Home Magazine Simplicity and passion: an interview with Viktorija Zaitseva on dreams, art and the collaboration with Vlag Ogay

Viktorija Zaitseva, the co-founder of Cut Art Gallery, represents Latvian and international contemporary artists all over the world. Thanks to her mindset and intuition, she has become a successful art dealer and art manager, who has worked with significant figures of the world of art. Read the interview to discover more.

Kooness: When did you start to feel your involvement in art - as a child, when you began to draw your first pictures, or perhaps as an adult, when you began to understand contemporary trends in painting? 

Viktorija Zaitseva: I've never been interested in art; I was drawn to it at a conscious age. When I was 21, I went to a contemporary art museum in Milan: the Museo Del Novecento. Of course, I had a stalker -- an architect friend who married me to art forever. 

K: What was your first experience as a curator and promoter?  Do you think that special education is necessary for this, or is intuition and insight, self-development in this field enough? 

VZ: I had my first experience as a volunteer in international projects and galleries when I was 23, working in Paris, closing deals for an art dealer -- we were selling Degas and Modigliani. It was an eye-opening experience -- lots of zeros, respected celebrity clients, and extreme secrecy. Those years taught me to get right to the point. Fate confronted me with very talented people in the field of art, I reached out to them, and they, in turn, were happy to teach and guide me, generously sharing contacts and experience, and this is the best school for a young art dealer. Since then, I have been warm friends with Uma Thurman's husband, Ai Weiwei's dealer, but most of these acquaintances are usually "secret" because many collectors don't want to be public, so I won't mention their names. I am currently involved in a project with perhaps the world's most famous auctioneer and art dealer, Simon de Pury. Simon de Pury conducts auctions such as AmfAR, the auction of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and consults with private clients. Working with such a guru of the art market is the best school and I am grateful for this opportunity. It is very expensive to get an education in an influential university, if you have such an opportunity, such an option opens some doors to the closed art world. For me at that time it was an unimaginable luxury -- I grew up in Liepaja in a simple family with a lot of love and mutual support, my dad always worked hard at 14 I worked part-time, and at 16 I was already actively modeling, flying all the time, and at 18 I got my first contract in Milan. Now, as soon as the opportunity arises, I study at Sotheby's. Given that I'm a mom of two little ones, the logistics are a bit of a challenge. But I have a lot of energy.

K: What else could you have become if you hadn't been realized in this line of work? 

VZ: An unhappy person. Perhaps a coach? For my artists, I guess that's what I am. I want to influence the course of their decisions professionally, and psychologically I want to support them. Often it is important for an artist to talk to someone who sees, feels, and believes in their work, it motivates them. 

Vlad Ogay. M, 2022. Courtesy of Cut Art Gallery

K: Why did Vlad become the object of your attention? And what is easier: being Vlad's promoter, friend, or partner in business?  

VZ: Vlad is a talented person, interacting with geniuses expands me in every sense of the word. Working with him is easy, like working with David Lynch. The more brilliant a person is, the simpler he is. We are all united by our service to the arts. Vlad is a very experienced and recognized professional. Being an artist is not a conscious choice, it is a state of mind. Vlad is exactly like that. I know it on an intuitive level, on a professional level, on a human level. 

K: How did fate bring you to Riga and why did you decide to open a venue in this city? 

VZ: Love brought me back to Latvia. I flew to Riga for a few days and met the man I had been waiting for all my life. However, I continue to work on international projects already in Latvia. Traveling all over the world - business meetings, fairs, exhibitions - you need to keep up to date, to see what's going on in the art world. But I also want to share what I have seen here, at home, in Riga. In addition to the gallery, there is an idea to open a museum named after a famous person born in Riga.

K: What is your task as a creative person and creative producer? What meanings and goals do you put into your activity? 

VZ: For today, commercial, of course, I would like to teach people to collect. Buying art is better than buying a handbag. When people who haven't connected themselves with the world of contemporary art come to an exhibition and then say that they've had something to talk about with their husband for two weeks, that's already a dynamic. I'd also like to bring a fresh perspective on the outdated formula of the art market. Modern art fulfills a lot of functions: it heals, inspires, and replaces psychotherapy. A person entering a gallery should think and feel. I plan to cope with this task. 

K: How responsive and open to creative experiments do you find the Latvian public, the local audience? 

