We asked an expert in Eastern European art and some insiders from the Cluj art scene. Here is what they replied:
Jane Neal is an independent curator who lives and works in Oxford and London. She has been working with the artists from Cluj for almost a decade. She explains:
"The timing of Cluj's young artists was simply spot on. Having grown up under communism, once the possibility of international travel was opened up to them, they were thirsty to explore. After a few years though- whether it was the pull of friendship, missing 'home', or the ending of a grant, they returned, bringing with them the knowledge and energy of their collective experiences which they pooled and from which they all drew. This vibrant 'spirit' of Cluj that is encapsulated by its artists has proved mesmerizing to the world at large. I have often wondered what it is that makes Cluj so special. I think that at the heart of the Cluj art scene's success are friendship, great timing and a lived awareness of the importance of fostering a community. Everyone has come to realize that in order to create a cultural platform in Cluj, it is necessary to communicate to the world that something interesting is happening by supporting one another's initiatives - this is readily apparent to any visitor who encounters Cluj, or to anyone who meets its artists."
Daria Dumitrescu runs the gallery Sabot in Cluj. The gallery represents a number of artists that represent alternatives to the figurative painting, which is popular in Cluj and sought after by international collectors:
"We may seem the victims of those curators, art critics, gallerists and American collectors who urged the ‘Cluj syndrome’ on the international market too early. Wrongly (or rather insufficiently) labeled as ‘the goldmine of contemporary figurative painting’ back in 2007, we have since struggled to prove our multifaceted nature. Are we there yet? No. But we started to adjust our scant image to reality, slowly turning the goldmine into a magnetic field. A complex artistic environment cannot be labeled and consumed overnight."
Radu Comsa is an artist working at Fabrica de Pensule in Cluj and represented by Sabot gallery. He says:
"To answer this question I would have to consider myself interesting. This seems difficult, as I would probably have to look at myself from the outside, which doesn't exactly guarantee a positive evaluation. We might not be 'so interesting' but precisely as interesting as we are. We deserve further and more sophisticated appraisal, this is the only thing I am positive about right now."