Artistic director of Škuc Gallery from 2003 – 2009.
Alenka Gregorič studied art history at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana. Between 1999 and 2009, she worked at Škuc Gallery: first as a gallery guard, then as assistant to the art director, and ended up being the art director herself between 2003 and 2009. Since 2010, Alenka Gregorič has been the Art Director and Curator at the City Art Gallery in Ljubljana.
I started as a gallery guard, while Gregor Podnar is to “blame” for everything else because he insisted that I enter the school for curators in 2000. As a guard, I sat in the gallery, which is something that I still think that every art director should start with. I know it sounds odd, but through that direct contact with people, you see what people need, what they miss, and you also realise how hermetic and inaccessible our texts are.
I was amazingly lucky that Podnar opened Škuc internationally. So this international engagement was already there, which was crucial for the gallery’s progress. It was already there on the platter for me. However, there was a lack of presentations of work by young Slovenian artists, which local art circles criticised. I reviewed Gregor’s programme and decided to have annual presentations of young artists, who always carry the risk that they won’t amount to much in the long term, but they are still interesting at a given moment. You assume the role of an institution and establish a system while helping young artists. The next thing that I found problematic was that the place was too limited to the static reality of exhibitions. There weren’t many guided tours back then, and while there were some events, there wasn’t any real flow. So I started a series of small initiatives, including The Artists Are Cooking, Artwork with the Domestic Research Society. Some things remained, some didn’t. But they were all done in collaboration. One of the advantages of collaboration is that as soon as you let others in, conflicts arise. And these conflicts are the best part of collaborations, as they give birth to something new. Collaborations give new energy to a place. This is how the project Hosting Moderna galerija! was born, which had the goal of overcoming petty self-interest.
I participated in Škuc’s commercial activity from the very beginning. Already in 2000, Gregor Podnar and I attended the first fair, the one in Innsbruck. From then on, Škuc regularly attended art fairs, but then Gregor took the whole group of artists with him when he left and established his own gallery in Berlin. As Škuc Gallery, we were interesting because we had this atypical commercial activity; there weren’t many such hybrids; we were often the only one at the fair. This caused some confusion at first, but then it became interesting. I found it a shame to abandon all that in 2004 when I took over, since so much effort had been put into it for three years. So I invited Nataša Petrešin to create a new group of artists together. Nataša then even came with me to Arco in Madrid in 2004 and to Vienna. This group of six artists stayed with us. I for one had wanted to develop Škuc’s ‘commercial’ activity, I wanted to focus on the former Yugoslavia. I realized that this was starting to look interesting; Yugoslav artists were still “juicy” six or seven years ago. In today’s context though, it wouldn’t make any sense to set up commercial activity again. The time for sort of half doing it is over. Škuc is over that period, which led to a beautiful thing, a lot of beautiful friendships, exhibitions, stories and adventures.
To me personally, what was and has remained the crucial problem of Škuc is the endless output of exhibitions, which still makes it a sort of research student activity. With this rate, the place is losing credibility. Although the official view is that the continuous production of exhibitions is good because it brings a breath of fresh air into the space, making it more dynamic, this simply is not true. The space can’t become fully profiled, and you have the feeling of being in a market. The problem with Škuc is that it is hovering in one spot with too many events that then fail to make an impact. Therefore, it still has the aura of a student gallery, although it was never really that. So even a carefully researched, planned and produced exhibition is only one more in a string of many, and there is no time to reflect on them. It is as if no-one is interested in that. So the exhibitions fade away, all merging into one. The rhythm has to settle down. The place has a very high profile and all art directors have had a very distinct profile, but the problem is that each exhibition must have its place, running time, a critical text that is not only the text on the invitation. Publishing activity, which is dead now, must be set going. This must be revived, particularly considering the state of journalism. A maximum of seven exhibitions, with more money invested, more time for reflection.
Škuc should be frozen in time or radically changed. But in reality, a radical approach does not require many drastic changes: reduce the number of exhibitions; invest that money in larger productions and publishing and this will become a serious institution. It is serious now, but student-like. As if someone were afraid of change! Because changes require greater investment and risk.
*Based on interview with Alenka Gregorič, respectively, put down on paper by Vladimir Vidmar.