Nicholas Taubman, a businessman who grew up in Roanoke, served as U.S. Ambassador to Romania from 2005 to 2008. As he and his wife, Jenny, embraced their roles in this new country, they along with their daughter, Lara – a contemporary art historian, curator and critic at the time – initiated introductions to emerging artists for the Arthur Taubman Trust. It was their vision to connect Romanian art to the western world.
Artists featured in the collection include Marius Bercea, Geta Brătescu, Cornelius Brudaşcu, Mircea Cantor, Adrian Ghenie, Hortensia Mi Kafchin, Victor Man, Ciprian Mureşan, Radu Oreian, Dan Perjovschi, Cristi Pogăcean, Șerban Savu, Mircea Suciu and Gabriela Vanga, all of whom are critically acclaimed and have achieved significant international recognition.
Jane Neal, a British critic, curator and leading expert on the contemporary art scene in Europe, is the guest curator for Looking Anew and Beyond.
“Even a casual look at the Romanian artists who make up the Arthur Taubman Trust collection affords the viewer a sense of just how unique a collection this is, and how important,” said Neal. “Many of these artists have participated in important group and solo international institutional exhibitions at museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern, and Centre Pompidou; in international art fairs such as the Venice Biennale; and several of the artists have also achieved record-breaking auction results at the major contemporary art auctions.”
According to Neal, Looking Anew and Beyond aims to achieve two goals.
The first is to introduce Roanoke and wider audiences to work from some of the most respected, interesting, and intellectually stimulating Romanian artists practicing today, or who were active until very recently and are still pertinent and influential to the Romanian and broader artistic scene.
The second goal is to highlight how the work of the Arthur Taubman Trust has championed what is truly a world-class collection.
“From a global perspective, this exhibition includes some of the most important artists working today and documents a collection of truly historical significance,” said Neal.
It is possible to group together a number of artists from the collection whose practice playfully questions the status quo. These artists are not simply working in reaction to communism or post-communism, neither are they necessarily always angry about history or certain events. Rather, they often find the humor in a given situation and then employ a darker humor to make a point. Sometimes they are jokey, using games and surprising juxtapositions of media and narrative to provoke and poke fun. Often, they are simply searching for their own identity within a fluid socio-political landscape, or questioning given assumptions.
Though far from America, Romanian art and its artists translate well to the American context. Many of the proponents and influencers of the Abstract Expressionist and Pop Art movements that America claims as its own had ancestral connections to Eastern Europe, including Arshile Gorky, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol.
Returning to the present day, it is apparent that many of the Romanian artists in this exhibition have themselves gone on to become influential figures on the international stage. While often drawing inspiration from their own distinct context, it is the clarity of the Romanian artists’ observations, their knowledge of art history, grasp of the changes driving political and social developments, and their questioning of ideologies and the promises of new utopias that distinguish their artistic practice.
This has piqued the curiosity of audiences across the world – partly because it is interesting to see things from a new perspective – but also because so many of the subjects the Romanian artists contend with are universal.