A base camp for Europe
AGATA RODRÍGUEZ, founder of Rodríguez Gallery celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, interviewed by MAREK S. BOCHNIARZ
What has given you the idea of setting up Rodríguez Gallery?
My husband and I first met when studying art history in Rome. Working as interns in galleries and institutions, we thought of establishing our own gallery. Running a gallery for a living seemed like an ideal job. As we matured to the task, it gradually became our dream.
After four years of work in Rome and London, where we gathered experience, learned the ropes and got to see what galleries are all about and how they are run, we felt we were ready. The year was 2015. We set out on opening a gallery in Poznań.
Why Poznań of all places?
For a number of reasons. We saw no point in opening yet another gallery in London or Rome adding to I don't know how many hundreds of others. Carlos is Spanish and so Madrid also came up as an option. However, the problem with Spain at the time was that it was going through a major crisis with many more galleries closing than opening.
Another reason was personal and I would say family-related. I originally come from Poznań and have a close connection to this city. Having been away for quite a while, I felt compelled to return.
The third reason - and probably the biggest of them all - was our realisation of what a huge deficit there was of galleries like ours in Poznań. This was a few years after what was then described as an exodus of Poznań galleries to Warsaw. The galleries that moved out seemed to have left quite a void.
How did the community react?
Our venture was risky. Many people's first reaction was: "What on earth are you doing?". I think we found a way to fill that void I mentioned. We have since felt that people in Poznań need us and have hoped to be meeting their expectations.
How is the local art market treating you? Doesn't Poznań make it a bit too hard to run a gallery?
The Poznań and generally the Polish art market is very small. I think I should now explain what sets us apart as only a few galleries operate the way we do. We are a foundation which is why our main focus is on promoting rather than selling contemporary art. We are funded by the City Hall and the Marshal's Office. Our mission is not only to showcase art but also to educate the public, which I find to be essential. We hold many workshops and meetings with students of fine arts and art history.
Meanwhile, most of our art market business is international. Poznań is our base for Europe, and especially for Spain and Italy. We have used this model from the very outset. We chose to maintain close ties to Poznań and cater to the local public realising all along that running a gallery in this city would require a lot of international travel and foreign relations.
What made you choose Spain and Italy as your main target countries? Was it Carlos' origin and the fact that the two countries have a lot in common? Are you also benefiting from contacts from college days?
It's a little bit of all of the above. Carlos being Spanish has helped us make our name, and the two countries seemed to be the most natural choice. I personally have always been fond of Italy. We met lots of people there during our studies and later, when working in galleries there. This said, we remain open to other countries and destinations.
What has made you join Warsaw Gallery Weekend? Was it its social angle?
Warsaw Gallery Weekend is Poland's substitute of sorts for an art fair. The festival is not just there for the general public, because - importantly to us - it draws numerous art professionals who are active on the Polish art scene. Simply put, "everyone who's anyone" is there.
I must admit that our location in Poznań has put us on the peripheries of the highly centralised world of contemporary art. This is why it has always been crucial for us to take our programme and our artists to Warsaw yearly. We have attended WGW since 2016. We find new audiences there. We get to meet in person institution heads and critics from Warsaw and beyond whom we otherwise only talk to online.
Which of the exhibitions you have held during these five years are particularly significant to you?
Two come to mind. Our first exhibition, Friction and Gravity by Jakub Jasiukiewicz, was a total shot in the dark. We had no idea whether anyone would show up and what reception we'd get. Having been away for so many years, we hardly knew the Poznań scene. But it turned out to be fabulous, with crowds turning up at the opening! It was then that we offered our first guided tours of exhibitions and talks with artists.
The other notable event was our most recent exhibition at Warsaw Gallery Weekend. On our fifth anniversary, we set out on showcasing the works of all of the artists that collaborate with us, whom we represent to some extent. We managed to show that as diverse as they are, the artists share a certain sensitivity to art and the present day that we are so keen on finding.
Don't you also work with the Poznań University of Fine Arts?
Indeed, we do and we are happy to work with it, invite students over and hold graduation displays. Our collaboration began with our very first exhibition (of Jakub Jasiukiewicz). I hope that despite the recent controversial decisions, he continues to work at the University. In fact, we would like to take this opportunity to appeal to its Rector to change his decision and not dismiss so many outstanding artists and educators, especially during the tough times of the pandemic.
Interview conducted by Marek S. Bochniarz
translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski
* Agata Rodríguez co-founded the Rodríguez Gallery Foundation together with her husband Carlos in 2015. The couple work primarily with young and middle-aged artists. Their main goal is to showcase and promote diverse and what they believe to be the most interesting trends in Polish art. They are also active internationally. They have held 33 programme exhibitions to date.
© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2020