VZ: In Latvia, where there is an art environment, there is a lot of snobbery and a certain elitism. There is an aggressive edge, "ordinary people" can't understand "our contemporary". So, if you don't get it, you, as a gallerist, have failed. Art is for everyone, and if your friend, client, or enthusiast is not ready, you need to "pump him up". Art is produced by the same person, it should unite, and take the viewer to another level. We have, in my opinion, Titans in the market. For example, CW Gallery, I have great respect for professionals of this level. On a human level, wonderful people. When the goal is art, not "I am in art", everything should work. Unfortunately, we don't have the infrastructure for a normal art system. People do not go to each other; colleagues are not ready to reach out to each other. 

K: What new modern trends in the painting market seem to you the most attractive and promising? 

VZ: Technology. Maximally frank solutions that respond innovatively in every sense to the current reality. I think slum art is in demand.

K: Your craziest and most ambitious endeavor that you aspire to accomplish in the next 10 years?

VZ: To open Museums of Contemporary Art in underdeveloped countries/regions. 

K: What do you trust more - market analysis, experience, or intuition?

VZ: I've been in this business for 35 years and have developed my own personal curatorial alchemy. It's a matter of using different elements together, always coming from intuitive data, from the light that comes on for me when I see symbols of iconographic innovation, thematic insight, metaphysical ability, and human focus. At that point, the competition factor kicks in and forces me to work on that artist, to give it a stronger structure, creating exhibition and learning experiences of varying levels. In many cases, market events and public reactions prove me right, although there are cases when the market does not react, and the artist continues to please me and receive my support. Let's just say that I don't really believe in the relevance of the market, and history proves it: there are artists who are discovered after fifty years, there are those who are rediscovered several times, and there are those who wait for the right moment to be fully recognized. Some injustice exists, but let's say that the exception proves the rule.

K: Speaking of Banksy, who you are the first curator of, will you ever see his face?

VZ: I hope it will never happen, it would be like the end of a beautiful dream when the worst thing is to wake up and realize that the dream is over. The complex construction of the Banksy phenomenon revolves around the typical characters of old-school street art when anonymity was necessary to do illegal work. Today, in the world of social media, remaining anonymous is the greatest feat imaginable; millions of people are watching you, and hiding your face can be considered a kind of miracle: what Banksy does is unique and extraordinary, linked to the power of his stencils, the insight of his chosen locations, the universal key of his language. Banksy is one of the few artists in the world who speaks of feelings within figurative language, avoiding sentimentalism but also the nihilism we need.

Vlad Ogay. Pencil, 2022. Courtesy of Cut Art Gallery

K: What genre and style of painting is receiving the most attention today?

VZ: Painting is the language that is most often said to be in crisis, out of crisis, or returning. In fact, no technological innovation has killed painting; on the contrary, painting has become stronger by combining its techniques with digital advances in image construction. The painting that wins today is the painting that goes beyond traditional genres, that mixes figurations, invents new narratives, new psychoanalytic processes, new iconographic and stylistic models, and new genres that go beyond classical genres. Painting is a beautiful journey into the invention of limitless worlds, where quotations and old schools are reborn in the synthetic process of the pictorial present.

K: What is your advice for investing in works of art?

VZ: First, I always recommend buying very young artists who are represented by galleries with an important history. It is hard for a cutting-edge gallery to go wrong with an offer, especially if there are curators behind that artist with a history that justifies their role. It is another thing to keep an eye out for young galleries that present strong, incisive, clearly delineated projects: again, it is possible to select artists with excellent growth margins and fair first-stage prices. I would add that it is important to always see the relationship between the work you like and its market price: there are small treasures by great artists that can be bought at affordable prices, just as there are very good works by historical artists that are likely to cost more.

K: Why did you decide to collaborate with Vlad Ogay?

VZ: I saw in Viktoria Zaitseva's gallery a great intuition about young artists. When she introduced me to Vlad's work, I immediately realized how much energy radiates from his art, how much iconographic power flows under his symbolic sculptures, under his metaphysical structures that seem to come not only from past centuries, but also from the not-too-distant future, in which people have completely rethought the cycle of natural phenomena. I am struck by the archaic use of materials that becomes a form of human resistance in a technological world. Vlad does not reject anything of our time but manages to bend technology in its TECHNOLOGICAL aspect. Tecnomagia is a concept that I am very interested in and on which I am developing an exhibition for MAXXI in Rome, Vlad will be one of the guest artists.

Cover Image: Vlad Ogay Artworks. Cortesy of Cut Art Gallery

Written by Kooness

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