EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW by Lorraine Vaney
Sitting on the top of Mtastminda with a spectacular view over the city, the new contemporary art gallery “ARTTENT” opened in the midst of the summer on July 25. It took just one month for a handful of energetic Tbilisians to turn a spontaneous idea into an innovative cultural hub. The multifunctional space has many upcoming projects, and strong vision for the development of the local art scene and cultural ties between Georgia and the rest of the world. Maya Bichikashvili, who initiated the project, aims to make ARTTENT the next key actor of the Georgian art scene.
How was the project born?
I have done many things in my professional life, but eventually, everything boiled down to art. So, even if the idea of an art gallery came somehow spontaneously, it was clear to me that art is at the basis of everything. Art is something that brings you back to the roots and to the original meaning of any kind of creation, regardless of the fields and purposes. This tent was here, on the historic site of the Tbilisi Funicular’s upper station, for four years. It was used for many events but when I contacted the owner, Alexander Tsivtsivadze, he saw the potential of the project and became our partner. Then, everything sped up thanks to the motivated and committed people I had the chance to gather around the idea.
ARTTENT is now hosting more than 200 artworks created by Georgian artists from different generations. What is the art direction of the exhibition?
‘The Anatomy of Existence’ was curated by professional art manager Thea Goguadze and a talented artist known as Tea Nili. She was the only one in town who was up for such a challenge; opening a contemporary platform in just one month. She used her contacts and her notoriety to select the pieces that, once combined, best express the variety of Georgian perspectives on their city and country. The exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of Georgian art and of the diverse mediums used by artists to express their visions. After our successful start, she became the ARTTENT director.
Besides the exhibition itself, what does ARTTENT aim to bring to the Georgian art scene?
The exhibition is a great platform for Georgian artists to show their work to a wide audience. Mtatsminda is obviously a strategic touristic location, and ARTTENT is building up the artistic reputation of Georgia among foreigners. It actually goes beyond tourism, as art is a way to strengthen cultural exchanges with foreign countries. It has to do with public diplomacy, and it can surely benefit Georgian society as a whole. For the art scene itself, we are supporting emerging artists by promoting their work to curators and doing consultancy for companies looking to purchase art. We will also organize educational activities and workshops, bringing artists and art lovers closer together.
You are also opening a café, a co-working space and a concept store. What kind of community would you like to attract or create?
Art takes many forms and so does ARTTENT. The aim is to create something new, and meaningful for Georgia, where people from various backgrounds can mingle and exchange. People here are sometimes reluctant to get out of their own circles, which is at the end damaging to the development of our potential as a society. ARTTENT provides this inclusive venue for anyone involved in or attracted to art, from Georgia or from abroad.
How do see the future of ARTTENT?
We want to team up with international partners and go global. Of course, there will be challenges on the way but with the right vision and the right team, it is possible to overcome them. Challenges are actually opportunities to learn on the way. The artistic scene is developing in Georgia and I wish it to get more and more attention from specialized media and professional art managers from overseas. Art is a way to secure the reputation of Georgia as a creative and welcoming place. It opens a lot of opportunities, and ARTTENT is ready to take up the challenge.