For busy readers: interview take-aways
Piera Ravnikar runs RAVNIKAR, a contemporary art gallery in Ljubljana who supports and presents both internationally renowned artists and emerging talent from Slovenia.
The galleries vision and role is to foster dialogue between the local art ecosystem and an international audience, including young collectors who can not only expand their collection, but support a striving artistic community.
RAVNIKAR is active both locally through exhibitions and projects like Ljubljana Art Weekend (24-26 May, 2024 - save the date!), and promoting their artists internationally through art fairs and exhibition exchanges in many other cities.
Meet Piera Ravnikar, founder of RAVNIKAR GALLERY SPACE, one of the first galleries to join toaa. We sat down with Piera to learn more about her journey, her gallery’s vision and why Ljubljana is worth your visit!
Piera, tell us about yourself! How did you «end up» in the art world?
I have always lived and believed in art unconditionally because I am aware of its soft power. My youth was shaped by the performing arts, classical ballet, which opened up new horizons of possibilities for me. After graduating from high school in the US, I decided to return to my hometown of Ljubljana, study and devote myself to visual culture, which is basically my first love. I continued my postgraduate studies in sociology in London, got a master's degree in modern history until a fantastic opportunity came my way in Ljubljana with the first Centre for Urban Culture Kino Šiška team. I then swapped London for Ljubljana again and helped shape important national and international programmes and projects as the artistic director of the visual programme for almost 10 years.
At what point did you start thinking about running your own art programs in Ljubljana?
My independent path began in 2018. Luckily the favorable economic climate in my early days gave me the advantage of starting from scratch, so that today, in a time of new challenges, we can continue to develop as a cultural platform with greater ease and with much flexibility and patience. Art is an important segment of the social landscape and as such, it is irreplaceable and inextricably linked to various sociological and political issues. I see art as an important stimulus in society for the dissemination of quality critical thinking. Therefore, the main objective of my efforts in creating programmes is always to actively support, distribute and consolidate the basic norms and values of civilisation that are almost taken for granted in our time.
What is the Slovenian art scene like, maybe compared to central Europe?
For many years, the currents of Slovenian contemporary art were often inaccessible to the international public. Despite this "isolation", the Slovenian capital Ljubljana has developed into a kind of creative hub with the development of various cultural centers and art institutions, the quality of which we want to present to a local and international audience and thus position, thematise and establish internationally. One of the main goals is therefore to promote and network, to build partnerships that ensure reliable and sustainable cooperation both between local agents and in the wider European context.
Are there many art collectors in Slovenia? Or is it international collectors that mainly invest in Slovenian artists?
Despite the lack of any strong tradition, the art market in Slovenia is slowly waking, which of course is not a solution for the much-needed systemic development of the field. The younger generation is certainly opening up to new possibilities and pointing towards different results. They are the much-needed initiators in our field. My art community is mainly supported by the international audience, with placements in public and private collections, but we have also gained the trust of local young collectors who have the important desire to become owners of artworks and supporters of the local art system.
How does your gallery, RAVNIKAR GALLERY SPACE, operate?
Since its inception, the gallery's fundamental vision has been to present intergenerational local art production on the one hand, and to build lasting international partnerships to exchange knowledge and experience with foreign audiences, on the other. We try to achieve this primarily through our continuous presence at leading international art fairs and various exhibition exchanges.
And now you are part of toaa, as one our very first galleries! What does the toaa community need to know about RAVNIKAR?
RAVNIKAR is a contemporary art gallery that represents a diverse group of internationally renowned artists while striving to promote the emerging generation of young artists. RAVNIKAR aims to showcase a wide range of imaginative art practices by creating a platform for local and international artists, collectives, curators and others working in the creative industries. Recognising the increasingly important role that contemporary visual art plays in socio-political and cultural discourse, we seek dialogue between artists, the professional community, collectors and the general public through a range of multidisciplinary projects and initiatives.
What is your approach when working with artists?
The strategic role of the gallery is primarily to provide a comprehensive support system for artists. We provide local artists with sustainable and long-term support so that they can freely create and disseminate their artistic production. In this way, we take on a responsibility that existing institutions often cannot. Thanks to our size and efficiency, we can adapt more quickly to the ever-changing social, economic and cultural climate.
What role do you think galleries like yours can do to inspire more people to collect contemporary art?
As a gallery, we strive to make art accessible to those who are financially constrained. At the same time, one must be aware that as a collector, you are not only acquiring artworks for your private or public collection, but also actively supporting an artistic community that is active in the here and now. It is essential for new and young collectors to educate themselves, to sharpen their taste, to visit galleries, museums and fairs at home and abroad, to simply keep gaining insight and knowledge informally about the fields of contemporary art. If you do this holistically, in a few years' time it is no longer difficult to distinguish between bad, good and best.
How difficult is it to provide diversity among the artists you represent? What would you advise a collector if they want their art portfolio to be not just by white, Western artists?
In the first stage, I was definitely guided by my artistic community, which I have grown with and helped to shape over the last twenty years. My selection includes local and international artists who have had outstanding solo and group shows, who are ubiquitous in the international arena of contemporary art production with its dynamic activities, whose common denominator is the love for and active commitment to their work and perhaps the hope that together we can change things for the better. Apart from that, I am constantly learning and keeping informed. And that is exactly what I wish for young collectors as well.
I am sure that there will be ever-younger collectors on the scene as the art market expands to other regions, especially the global south, which has been a grey area in the past.
Back to Ljubljana – you initiated/founded Ljubljana Art Weekend a few years ago. Why must we all visit you in May?
We want Ljubljana to become a place of current contemporary art production. We want to make contemporary art more accessible and bring it closer to a broad audience that otherwise does not go to galleries and other art spaces, and we are looking for ways in which such a "festival" project can convince this audience and offer them a variety of opportunities to get to know the art scene of Ljubljana in its "natural environment".
Like its numerous European models, the Ljubljana Art Weekend initiative aims to bring together organizations and institutions, galleries, museums and project spaces dedicated to the presentation and promotion of contemporary art, thus contributing to the consolidation of the local art scene and the promotion of its plurality and vitality.