The Birgit Lauda Art Foundation established as a non-profit organisation where art and feminism meet. With the aim to support artists and to donate all its proceeds to the project “Women without Borders” by Dr. Edit Schlaffer, the foundation is dedicated to the empowerment of women worldwide.
We spoke to Birgit Lauda (Founder) and Talina Bauer (Managing Art Director) about the B.LA Foundation and on art collecting.
VC: How does the B.LA Foundation work? Is it a gallery, a foundation, a social project?
Birgit Lauda: It’s all of that. It’s based on the gallery model, but all profit goes to the social project called “Women without Borders” by Edit Schlaffer. Basically, we operate like a normal market gallery, where an artist gets 50% and 50% is for the gallery. So that other 50 percent goes directly to the organisation “Women without Borders”after we pay the rent and our employees.
The organisation Women without Borders focuses on the empowerment of women worldwide, which is a topic very important to me.
VC: Why did you decide on the format of a gallery rather than just a foundation or a charity? Why was it important for you to have a gallery?
Besides supporting a social project, I also wanted to support young emerging as well as international artists. I want to provide a platform and create an art space at the same time. I love art and I am passionate about it. I see its potential to bring change, to connect different people, and to speak outside of the normal framework. It can bring people together. It can connect.
VC: Do you also collect art? How did it start for you?
I was always fascinated by architecture. Together with my husband, we realized a few architectural projects in Ibiza, where we lived. We did up some houses. This continuous engagement with architecture brought me closer to the arts. I then decided to study art history here in Vienna.
VC: What was the first piece of art that you bought?
I started with Austrian artists. I was always a fan of Otto Zitko and Scheibl. I then added more international artists in the likes of the photographer Andreas Gursky, and Candida Höfer. I go to art fairs and develop my collection all the time. I naturally began to focus more on women artists and added works by Ester Stocker , Donna Huanca and Jenny Holzer to my private collection.
VC: How do you make decisions? Is it more impulsive or do you have a line and it’s very strict?
First of all, I need to like the work but nowadays I feel that the connection to the art piece is getting more and more important to me. I don’t go alone to fairs. I have an art advisor that I have been working with for many years. She helps and supportsme, when it comes to international positions.
When you start buying international art, it’s important to start with a guide because you don’t always have the time to research. I never buy solely for investment reasons, so there needs to be a connection for me content wise.
VC: So you never think about investment when buying art?
Of course we (me and my husband) think about it, but there has to be a middle way. We don’t want to loose money, but at the end of the day it is all about the personal taste.
We are not these kind of collectors buying big scale art pieces and filling their storage spaces in Switzerland with them and never get to see the works.. We always live with art and it is important to us to be surrounded by it on a daily basis. We love to re-hang the collection and move it between houses. We don’t focus on the quantity, but rather on quality.
VC: Can you tell me more about the special pieces?
There are many stories. But I will just name one otherwise it’s too much. We have an Andreas Gursky work Bahrain I, where the racetracks are depicted— it was the must-have piece for my husband and myself. I am the art lover and he’s the race champion and to put these two things together with one piece of Gursky made it one of my favorite works. It is a reflection of our relationship and our family.
VC: For someone who doesn’t know you and only sees your art collection, how do you think they would describe it?
Like a journey.
VC: Is it important for you to have relationships with the artist?
It’s good if you have them but not necessary.
VC: Why do you want to focus on female artists? Is it because they are underrepresented or that their art speaks to you?
I think its because of my life journey and due to my educational process. I like this personal aspect in my art collection. I think this is what I do and what I would like to focus on.
VC: But also by buying art, you are supporting artists.
Yes I support them and “Women without Borders”. We had a great start in Vienna.
VC: How is it going? It’s been almost a year since you opened a space.
Good, together with my team, the Art Director Talina Bauer and the London-based curator Katharina Worf, we are preparing two great exhibitions to open after the summer break. We can finally say and show what we would like to focus on long term. We have a fantastic social art project exhibition.
Talina Bauer: In our first show after the summer break we are presenting a group show with works of Fay Nicolson, Tanya Ling, Charlotte Klobassa and Donna Huanca.
Following this show we have an exhibition planned that revolves around feminist and socially engaged art, which will be curated by Doris Rothauer. It will really be an exhibition that shows a few selected artists’ works that take a position and present their view on what it means in their practice to be a feminist in 2018 with the #metoo movement and all the other developments that are happening right now. What does it mean to make feminist art these days and what are the issues these artists care about and we, in the art world have to talk about?
After this, we have an exhibition coming up, which shows another reason of why it was important for us as a foundation to have an art space: Like Birgit mentioned, we can discuss certain things in the realm of arts that can in the best case open up new perspectives on sensitive topics: We are for example working with both an Iranian and Saudi Arabian artist, bringing their works together with an Austrian position as well in one show. Something, that if you think about it politically could be difficult to realize but within the art space, it is possible to bring people from different parts of the world together and create a discourse through their works.
This is part of the foundation’s mission. We don’t call it a gallery, but an art space which forms itself through conversations. We invite people to spent evenings together. For example, this evening we have a book presentation. Edit often gives talks too. She was one of the first people to have worked in Saudi Arabia on social projects with her project. She has always had a connection to these countries. We have long conversations and we also have talks here.
VC: With your experience through working with women artists, what are the biggest challenges and problems that they face?
It’s not only Europe, but I can see that female artists from Europe sometimes have problems in being heard, especially along men in the art scene. It’s not yet at an equal level. And if you think about Saudi Arabian femlae artists: They face even more problems, because we don’t know if they are allowed to travel, cross borders or fly. They have limited access to the Internet, which means they cannot communicate their practice internationally.
VC: Do you see anything that we can learn from them?
They have strength and power. In their country, nobody would say “Wow, fantastic! You are a woman artist”. Despite all of the challenges they still are eager to become artists and their motivation is very pure. It is very inspiring, because we take many things for granted, things they have to fight for everyday.
Written by viennacontemporary