Described by the New York Times as “an unexpected art world hothouse,” Cluj-Napoca is a vibrant city when it comes to contemporary art. Well-established as one of the most important cultural centres of Romania, Cluj has plenty to offer to those in search of new talents and original art exhibitions. Here is our list of the best galleries in town.
Opened in 2005 by Adrian Ghenie and Mihai Pop, Plan B is one of the leading contemporary art galleries in Cluj-Napoca. Conceived as a long-term project deeply connected to the need of individual initiatives to support Romanian artists, in only one decade it has already participated in numerous international art fairs, including the prestigious Armory Show (2007) in New York, where it was the only Eastern European gallery with a booth. It has also been featured at Art Brussels, Art Basel and Frieze Art Fair London. The gallery features the creations of well-established and emerging Romanian artists, including Adrian Ghenie, Victor Man, Ciprian Muresan or Istvan Laszlo.
Bazis, one of the most reputed contemporary art galleries in town, is situated on the first floor of a former paintbrush factory, now leading art center in Cluj. Dedicated to promoting young local and regional, but also international artists, the gallery is a project run by the cultural Association Bazis. Its exhibitions include the works of Zsolt Berszan, Istvan Betuker, Adrian Ghiman, Dan Maciuca, Bandi Sasa and Szabolcs Veres.
Opened in 2012 by local artist Sorin Neamtu, Baril shares the creative space of the remodelled paintbrush factory that hosts many of the young galleries in town. Conceived as an experimental space that seeks to create unique events, Baril features contemporary art from diverse mediums, from new media, video, sound and design to live arts, painting or photography. The gallery counts on Arantxa Etcheverria, Constantin Flondor, Kinema Ikon, Maxim Liulca and the very own founder Sorin Neamtu as its main artists, featuring their creations in original exhibitions at international fairs like ArtMarket Budapest (2012), Viennafair (2013) or Artissima (2013).
Located in a former paintbrush factory converted a few years back in cultural center for galleries and artists’ studios, Lateral ArtSpace is one of the younger contemporary art galleries in Cluj. Founded in 2012 by artists – Dragos Badita, Cristina Curcan and Lucian Indrei – this small gallery promotes emerging talents from Romania and abroad, creating “a place for representation and experimentation so much needed – where jumping from school to the responsibility of making a programme and a vision of an exhibition space takes courage, will and determination.”
Located in a centuries old palace where the first Hungarian theatre in town was established back in 1792, Quadro is both an auction house, organizing shows to promote their upcoming events, and “cultural landmark” at the same time. Aspiring to “present to the public and to introduce into the commercial circulation, a series of works of which many are only known from obscure black and white reproductions in old exhibition catalogues,” Quadro focuses predominantly on artists and artistic centres from Transylvania, promoting the works of Tudor Tamas, Laurentiu-Ruta Fulger, Radu Baies, Tibor Kolozsi or Feleki Istvan.
Soimii Patriei is definitely the place to go to discover emerging talent, as the gallery mainly promotes artists who are doing their first public exhibition outside the university in the unique atmosphere of one of the oldest pubs in town. Its approach to supporting the young ones is noticeable even in the choice of the gallery’s name that borrows strong connotations from past times when all pre-school and primary school children were part of the national organization “Soimii Patriei.” Opened in 2010 by Markos Tunde and Lorincz Gyula, Soimii Patriei stands out locally as a true supporter of young artists.
Sabot is the first gallery that settled in the unconventional art space of the paintbrush factory, not surprising considering Sabot’s aim of avoiding the conventional art world. Opened in 2009 by Daria Pervain and Marcel Janco, the gallery “aims at having an elastic, almost unshaped format, able to take the form of their artist’s views. A project incubator, a generator, moreover an eccentric travesty of a gallery.” Sabot presents the creations of artists such as Mihut Boscu Kafchin, Stefano Calligaro, Radu Comsa, Lucie Fontaine, Alice Tomasselli and Florin Maxa and is a constant presence at international art fairs from Italy and Basel.
One of the galleries managed by the University of Art and Design from Cluj-Napoca, Casa Matei is a reference point for students’ exhibitions. Enjoying a central location that makes it a not to miss attraction of historical Cluj, this gallery is a good choice for art enthusiasts interested in the creative perspectives of the younger generations of Romanian artists. Casa Matei organises regular students’ and professors’ exhibitions as well as joint international partnership exhibitions with institutions such as the Art Academy from Wroclaw or Academia di Belle Arte di Brera-Milano.