How to open an art business in Moldova: the experience of Alexandra Mihalaș

How to open an art business in Moldova: the experience of Alexandra Mihalaș

Alexandra Mihalaș has been passionate about the arts since childhood. She studied at a secondary school specialising in painting, before completing a higher education in art theory in Romania. After her studies, she became interested in the art business and took part in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs’ programme. Alexandra is now the art director of the Iusty Art Gallery in Chișinău, where she organises exhibitions of local and international artists.

Taking part in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme provided Alexandra with an opportunity to learn how the art market and art galleries work in Europe.

For me, this programme was an opportunity to get international experience, which is difficult to get while you are studying at university. At the same time, I learnt in practice the principles of the art business. Participating in art fairs and establishing international co-operation are very complicated processes. If it wasn’t for Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, it would have taken much longer to understand them.”

Alexandra’s exchange within the programme lasted more than two months. Her business experience took place in the Netherlands, in Rotterdam, with Kiki Petratou, who has owned her gallery for more than ten years.

“The idea behind this programme is that you as a young entrepreneur find a mentor – an experienced entrepreneur in your field. Together you develop a work plan that you follow. It is important that your mentor not only shares knowledge and experience with you but also learns something from you. So, you need to come with your own input and ideas. At the end of the day, this programme benefits both parties.”

While in the Netherlands, Alexandra had the opportunity to learn how art galleries work in a country with a highly developed art market, experienced collectors, and large-scale art events.

“There are art fairs where you can meet and make connections with the local art community. I too have participated in fairs like this. At the Kiki Gallery in Brussels, I was able to follow the whole process: from registration to the installation and dismantling of the exhibition.”

She also decided to take part in the programme to improve her knowledge of the art business and the global art market, which includes selling art, attending art fairs, and finding and contacting potential collectors.

Art business also implies selling works of art through the gallery, for example, through dealers, and by participating in art fairs. In addition, it is necessary to build a base of loyal customers among collectors.”

As part of her exchange in the Netherlands, Alexandra, together with Kiki, developed a larger project – an international art exhibition in Moldova.

“We were excited to do something more than we had originally planned. So, we developed a project with which we contacted the Mondrian Foundation. This organisation supports culture and visual arts in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We succeeded and won a grant to organise an exhibition of several artists from the Netherlands in Moldova.”

Opening of the first international exhibition at Iusty Art Gallery

After taking part in the programme, Alexandra was able to put her newly acquired skills and experience into practice – she opened the Iusty Art Gallery in Chișinău. As an art director of the gallery, she plans events, co-ordinates different projects, establishes contacts with artists and so on. Four exhibitions have already been successfully organised. Alexandra also sells the works exhibited in the gallery.

The young woman notes that the result of her participation in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme exceeded all her expectations. Especially, because she managed to bring international artists to Moldova. Their works are presented at the Iusty Art Gallery as part of the exhibition “My past is not a myth”, held with the financial support of the Mondrian Foundation.

“The aim of this exhibition is to explore history and the past as a complex fabric of personal and collective narratives. ‘My Past is Not a Myth’ speaks to the importance of individual memories in our relationship with the past. The exhibition itself is an incentive to cherish personal memories.”

The exhibition ‘My Past is Not a Myth’ features works by international artists from Romania, Turkey, and the Netherlands.

Alexandra notes that many young people came to the opening of the exhibition. This means that the topic touched upon is interesting to the younger generation, which develops critical thinking.

The Iusty Art Gallery is the first gallery in Moldova to co-operate with the Mondrian Foundation. Alexandra notes that it was very important for her to prove that Moldova is a reliable partner, including in the field of art.

Alexandra believes that the organisation of such exhibitions not only promotes networking between artists from Moldova and the Netherlands but will also lead to the promotion of Moldovan art on the European market.

“As part of the exhibition, we organised a meeting with local artists. And it was one of the few initiatives when international artists come to our country to share their experience and vision. This exchange of experience is, of course, very valuable. Moldovan art has chances, value, prospects and potential if it is supported and promoted.”

Alexandra Mihalaș sees her future at the Iusty Art Gallery – she likes to promote art among the Moldovan public. She says that 2024 will be rich in interesting events and exhibitions of local and foreign artists.

The exhibition ‘My Past is Not a Myth’ will be open at Iusty Art Gallery until the end of March 2024.

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is an EU-funded programme that offers exchange of skills and knowledge between entrepreneurs. The programme financially contributes to the new entrepreneurs going on exchange abroad.  The exchange can last from one to six months. Citizens of other countries residing in Moldova for more than half a year can also participate. Since 2015, a total of 30 Moldovan entrepreneurs have applied for the programme.

There is no deadline to register for the programme, and no restrictions on age or sector of work. Interested applicants can apply online any time at the following page.

Click here for the list of local contact points to guide you throughout the exchange. There is currently no local contact point in Moldova, but Moldovan applicants can reach out to contact points in any country to support their application, help you establish a successful relationship with a suitable entrepreneur, as well as providing you with all the answers to your questions.

Author: Petru Beșleaga

The original story is available on EU NEIGHBOURS east

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