bestiary noun (plural bestiaries)
1 : a medieval allegorical or moralizing work on the appearance and habits of real or imaginary animals
2a : a collection of descriptions or representations of real or imaginary animals
b : an array of real humans or literary characters often having symbolic significance
(source: merriam-webster online dictionary)
3 years have passed since the vernissage of my first solo exhibition, BESTIARY. I still look back to that moment as a very rare one in the artistic context of Sibiu. Organizing this exhibition has proven that, if you put your mind to it, you can create a magical setting by asking for the help of those around you and by employing all the resources that you have.
A lot of people have asked me, “how did you end up exhibiting at Habitus?”. The answer is pretty simple, I just asked the managers, Marian Coman and Vladimir Barbu, if they can offer me a space to host my art works for one month. And they said yes and then we negotiated the space, they wanted me to exhibit in the main hall of the bookstore, to put my works on the walls, surrounded by books, but I didn’t see that as a cohesive solution. Until I remembered that the bookstore had a storage space, two rooms on the side of the main hall with no natural light, no ventilation, full of chairs, books and boxes. Hundreds of years ago, that place was a crypt. The managers were not really pleased with my choice (the bookshop would be running with just one storage room for one month) but I managed to convince them to let me do it by assuring them that I will handle the arrangement of the space. Obviously, they eventually lent me a hand.
First, I emptied the storage of all the stuff, which was not easy to do. There were heavy furniture pieces and a lot of dusty boxes. Then the cleaning lady did her magic and me and Camil added the finishing touches. Every time we went there to arrange the space, we would vacuum. I remember I started having doubts about the whole thing. The plaster was coming off the walls, there was a single bulb for the whole space, the air was heavy and it was hard to breathe, the humidity was too high (thing that I did not take into account)…
Then I talked to one of my friends, Bogdan, who was working at an electrical company. He offered to come see the space and he immediately came up with a solution. We would have to install a line of lights running through the whole length of the storage space and then we would have professional lighting as in a real gallery. I realized that you can’t do everything yourself and that help from your friends is priceless.
Bogdan stepped in and installed the line of lights, he even threw in a street lamp that would generate a warm light in the space dedicated to the main artwork, “God’s Playground”. Now the space looked completely different.
I started to bring the artworks two days before the opening, I inserted the nails, I put them up on display but the next day I noticed that the humidity had affected the works, the paper was beginning to curl and some works were starting to get deformed. I kind of panicked, but Marian brought a dehumidifier and we left the door and the only window in the gallery opened over night and the next day the air was completely dry, the artworks had adjusted to the environment, I had dried some of them home with my hair drier and the exhibition was ready for the vernissage.
On the day of the opening I invited my art teacher, graphic artist Gheorghe Pârcălăboiu, to see the result. The teacher brought his friend, a restoration specialist at Brukenthal Museum and while they were admiring the works one of them fell off the wall and the glass broke. So I had to run and buy a new frame. Organizing an exhibition is full of surprises, you never know what will happen next, especially since there are no professional galleries in Sibiu and you have to constantly improvise. This is also part of the art process.
Ultimately, the vernissage was a great success, I had an interesting talk with Iris Ordean about Bestiary, I sold a lot of artworks, people played the piano that Krista Szöcs brought especially for the exhibition space, I brought my sketchbooks and I let anyone flip through them and after that, the space became a sanctuary for book-lovers, a concert space for the band Kepler not Kopernicus, a part of the Habitus Sonor project.
Currently, Habitus Bookstore has been closed down and another potential gallery has disappeared. But this dream was very, very beautiful. And probably never to be repeated again.
This is a recording of the discussion I had with Iris Ordean (Turn on CC subtitles):
Photographs by Gabriela Cuzepan, Cornel Moșneag and from my archive.