A couple of months ago I was picking a friend’s well-informed brain about the latest and hottest in Croatia. That’s when she told me about Greta, a small gallery that opened in the fall of 2011. When I visited in person on a recent Monday night, Greta was a great surprise.
An otherwise nondescript storefront on Zagreb’s longest street, Ilica, it offers Croatia’s capital another hub for the city’s creative set. So I talked with David Lušičić, one of the gallery founders, about Greta, its rather curious Monday night openings and more.
Tell us a little about Galerija Greta.
I’ve been managing an art organization, Zebra creative network, together with a few friends. Last year we were looking for a place for our office, when we found this particular ‘showroom’. It was an abandoned fashion shop in a space that was in ownership transition, going from public to private. The original owners, who were waiting for the documents, were very pleased with the idea that we would adopt the space and make something out of it.
The inspiration for starting the gallery was an immediate reaction to the spatial qualities that we discovered in this particular location. Also, there was no true independent art space in Zagreb which could follow the creative rhythm of the society.
At first, we started working in the space with no particular vision. However, very soon we decided that we could organize all kinds of presentations, workshops and exhibitions in the space and that we can combine our everyday workspace with some kind of a gallery. The breakthrough happened when I suggested that we organize a new opening every Monday. Zagreb counts one million people and this schedule turned out to be a perfect rhythm for the city.
Zagreb has lots of shut-down and abandoned shops and storefronts, which have huge potential as creative hubs. Such as Greta. What other spaces in Zagreb can you compare it to?
It’s not so easy to compare Greta with other spaces. The truth is – there are lots of shut-down spaces in Zagreb. Many of them are the property of the city but many are still in the phase of property transition.
We at Greta are in a specific situation. As Greta is now a private space, we are paying commercial rent but we produce independent non-profit content. Other similar art spaces are either owned by the city so they don’t have significant financial problems, or they are commercial galleries and/or clubs which offer drinks.
We run as a non-profit organization with a very dynamic program, which is about to be supported by certain art funds, cultural programs of the city and government as well as sponsors. This is a very difficult year for us though because we need to cover our space expenses by using finances from other projects that we run.
Tell us about the programming at Greta and about the current/upcoming exhibits.
I recommend Monday night openings; they are always a surprise. It is not a regular gallery atmosphere you’ll encounter. The feeling is like you are in some friendly creative environment where people exchange their experience and discuss new projects.
The program is based on presenting contemporary art, in various different art forms: fine arts, video, sound installations, sculptures, projections, and performances. On top of the openings every Monday, we also organize workshops, presentations, film screenings, and other events. Greta basically runs as an open platform for creative presentations in the center of Zagreb.
What are some of your favorite artists and exhibits coming up in 2012, if you can reveal them?
I like group exhibitions of arts academy students because the surprise factor is very high. There are some interesting openings before summer break, such as Maja Kalogera and the Croatian design legend Boris Ljubičić who will present his work in early July. We will close the season with a huge group exhibition (cca. 70 authors) which will stay open during the summer break.
After that the program will continue with exhibitions but we will expand the workshop program. The list of artists is quite large. We are very glad that we will host David Maljković, probably one of our most important young artists on the international scene. I can also confirm that we will start the international program with some video artists from New York.
Tell us about a couple of artists you have shown at Greta that we should be on the lookout for?
In the period of six months we had 24 openings. Every exhibition was unique in some way. Some of the artists made great interdisciplinary collaborations at the opening performance ceremony. It’s difficult to point out only some of them but let me highlight a few: Mladen Stilinović with his site-specific art print, Alem Korkut with a very intensive sculpture installation called 2012, Margareta Lekić, a young artist who made very interesting mobile sculpture installations and Danijel Žeželj with Jessica Lurie who painted the walls of Greta in an interdisciplinary performance collaboration with jazz musicians and video artists.
Who comes to Greta, and what are the best times to visit?
Greta is an open public gallery located in a perfect urban location. The space is characterized with two big windows so it attracts a wide range of general everyday public. However our main visitors are artists, musicians, film makers, students, writers, architects, and designers. Greta gathers a wide range of Zagreb’s creative population.
Would you share your three secret spots in Zagreb?
It is very easy. The first of those is Sedmica (Kačićeva 7), a bar near Greta. Second, I love Britanski Trg which functions as an alternative center of the city, with a nice market place and some easy-going cafe-bars. There’s also Karijola pizzeria, which is located in the same complex as Mali Bar and wine bar, at Vlaška 63.
Any strong stand about Croatia’s entry into the EU? What do you think are the pros and what are the contras?
That is a difficult subject. I think that unfortunately there is no clear vision among politicians on how to run this country. Everybody knows its potential but there is no visible way on how to fulfill it. It is very sad to hear same old phrases like ‘EU is our goal’. It means nothing by itself.
EU is in the phase of systematical redefinition and that certainly means that the position of ‘smaller’ countries will be reconsidered. I don’t believe that EU is the best solution but if it survives its reconstruction, I don’t see another possibility for Croatia but to join it.
To escape the city for a day, where do you like to go?
The seaside! For me, it is always the best choice. Perhaps that’s because I was born in Rijeka, Croatia’s northern port city. The island of Krk in the north can be reached in one hour and 30 minutes from Zagreb. There are also some nice spots on the Kvarner coast, like Volosko near Opatija, with very good restaurants and a nice seaside walk.
I particularly love sailing around the northern Adriatic islands with my small boat. That’s my peace of mind. My favorite location is Vrbnik, a small town on the island of Krk and the beach near Stara Baška. Some smaller islands in the north are also amazing, like Goli otok, Susak and Unije.