m not used to seeking attention.
How do you see your gallery in a decade?
We could be a 5 star hotel or a bungalow with sea view. We can do both and this makes me particularly interested in not doing either. Shapeshifting sounds tempting, though.
Finally, which artists are you showing at Paris Internationale?
Five great male artists (we’re dangerously unfashionable): Stefano Calligaro, Radu Comșa, Alex Mirutziu, Joe Fletcher Orr, Pepo Salazar.