INTERVIEW WITH MARTA KOŁAKOWSKA, FOUNDER OF THE GALLERY LETO IN WARSAW / CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERIES

www.contemporaryartgalleries.net

“In a very candid interview, Marta Kołakowska – who has been described by Los Angeles curator Martha Kirzenbaum in The New York Times as “one of the most generous and unmissable forces in the Polish art world” – told us about what it’s like to run a gallery in Poland in these troubled times. But she hasn’t lost hope.

CAG: What is your background and when did you decide to found a gallery?

MK: I finished my studies in History of Art and then Cultural Management in Krakow at Jagiellonian University before moving to Warsaw. I started working in the education department at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art, but I realized I was too old to work in an institution!
Students in Warsaw start their practice much earlier. So I began working with auction houses, for the next five years I traveled all over the world bringing lost Polish masterpieces back to the country to sell to Polish collectors. In the end, though it was not my passion, I was more interested in contemporary art. In 2007 I found a place in Warsaw and I rented it from the city, an interesting place among the buildings that had been destroyed during the Second World War so all the other floors were totally empty. It was 100m2, which is quite a big space for a young gallery.

CAG:How would you describe your program, and how is it different from other Warsaw galleries?

MK: You might say that my gallery is a private institution, financed through independent means, whose goal is to build up the image of our artists both locally and internationally. We also produce an international program, inviting artists from abroad to debut their works in Poland. Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with artists and institutions from across Europe, including Holland’s Marius Lut, Gorrila, and Showroom Mama, France’s Florian and Michael Quistrebert, Miks Mitrevics of Lithuania, Czech Republic’s Black Hole Generation, and Slovenia’s Svätopluk Mikyta.

Most of all, LETO serves as a home base for artists affiliated with the gallery – artists with Polish roots who are living abroad, such as Angelika Markul (France), Konrad Smoleński (Switzerland), Marcin Dudek (Belgium), Maurycy Gomulicki (Mexico), Radek Szlaga (a globetrotter mainly stationed in Detroit, who’s headed for Kenya at the moment). We partner up with publishers, production houses, we contribute to the production of independent projects, providing exhibition spaces for artistic actions that I feel deserve our support. Over the past few years, LETO has been carrying on a “romance” with fashion, which has brought the FASHHHART by LETO series to life, meshing art and fashion in performative actions that are far from your typical fashion show. We’ve also collaborated with talented Polish designers and collectives like Joanna Hawrot, SURPLUS and NEIGE.”

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