Interview with Project ArtBeat Co-Founder Natia Bukia
What motivated you to open a gallery?
What motivated me and two of my partners to open a gallery was merely a passion for art and belief in Georgian contemporary artists. It is noteworthy that none of us have arts background. At the time I had recently moved back to my hometown Tbilisi from London and was pregnant on my second child. My two other partners-friends, Salome and Natia were still living in London. While I was visiting them we started talking about what type of opportunities our fast developing country offered to start an interesting venture. I was always very passionate about art and wherever I would travel I would visit museums and galleries to see art exhibitions. I had also started collecting works of Georgian artists. At that time there were no galleries in Tbilisi which operated a classical gallery model of organising exhibitions, representing artists and introducing them to the international art scene. Project ArtBeat was a pioneer. As giving georgian artists international exposure was our main aim at the beginning we started with an online gallery and art fair participation. We also created a pop-up space, a Moving gallery, which we move around the city and the country to introduce contemporary art to places where people have no access to contemporary art. In 2017 we opened a permanent space in a historical building in Tbilisi old town.
Do you believe you have a local ecosystem that supports you? How is the community engagement with your gallery?
As I mentioned earlier we were the pioneers on the Tbilisi art scene with a traditional gallery model. This created the challenge that we had to do the main task of educating the society and the community around us. At art events and exhibitions you would always see the same people. In Georgia society in general was not used to going to museums and galleries to see art. That’s why we created our Moving Gallery to bring art to people. It is always fascinating to see feedback of visitors of our exhibitions in peripheral cities and villages of Georgia. Luckily other galleries also followed and now there is a small gallery community in Tbilisi and we all share the load of educating the society and promoting contemporary art and artists. The scene is definitely evolving with Tbilisi Art Fair’s second edition having been held in May 2019. Also at the beginning bigger part of our sales would come from international art fair participation. It has been changing gradually with bigger support from our new local collectors.
What are some of the challenges your gallery is facing today?
I think the challenge that our gallery is facing is that for now we still represent Georgian artists. It might change but we want it to happen organically. Georgia is a very small country and not part of something bigger and more internationally recognizable at least in art. So it takes a lot of effort and to build credibility and acclaim for our gallery and for our artists as we have to do this simultaneously. Building trust is the main thing in this field especially when you are from a country about which not much is known. Although recent spotlight on Georgia as a travel destination has been helping. Hopefully it will also become a major arts destination and a regional art centre.
What are some of your public programs?
Our Moving Gallery, the shipping container we move around the city and the country is mainly a social project of which we are very proud of. We have staged 20 exhibitions in 8 different cities and villages around Georgia. Our current exhibition series, Changeable Landscape is shown in three different cities. I think this project is very important for the local art scene and local people in general.
What are your hopes for the future of your gallery?
My hopes for Project ArtBeat is that we can organize better quality exhibitions both at our permanent space and off-site locations and bring more international artists so that to contribute to the Georgian art scene and raise expectations towards it. To give our artists better opportunities to express themselves and keep them motivated. To always maintain the trust of our collectors. To stay true to our values.
This interview is a part of our Public Support section, dedicated to our Kickstarter supporters.