The last two decades have seen a real renaissance take place in Romanian contemporary art, with the country’s major figures in sculpture, portraiture and painting emerging on to the global avant-garde scene. This selection of ten of the country’s great contemporary artists and where to find them should serve as a suitable introduction for those eager to see what all the fuss is about.
Moving between Romania’s artistic and cultural capital Cluj-Napoca and his studio amidst the burgeoning bohemian districts of north Berlin, Adrian Ghenie is now one of the most established figures in the country’s line-up of contemporary artists. Since graduating from Cluj’s prestigious University of Art and Design 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.
See Adrian Ghenie’s work at the Plan B Gallery, The Paintbrush Factory, Henri Barbusse 59–61, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, +40 740 658555
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.
See Alexandra Croitoru’s work at the Plan B Gallery, The Paintbrush Factory, Henri Barbusse 59–61, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, +40 740 658555
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 the 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.
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 Romania’s most unique contemporary exports. His works repeatedly challenge traditional artistic categories by displacing obvious subjects and their various interactions 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 climax or inevitability. Today, Cantor continues to work across various media, and lives between Paris, Berlin and his native Romania.
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 descontructivist 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 Galeria Plan B in Berlin.
See Rudolf Bone’s work at the Plan B Gallery, The Paintbrush Factory, Henri Barbusse 59–61, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, +40 740 658555
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—a homeland that’s depicted here with verdant bucolic beauty and civic cleanliness.
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.