First there was Condo, then Okey Dokey and now there’s Friend of a Friend, a gallery-share initiative launched in Warsaw this month. For the inaugural edition of Friend of a Friend, eight Polish hosts opened up their spaces to 15 guest galleries and shared their local network of viewers, collectors, and institutional contacts.
All these “friends” are a part of the growing community of small and mid-sized galleries around the world who are determined to change the rules of the game: Call it the Condo-effect.
Warsaw’s gallery-share initiative comes on the heels Okey Dokey, which was launched in Cologne last fall. It includes many of the same galleries as the Cologne gallery share, like Germany’s Jan Kaps and New York’s Lomex, in a slightly tweaked format. Lomex, which won the inaugural Friends Art Fund prize. A work shown by the winning gallery during Friends of Friends will be acquired by Warsaw’s Museum of Modern Art.
The overlap with Okey Dokey, and the general enthusiasm from all its participants, suggests a sustained initiative by a network of smaller galleries throughout Europe and beyond who are tired of relying solely on the saturated, high-risk, and expensive fair season. On opening day, several tours came through each of the eight galleries with a mix of curators, collectors, and journalists. The low number was a deliberate move to be digestible. Notable fairs, like Art Cologne, show around 200 galleries—understandably, interactions between gallerists and potential buyers can be more fleeting.
“We think that there is a huge need for new ways of working for small galleries and getting out of the box of an art fair booth. It’s an interesting moment and surely we’re going to see what is the effect of it in the near future,” say directors Zuzanna Hadryś and Michał Lasota from Stereo. One of the initiative’s co-founding galleries, Stereo hosted Crèvecœur from Paris and Reserve Ames from Los Angeles.
Stereo had also been invited to Okey Dokey and Condo London last year and they were quick to credit both as inspiration for Friend of a Friend. Together with Wschód (which hosted Frankfurt’s Neue Alte Brucke and London’s Union Pacific), the two Warsaw-based galleries organized the event and paired galleries with their hosts, working with the government-sponsored Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw, and with some hefty support from the city of Warsaw as well.
Beyond its annual gallery weekend, Warsaw is not exactly on the main circuit for European collectors and institutional curators. But there is a tight network of galleries working to change that. For example, the city also saw the launch of Not Fair in September. For its first edition, a “group exhibition” featuring fourteen galleries with individual solo presentations ran alongside gallery weekend. They took a more centralized approach than Friend of a Friend, hosting Not Fair in one of the city’s most remarkable buildings, the Palace of Culture and Science, a Soviet-era architectural flex resembles the Empire State Building.
These two new Warsaw platforms are on friendly terms and have a “more is more attitude” when it comes to bringing international attention to their Eastern European art scene. Piktogram‘s Michal Wolinski, who founded Not Fair, explained that they are cooperating together to bring more visibility to the region.
“I think that collaboration between emerging galleries who share common goals and ideas could create an alternative ecosystem in the art world and art market,” says Michal Wolinski of Piktogram. They also participated in Friend of a Friend with guests Future Gallery (Berlin), Svit (Prague), and Lomex. He will also be showing Zuzanna Czebatul as the featured artist for Art Cologne’s annual entrance installation next week.
Lucas Hirsch from Düsseldorf was grateful to be plunged into this totally new scene thanks to the new gallery share. “With such a concentrated selection of galleries you feel that what you are showing is actually being seen by the majority of the visitors and with the hosts you also have someone there who is an insider to that art scene, trying to introduce your program to as many people as possible,” Hirsch tells artnet News.
“It would be great though if more collectors would start showing as much interest and trust in gallery shares as the curators and the press do,” he adds. He is also showing at Art Cologne this week.
In Warsaw, Hirsch showed German artist Lukas Müller at Dawid Radziszewski’s gallery. Radziszewski part in Condo London in January and will also be attending the inaugural Condo Mexico later this year.
All exhibitions will be on view until the end of the month. While these experimental models of collaboration are certainly noble and garnering excitement, it remains to be seen whether the gallery-share model will become directly profitable, beyond building a network and cultivating viewership and new friends.
Friend of a Friend runs from April 7 through April 28, various venues, Warsaw, Poland.
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