Sophie Tappeiner, Vienna

We became acquainted with Sophie Tappeiner’s gallery at the 2018 edition of Miart, where she was awarded the LCA Prize for the best booth in the Emergent section for her solo exhibition of Angelika Loderer. Marking her first participation in an art fair, it was a flawless presentation.

Sophie Tappeiner, Vienna

When did you start the gallery and why did you choose the format of the gallery?

The gallery opened in May 2017. After a couple of years abroad I returned to Vienna to set up and run a privately funded project space. During my tenure there I discovered that I immensely enjoyed forging close relationships with artists. It enabled the ability to gain a more profound and sustained understanding of the individual, their way of thinking, their practice and concerns, which in turn is helpful throughout every step of collaborating and makes for better relationships.

This personal aspect, paired with my observation that Vienna’s increasingly vibrant art scene lacked young, international galleries, led me to decide to open a gallery. I felt that with a need for young galleries I could offer something of value to the fabric of the local scene that hopefully will spread beyond the current boundaries.

What did you do before?

After gaining an MA in History of Art and Business I then worked for one of the well-known auction houses in London. At the same time, an artist friend of mine and I developed a side project, which made me realise that I was more passionate about closely collaborating with artists, taking risks together and building a community.  I subsequently left the auction house to work for a gallery and eventually moved back to my home city of Vienna. It was here that I set up the aforementioned project space.

What kind of space and location have you chosen for your gallery?

The gallery is located on the ground floor of a historical building in the city centre. The space is in close proximity to other galleries, such as Emanuel Layr, Croy Nielsen, and Rosemarie Schwarzwälder. Accessibility seemed crucial to me as I envision the space to be a place of encounter, exchange, and discourse – for all participants in the art world: artists, collectors, art students, curators, etc. alike.

It is a generous and light space with high ceilings. It also has an interesting history: Prior being rented by the Angewandte (Vienna’s university of applied arts), it used to be the gallery space of Grita Insam, a notable gallerist who was active from the 1970s until her death in 2012.

What is according to you the role of the gallery today?

There are different conceptions of what a gallery’s role is or should be. Largely, I subscribe to an understanding that gallery work can be compared to that of an agency. Its role is to offer exposure, context, and support on an international level; but it goes beyond that, it is also a closely knit, caring community – like a family.

What are the difficulties that you have to face?

As an emerging gallery the main difficulties are essentially attributed to a lack of resources: the day doesn’t have enough hours and pockets are never deep enough.

Angelika Loderer at Sophie Tappeiner's booth at Miartnin 2018

What defines you program?

The gallery works with both Austria-based and international artists. Furthermore, I felt there was a  responsibility to offer international exposure to my generation of Austrian artists.

In a way, I feel my program can be read as a love letter to the physical world; materiality and a sense of figurative presence have informed the aesthetic of the shows so far.

What connects each position loosely is an engagement with everyday life; through their work each artist encourages the viewer to become more aware as well as question how their own position relates to and impacts the world we live in – be it  from a cultural, social, historical or political perspective.

What are your models? Who inspires you?

Many of the people that I encounter through my work are inspiring to me, that could be another gallerist, curator, writer or artists that I work with. The dynamic and the possibility of what might result from working together is an inspiring driving force.

Do you collaborate with other galleries, and if yes, how?

I consider collaboration and mutual support crucial in general – this includes galleries of course. In my experience joining forces makes the ride more rewarding. So yes, I have collaborated with galleries before and am looking forward to future collaborations.

Collaborations can range from sharing resources to hosting joint openings and sharing spaces. They can also take the shape of large-scale collaborative initiatives such as Condo Complex, Okey Dokey or Paris Internationale which are concepts I am very interested in.

How do you see the future of galleries?

Different types of galleries face different realities. Regarding my personal notion of a gallery, I think that while the external parameters may shift and thus force change – such as the fair system, internet, the rise of costs – it is my belief that the core of gallery work will remain the same: offering exposure, context, and support within the framework of building a community. Experience, personal encounter, trust and the physical space are central to what I want a gallery to be.

How do you see your gallery in ten years?

More established and therefore more capable of harnessing resources that facilitate a positive and responsible contribution  to cultural, societal, political shifts and progress.