Dora Kenderová is a gallery director, artist and co-founder of the HIT gallery. She lived and taught at the University of fine arts and design in Bratislava.
Hi, you are coming right from work, right?
Can you tell us something more about this premises?
Let’s start with general info: East Slovak Gallery in Košice possess two buildings. The first residence is located on Hlavna street in spacious building from 19.century which used to be the County government residence and the second one, which we are currently in, is the old burgher’s house on Alžbetina street. Throughout the centuries this place has been called a home by many significant families. Our long term goal as the gallery is to transform a large garden attached to the property into lapidarium, a place to preserve a sculpture collection accessible to the public as the form of artistic education.
How did Piskacie shop became a part of the building?
We received their offer during the public tendering process and are very grateful they did such, since their concept as the Slovak local design brand matches our vision much better than a travel agency or a shoe shop. We also value their will to cooperate regarding the sponsoring or advertisement within the educative and creative workshop focused on families.
I know you are from Ružomberok and has previously worked in Bratislava. What is your relationship with Košice?
I was familiar with the environment, Bratislava and Košice have always been significantly close in the terms of art, partly thanks to establishment of the Faculty of Art in 1998. Some of teachers from Bratislava moved to the faculty and kept good relations. I had friends in Košice and as one of HIT gallery curators participated in the series of exhibitions for Tabačka Kulturfabrik in 2012, in not yet reconstructed premises. I attended a Medzicentrum workshop organised by Nina Šošková during city’s presidency as the European Capital of Culture in 2013. Participation in exchange program SPOTS, including workshop mentioned above, has changed the way I look at the city downtown and suburb as well.
What made you to come here?
I came to Košice to work in Eastern Slovak Gallery. Being in the Academy of Fine Arts and Design (VŠVU) since 1999 till the end of 2015 I have been very sensitive to witness all the affairs connected with European Capital of Culture and East Slovak Gallery which led me to wonder. 16 years is quite a long time and after the last open competition I was slowly encountering syndrome of burnout, affecting also my students.
The first open competition for position of East Slovak Gallery director was announced in 2015 and even thought I did not apply at that moment I started to prepare myself for the next round after there was no suitable candidate found in the first place. I was getting more interested in artistic collections and also realizing fact what difference does it make to come from the environment of contemporary art and independent gallery. Working in this kind of institution is a great challenge since it is considered an impregnable and intimidating place to enter. Therefore I have been trying to find a new possibilities how to attract public and regain its interest for art and gallery. Besides exhibitions we organize various educative and creative programmes as the way to connect visual arts with other interdisciplinary areas.
What do you consider to be the biggest progress for the gallery?
The first year of my presence in gallery was full of excitement when even the smallest step was a noticeable shift forward. I am talking about issues which I find natural thanks to a great deal of professionalism and experience, not the age or expertise – given the fact that I did not exclude myself entirely for work in atelier or only teaching. During my studies I opened a small independent HIT gallery, of which I was a head since 2003 and this experience provided me basis on how to run a gallery. I was aware of the artist’s needs, as I was studying art myself, importance of proper communication and networking, such as managing of exhibitions, financing etc…
Two and half years later, I can say that while the begging brought a whirl of apparent changes and a lot of things and exhibitions actually did came true, now we have a chance to develop a profound long term strategy plan. At least in the scope of the next five years we must determine our goals and cover all needs of this company. I think it is essential to raise a generation with sophisticated taste in art, not to compete with each other and get rid of the elitist behaviour within art community. That is our vision how to get people to visit gallery, not to devaluate art or to lower the bar, yet to educate public and improve its perception of a cultural literacy. Cultivate society through responsibility and sensitivity towards common affairs.
Do you then suppose your stay in Košice as the long term plan?
Well, it is complicated, since the decision is not solely mine, it is mutual. How much time do you need to make things done? Are two years enough? Or four? It is said that two years are some kind of the starting phase, time when you should connect with your audience, employees, artists. Time to define your weaknesses and strengths, set the priorities. Next step is to create a strategy which you should follow for at least three or five years. Time is running out very fast. Given the fact that regional galleries belong to the administration of the superior territorial and administrative unit, it is common that directing positions changes every four years according to the political party in charge. I do not agree. ArtGallery director is not a political function, but highly professional specific task and requires a lot of experience. I think that professionalism is built on years of experience, stable relationships among team members and business partners not only from Slovakia but also from foreign countries. Team work is crucial, it is necessary to share the same values and help each other to grow. General insecurity in society reflects also in art and therefore very sensitive and responsible approach on how to handle changes in order to successfully built a collection is required. History is being created now and it is important to get it right 🙂
Do you have a time for your own art?
I guess it is not a problem of the physical time but the fact that I work with art in various forms on daily basis. I am trying to be involved also in creative part of exhibition preparations, talk to the team, not only handle administration. I often find myself at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, simultaneously preparing an exhibition from the second part of the 20th century and also dealing with exhibition of the contemporary arts. It is still worthy despite lack of psychological time nor space.
Can you tell us something more about your work ?
I am a strict perfectionist and also very demanding when it comes to the art. Taking this to account even during the studies I was putting lots of thoughts to whether my art was good enough. Basically my art was reflecting my current state of mind, expressed through the simple gestures. I did not focus on the specific topic, as other artists do. Instead I love to work with the space. Especially, gallery space has always fascinated me, vibes of exhibition lounge and the whole ambient. It all contributes to the final idea. You know, when I think about it, conceiving the vision art, sketching the vision is satisfactory, there is no need for me to actually create it. As a matter of fact, it is quite ecological and economical form of art.
Are you still present in the HIT Gallery?
Yes, more or less I am still being active member of HIT gallery.
What do you think about Košice over the years, which you have been living here? I do not mean a situation after EHMK but directly you and your life in here.
I feel great in Košice 🙂
FOTO: Dávid Hanko
East Slovak Gallery Archive