Mihai Pop – Galeria Plan B
Graduate of the University of Art and Design in Cluj, Mihai Pop (1974) is an artist and the coordinator of Galeria Plan B, a production and exhibition space for contemporary art located in Cluj, Romania. Initiated by Pop and artist Adrian Ghenie in 2005, Plan B opened in September 2008 a second exhibition space in Berlin while in 2007 Mihai Pop was the commissioner for the Romanian Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale. In 2009 Mihai Pop / Plan B was one of the initiators of the project Fabrica de Pensule / The Paintbrush Factory in Cluj, a collective independent cultural center, converted from the old paintbrush factory and hosting now several art galleries and artist studios. In 2015 Mihai Pop curated the exhibition “Darwin’s Room” by Adrian Ghenie in Romanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Pop lives and works in Cluj and Berlin.
In 2007 you were the commissar of “Low Budget Monuments” art show and in 2015 the curator of Adrian Ghenie`s exhibition “Darwin’s Room” – both included in Romania`s Pavilion at the Venice Biennale -. How did the Romanian contemporary art context develop since then?
The evolution was predictable: we have art shows that are more clearly defined; a few voices stand out, some doing autonomous art, far away from the here-and-now that has been discussed so much in recent years. Socio-political art became semi-institutionalized in order to function more efficiently and the historical positions were reconsidered because this is the current trend. Generally speaking, people are working within a framework that is wider and wider, and more global; even the local mediocre artists are more vocal within this development. If I were to quote Adrian Ghenie, “this is the good news. The bad news is that we are essentially alone.” As for any other development, personal effort is the engine and not so much the context (and this statement comes from me – a person who has built and fed contexts, I am oiling the mechanism, I am easing the processes…). Coming back to your question, Venice is a mirror of the scene, because, implicitly, it discovers its selection and financing mechanisms – all under the immense pressure of predictability (it is difficult to remain calm knowing the public is so numerous and diverse …). In the last 10 years, Romania has sent to Venice various and well formed positions, regardless of whether we liked the particular artist or not. When things were not that coherent, Venice showed it immediately because Venice is revelatory…As far as I am concerned, the difference between 2007 and 2015 lies in understanding the context: Venice is rather fashioned for relevant individual positions, with a history behind, and not so much for group projects. And the similarity between the two moments in time, also as far as I am concerned, is the same student-like unconsciousness that made me jump last minute into each of the projects. Every time I said to myself, while I was already in the game and it was too late, that “if I knew what was coming, I wouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place”.
The success of Plan B Gallery, which you established in 2005 together with Adrian Ghenie, has placed Cluj on the map of international contemporary art. Why did you consider that the city of Cluj able to provide a platform for developing a private gallery?
The truth is that 10 years ago when we opened the gallery, we didn’t think strategically for a minute, we didn’t really choose anything (of course, besides the exhibitions we have organized). Even the term “established” is far from the reality of those times. At the beginning, the project didn’t have anything of greatness. Each step was generated by the previous step, it was rather something like “and now what?!” We were born in Cluj, we had studied here and so were all the artists we knew and with whom we had consistent dialogues (it is impossible to start an art show without knowing the artists!). The world was smaller and friendship played an important role. In short, there weren`t many alternatives back in 2005 and we were functioning anyway according to the idea of “doing”, with or without visibility. In fact, the great benefit for Cluj is that we have enhanced its inherent value. Back in the days, in Cluj if we were to do things based on some initial market study, we would have ended up doing nothing. Now, everyone wants to be a part of this so called success story. And like any other scene that grew up too fast and too disorderly, the late comers are the most vocal and strategic ones. Maybe it is the time for a reassessment – this time we have recently transformed the display space of the gallery located in the Paintbrush Factory into a place for workshops and projects carried out together with the local suburbia…and we re-named it accordingly (Domino, named after an exhibition of Ciprian Mureșan).
Continue reading in The Art of Living no. 16, an issue dedicated to contemporary art. DOWNLOAD