Very ambitious and purposeful – could it describe kim?

Founder and director of the Contemporary Art Centre has combined business thinking and artistic freedom to create the largest conceptual space of contemporary art in Riga, and she continues to skilfully use this talent to collaborate with other art institutions around the world.
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Photo: Ansis Starks

She has repeatedly acknowledged in interviews that it is precisely in this retention of cooperation where the main successes lie; continuous circulation in the art environment is an important aspect that encourages not only the exchange of thoughts but also works. And in art, as in any other industry, that is extremely important.

The fact is that stimulating and supporting contemporary art is essential and necessary in the Latvian art environment; Zane was just 26 when kim? was founded.

By Katrīna Jaunupe Foto Karlīna Vītoliņa

The Contemporary Art Centre

Nowadays, it is one of the leading contemporary art institutions in the Baltics and creates an interesting and globally competitive exhibition program every year, attracting both local and internationally acclaimed artists. kim? was founded 10 years ago, and for almost the last 3 years it has been housed in new, spacious rooms and has become particularly popular with lovers of art in Riga.

In parallel with solo exhibitions and group exhibitions, The kim? Centre for Contemporary Art has also participated in the development of several international projects – last year, 13 Baltic Triennials were held and from May of this year the Latvian Pavilion and the exposition “Saules Suns” by the artist Daiga Grantiņa will be open at the 58th Venice Art Biennale. This Venetian project, in cooperation with the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, is organised by kim? and Zane Čulkstēna is one of the commissioners of the 2019 Latvian Pavilion.

Over the last few years kim? has changed its program manager for the second time, what changes are expected? Is there a change in kim? vision?

Not really. As you know, Zane Onckule, who was the program director for the first 8 years, left for NY to pursue her MA degree in Curatorial Studies. She has continued to stay involved, much like Valentinas Klimašauskas, who is co-curating our national pavilion at Venice Biennale. Meanwhile, our new program director Kaspars Groševs has largely grown up with us. He is a wonderful artist, a great curator, beautiful thinker, a writer and a total sweetheart. In a way I think we are going back to our roots, which is closer to the artists, more playful and curious, if I can say so.


Does kim? take part in the organization of the Biennale? When organizing major art events will you have your own residency program or will there be more large-scale events?

God forbid, and I’m not even religious! These have been a couple of very intensive years for us, so for 2019 I think the Venice Biennale and Residency program in NYC on top of our regular program will do. As for our next decade, we are always asking ourselves, “What’s the next big thing?”

The core focus will remain on our exhibition program, educational activities and international collaborations, as for the rest; let’s talk about it next year!


Where would you like to highlight the project implemented by kim?; what has given you the greatest satisfaction?

Tough question, there have been so many. The closing exhibition at the Spikeri venue with Donna Huanca, the three-year cooperation with Art in General and all the exhibitions of Latvian artists in New York, our education program, the first Venice Biennale, all the experiments with our Lithuanian friends, “Trauma and Revival”, Baltic Triennial, I could go on and on.

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Ieva Kraule | “Deceived Deceivers” | 2017 kim? Contemporary Art Centre exhibition view
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The Baltic Triennial 13 “Give up the Ghost” | Installation by Ben Burgis & Ksenia Pedan | kim? Contemporary Art Centre | 2018 | PHOTO: ANSIS STARKS

Will you also be represented in the Venice Biennale this year, and to what extent does it affect the activities of kim? Can the Venice Biennale be used as a platform to promote your institution?

In my opinion national pavilions at the Venice Biennale should be all about the selected artists and countries they represent. Both institutions and curators have to put their ambitions aside, which is actually nice for a change.


What are the major challenges in preparing for the launch and installation of the Venice Biennale?

I believe the challenges associated with the Venice Biennale are always the same – organizational and financial. This time we have a very big team, spread over 3 countries (Daiga lives in Paris and Valentinas in Vilnius), which naturally adds to the complexity. The costs of exposition at the Venice Biennale have also skyrocketed. I apologize for the technicality, but there are so many budget items that are now exactly 4 times more expensive than just 2 Biennales ago. Frankly, I don’t see how smaller nations will be able to afford to participate in the Venice Biennale if it continues this way.


Is it possible that the works viewed at the Venice Biennale will later appear in kim? Or maybe an ambitious solo show by Daiga Grantiņa in kim?

Together with our co-organizer, the Latvian Contemporary Art Centre, we have already announced that an adapted version of Daiga’s Venice exposition will be on view in the Latvian National Museum of Art in 2020.


Which artist or group of artists, in particular kim?, would like to exhibit in the near or distant future?

Again there are so many. To name just few: Cécile B. Evans; Hito Steyerl; Goshka Macuga; Mika Rottenberg; there are couple of young Czech and Hungarian artists that I’m fascinated with. We have been in touch and it’s not even that unreal, but there can only be one cook in the kitchen (it is now Kaspars Groševs) and we continue to be devoted primarily to Latvia born artists.

You are also the Managing Director of the festival “Riga Jurmala”; please tell me a little more about the festival and its upcoming program? How do you manage to connect everything so successfully?

It is all about the team. Both at kim? and the Riga Jurmala Music Festival, and also at my company ERDA, I’ve been very fortunate to work with people who are smarter than me. As for the Festival, it is a very ambitious initiative to mark Riga and Jurmala as one of the top destinations on the map of classical music festival-goers. We start with four weekends throughout the summer. A leading international orchestra and conductor anchor each weekend, offering a range of symphonic concerts and recitals that feature leading stars and young up-and-coming talent. We will be opening the festival with Maestro Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra on July 19, which of course is a highly anticipated and special event for all of us.

Which of the artistic or personal achievements of the second half of the 20th century to the present day would be highlighted as one of the most significant values of Latvian art?

Tragically, we lost couple of cultural icons and dear friends at the beginning of 2019. One of them was Andrejs Žagars, a prolific Latvian opera director, a true inspiration and role model for everyone I know and respect. I think it's important to keep spirit of Andrejs alive, and continue doing what he championed so well – to build strong, ambitious and exciting arts institutions and projects.

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