Artistic director of Škuc Gallery from 2009 – 2013
Tevž Logar is a curator, lecturer and author working in the field of contemporary art. Between 2003 and 2006, he was the assistant to the art director of Škuc Gallery, while from the end of 2009 to the end of 2013, he acted as art director. Today, Logar works as a freelance curator and teaches art history the Academy of Visual Arts AVA in Ljubljana.
When I ran Škuc, I was interested in the gallery’s role of working with the young generation of artists, which I don’t believe I managed to develop correctly. The intense working conditions greatly hindered that ambition, but it is also the case of lacking the experience to take things to an effective level. I have also always flirted with the educational aspects; we started something in this respect, but did not fully implement it, which would be very significant for Škuc, I think. There was a certain lack of an accompanying programme during my period. Another major factor is the working method, i.e. how I did projects. I am slow and do things very much in advance. One thing that has remained positively received is dialogue-based work with artists, which translated into successful solo exhibitions (Željko Jerman, Ulay, Tanja Ostojić), while curatorial exhibitions are always a display of affinities, trying to catch the sensitivity of a particular time and space. Here, things combine; this is an experience from which you learn.
Putting on fewer exhibitions would have been the first thing to improve the work. I didn’t leave because I was unhappy, but because I could no longer stand the pace. You put your name on these things, and if you can’t do them well enough, you must leave…This is the greatest problem of Škuc and the whole Slovenian scene; hyper-production of exhibitions and events should in great part be replaced with a discursive, educational and publishing programme which would rechannel funding to this end. This doesn’t mean less work, but more work with greater effect. What is also needed is target-focused collaborations, where there might be less overlapping in terms of quantity, but they have a greater effect (on the young). You need more time, and due to a lack of time, the result is limited, both in terms of production and professionalism. The hyper production of exhibitions is the nut of the problem. If their number was lower, things could be of much higher quality, particularly in terms of our own reflection, for which there is not enough time and energy, which means that you cannot assess your work.
With regard to Škuc’s commercial activity, I was running the gallery at the moment when a decision had to be taken. I decided to suspend it, because I thought it was doing more harm than good, not only in terms of finances, but also in terms of working with artists. It is not enough to show the artists’ work at a fair; you should also invest in production, organise exhibitions for them, and follow them professionally. There are many things here which we didn’t do at all; the logistics surrounding a fair shouldn’t be the whole story. Commercial activity requires progress, because collectors don’t take you seriously if you don’t take things forward, rent larger exhibition venues, become more ambitious… I think the Slovenian sphere has great potential for that, and it should first be focused on working with artists. If we could develop these collaborations well enough, we could enter the market. Here, we would need at least another person per gallery to deal only with that. The art director should be the last instance, but the process requires much more work. It is only when you return from the fair that the serious work really begins, which is not really possible with the dynamics in Škuc. Relationships must be forged; you need to be fair and consistent. Sooner or later, we must face the issue of the market, but we also must be aware of what the market requires. Firstly, we should establish long-term relationships with the artists, which you follow; you invest in their output; organise and arrange exhibitions for them, print publications, and support them professionally…That is what the artist needs. Only when you control that do you start distribution on the market. You need a strategy. You can’t distribute an artist who has no exhibitions. This requires a lot of work. Here, there are more or less long-term collaborations, but it is a question of how Slovenian galleries work with artists. This is not only a question of sales, but the gallery providing services for the artist. This is what a gallery should do. Therefore, I believe that in the existing systemic structure, the market should not be covered by galleries such as Škuc. I know from experience that this leads to a schizophrenic relationship, when there is the stampede of fairs on the one hand, and there is exhibition programme that is being executed all year long, which is a completely different field of work.
As far as constant nostalgia for the ‘heroic 1980s’ is concerned, I have always been interested in the current potential of Škuc as a social space, albeit within the narrower field of visual arts. I don’t think that the dimensions can be as far-reaching as in the 1980s, but with the accompanying programme, it could become a space that would shape cultural discourse, which I believe is the scope of Škuc with regard to the issue of social engagement. Reviving the Artwork project was a step in the right direction, because it is important that things take place cyclically, as dynamics and recognisable discourse are important for the social sphere. This is the potential of Škuc as a social space today. Any further comparison with the 1980s is senseless, as it was a completely different place, used differently in different social and political circumstances.
Today, Škuc Association is an “umbrella” organisation with different sections that have very little contact with each other, while the gallery is the only physical space accessible to the public, and is also used by other sections. The sections’ policies are very different, which requires certain changes. Tradition with no function makes little sense. In this respect, the financial synergies of applications are important, as they definitely make it easier to acquire references. If the art director had clear authority over what can be done in the gallery, its profile could be much more clearly defined. I think that the only thing which is needed in the context of Škuc is a more clearly defined profile. Not commercially, but that it should operate on the basis of a more definite concept.
In this respect, it is important NOT to focus only on mounting exhibitions. The system has moved in a direction where it tries to see things from different perspectives, which offers plenty of maneuvering space. An example of this is publishing, which “existed and then it didn’t” during my term due to the constant lack of earmarked funds. So I believe if funds were earmarked in the initial structure, this would yield results, which wouldn’t be beneficial only for Škuc, but also more widely for the whole local art scene, in terms of translating theory, key texts… So in addition to educational activities, a publishing programme should be on the agenda, given it is lacking in this sphere. There are also other ways for Škuc to achieve a high profile. Collaborations with producers in the long-term are also a possible answer, in the sense that long-term collaborations would be more structured, not only a necessary requirement for a funding application, but because they make sense, and not only for the sake of formalities. This is where I see a failure of cultural policy, as policy makers aren’t able to recognise the different purposes of venues and expect the same from everyone.
*Based on the interview with Tevž Logar, respectively, put down on paper by Vladimir Vidmar.