"AusgeTARTet" — Interview with Catrina Sonderegger

At the end of May, TART Zurich announced that it would not reopen. The two operators Catrina Sonderegger and Valentina De Pasquale say goodbye after six years and reformat each other.

TART Zurich communicated on 30 May. May 2020 in its newsletter the end of its existence.

Melissa Jetzer: How did this happen?

Catrina Sonderegger: Well, there were some factors that led us to close the doors of TART Zurich. One of these factors was certainly the current crisis around Covid-19. On the other hand, both of us, Valentina De Pasquale and I, Catrina Sonderegger, have been thinking for some time about a change of perspective with regard to the structure of TART.

Despite many freedoms and the possibility to realize experimental implementations and to establish the place into a niche or a hybrid platform for art, we were dependent on a board of patrons and private sponsors. Basically, this is not a bad idea. However, in the long run, it can also be restrictive, sometimes even hindering – especially with regard to contemporary art funding, the relevance of which has little to nothing to do with market value.

MJ: To what extent?

CS: Contemporary art is rarely established at first through economically stable institutions. It is still mostly promoted or even initiated on a small scale. So while museums deal with the big questions of art history and galleries often pursue only commercial goals, niche spaces, as tART Zurich was, are central to new, innovative, even avant-garde movements. It is therefore obvious that precisely these spaces, which reflect the historical, content or phenomenological values of a society, are therefore culture and must be promoted. Perhaps the flip side of the coin is that this kind of art mediation is less lucrative and tends to move away from market value. 

MJ: How did the current pandemic play a role?

CS: Unfortunately, she ultimately played a decisive role in the decision to close. This is also out of pure pragmatism, because smaller companies cannot afford a temporary closure of the locality.

MJ: How does the art industry deal with the effects of lockdown?

CS: This question is hardly to be answered at this stage. We think there is still a lot to come. Nationally and internationally known galleries, museums or other cultural and art institutions take out loans because they too are struggling. Artsy even talks about the fact that perhaps thirteen percent of all museums worldwide are threatened with closure after the crisis. I recently read something similar in the Kunstforum.

What worries me personally, however, is that, from a social point of view, activity in the arts and culture is still perceived as a kind of "best case employment", almost like an accessory. For this very reason and a worryingly one-dimensional, non-representative mediation work, the art industry has no real voice. In other words, it is not a lobby that is strong. 

MJ: Do galleries and off-spaces have to rethink their strategies in the future?

CS: Certainly, but In my opinion, this has only to a limited extent to do with the current pandemic, but rather with the absolutely legitimate, ever-growing need for free access to art and culture. Similar to free access to knowledge. Of course, the digital space is not insignificant here, because it is a space that does not require physical presence and ultimately lies in its potential. At the same time, however, we know that only in the analogue does there be immediacy. We must all face up to this challenge sooner or later. 

MJ: The TART explicitly writes that it will no longer exist "in this form". What does that mean?

CS: To be honest, we don't know that well yet. However, we will certainly work on new concepts in terms of mediation work, no longer move into fixed premises, implement temporary implementations and devote ourselves to even more intensive cooperation projects. 

MJ: How can we imagine new forms of TART?

CS: What is new will be that we are increasingly trying to promote "transactive art creation". 

MJ: What shaped the TART in this form?

CS: Basically, a place usually shapes the minds behind it. For this reason, I can also call our names with a clear conscience and full of confidence: Catrina Sonderegger & Valentina De Pasquale.  

MJ: Is there an event that will be especially remembered?

CS: I think here I speak for both of us when I say that these were not explicit events that we remember in particular. Rather, it was all the encounters, the lively exchange, the discussions with the artists, the curators, the collectors, the buyers, the journalists and the visitors that will always remain with us.