Contemporary Romanian Artists and Where to Find Their Work

‘Boogeyman’ by Adrian Ghenie, who today is regarded as one of the finest artists from Romania
‘Boogeyman’ by Adrian Ghenie, who today is regarded as one of the finest artists from Romania | © Guy Bell / Alamy Stock Photo
Rich Francis

The last two decades have seen a real renaissance take place in Romanian contemporary art, with the major figures in sculpture, portraiture and painting emerging onto the global avant-garde scene. This selection of great contemporary artists from Romania and where to find them should serve as a suitable introduction for those eager to see what all the fuss is about.

Adrian Ghenie | Plan B Gallery, Berlin

Moving between Cluj-Napoca and his studio in north Berlin, Adrian Ghenie is now one of the most established Romanian contemporary artists. Since graduating from the prestigious University of Art and Design in Cluj in 2001, Ghenie has produced prolifically, featuring in exhibitions as far afield as Venice, Liverpool, Los Angeles and San Francisco. His works display a raw and visceral style that does well to disconcert the viewer with a cacophony of displaced lines, blurs, faceless figures and Kafkaesque portraiture. Many have been noted for their overtly clandestine political feel, which has in turn been linked to Ghenie’s own childhood experience of Romania behind the Iron Curtain. Today, you can find much of his work at the Plan B Gallery in Berlin, which he co-founded.

Alexandra Croitoru | Plan B Gallery, Berlin

The photographer Alexandra Croitoru was born in Bucharest in 1975 and graduated from the National Academy of Arts in 1998. She has since exhibited work in solo presentations in Copenhagen, Prague, Berlin and Vienna, and showcased pieces at the Biennial of Contemporary Visual Arts by Balkan Female Artists in Sofia, in 2003. Her work moves to challenge the traditional gender roles and prejudices towards women, focussing largely on the rendering of the feminine in the discourses of fashion and style. Like Ghenie, you can find some of Croitoru’s work in Plan B Gallery, Berlin.

Ciprian Mureşan | Plan B Gallery, Berlin

Ciprian Mureşan was born in Romania in 1977 and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cluj-Napoca, which he completed in 2000. Today he’s a senior editor of the IDEA art + society periodical and has exhibited in New York, London and at a number of Biennales, from Venice to Sydney. His work is highly politicised and takes a bold approach to examining the void between communist and capitalist ideologies. He is particularly famous for his 2004 piece Leap Into the Void – After Three Seconds and his multimedia work Choose (2005), which critiques the dominance of free-market ideals. Plan B Gallery, Berlin, hosts a large number of his pieces.

Cristi Pogacean | Plan B Gallery, Berlin

Criticising the divide between modernism and post-modernism and deconstructing the political status quo at every turn, the work of Cristi Pogacean has moved to question accepted ideas of authorship, power, belief and knowledge. Many critics have noted his proletariat style of creation, citing works like his 2006 piece, The Abduction From the Seraglio: a profound depiction of Romanian journalists after being captured by extremist forces in Iraq, made curiously ironic by the chosen medium of woven carpet. Others have looked to his startling Obelisk from the 2007 Venice Biennale, which transforms that most classic of authoritarian monoliths into nothing more than an elaborate birdhouse. See more of his pieces by heading to Plan B in Berlin.

Mircea Cantor | Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Boasting award-winning works in the divergent mediums of dance, film, sculpture, painting and installation art, Mircea Cantor’s modernist reworking of the Duchamp style, complete with all its trademark surrealism, intriguing absurdity and Dadaist eccentricity has risen to become one of the most unique contemporary exports from Romania. His works repeatedly challenge traditional artistic categories by displacing obvious subjects to whole new, and often unidentifiable, environments. For example, in 2005, his video piece Deeparture showed a wolf and deer confined together in a single space; simultaneously relating a new vision of the hunter and the hunted and playing with the concept of inevitability. Today, Cantor continues to work across various media, and lives between Paris, Berlin and his native Romania. Two of his works – Deeparture and Talking Mirror (2007) – can be seen in the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Rudolf Bone | Plan B Gallery, Berlin

Famed throughout Romania for his curious sculptures and installation pieces, Rudolf Bone currently lives and works in the western city of Oradea. Although he’s oscillated between periods of inactivity over the last decades, Bone’s exhibits remain remarkable for their overarching use of found materials and deconstructivist tendencies. Some of his best-known presentations include his iconic tin-foil effigy of the human form and the dual selection of Megalopolis and Die that took centre stage at the avant-garde exhibit DICE (2010), at the Plan B Gallery in Berlin.

Serban Savu | Maureen Paley, London

Serban Savu’s magnetic portraits of rural and urban Romanian life convey a stage-managed snapshot of the country’s status quo, allowing the viewer a sort of cultural voyeurism that’s focussed on the nation’s untapped hinterland and nondescript metropolitan spaces. It’s particularly important that Savu chooses to obscure any personal elements of his paintings by removing discernible facial features from his subjects, as if the people here are entirely blind to the artistic lens that’s focussed upon them. Just as the workman in The Balcony (2006) and the bathers from Weekend 2 (2007) are unaware of our gaze, so too are they unaware of the machinations of the great political morass that’s currently changing their beloved homeland. Pieces including The Card Players (2011), Departure (2011) and Small Talk After Lunch (2012) can currently be seen at the Maureen Paley gallery in London.

Victor Man | Plan B Gallery, Berlin

Hailed as the 2014 Artist of the Year by Deutsche Bank, Victor Man is unquestionably one of the most iconic Romanian contemporaries currently working. His pieces exude a dark, mystifying and brooding character that’s been noted for its surrealist tendencies and playful attitude towards taboo. Take his acclaimed 2008 piece Grand Practice, which stands shrouded in a dream-like haze of darkened shadows and depicts a curious horse-man hybrid clad in armour and straps. It comes with a whole host of suggestions and leaves the viewer wondering if they’ve just witnessed some clandestine Faustian ritual, or simply some banal act of crude sexual gratification. Several untitled works and Romania (2007) can be seen at Plan B, Berlin.

Zsolt Berszán | Anaid Art Gallery, Berlin

Zsolt Berszán was born in Marosvasarhely in 1974 and studied at the University of Art and Design in Cluj-Napoca. He hosted a solo exhibition in Venice, fielding an array of metamorphic and monochrome sculpture works entitled Decomposition. These conflated the idea of human decay after death and the destructive course of human history, evoking images of war, conflict and murder. Today, Berszán can be found working alongside a great many other contemporaries in his studio at the Paintbrush Factory in Cluj. Several untitled pieces ranging from sculptures to paintings can be found at the Anaid Art Gallery in Berlin.

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