Tatiana Spinari-Pollali talks to us

Tatina Spinari-Pollali is an Art Historian. She has studied History of Art and Museology (PhD, Boston University, Massachusetts), she has worked and organized exhibitions at the university gallery of Boston University, and consequently she has taught at the Boston College History of European and American Art of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as History of Photography. In 2006, she started Citronne gallery on Poros.

Tell us about your work.

This year, Citronne gallery completes fifteen “summer” years of life and operation. The gallery started out of passion, love and maybe ignorance of the art dealing sector. That is why it is a perhaps unorthodox trading space. It aims to operate as a cultural management entity, as an exchange forum for visual arts ideas and views. The current social and historical process brings to surface acute questions and concerns, with incomplete or even non-existent understanding. The times in which we find ourselves as individuals and as citizens, dictate to us topics that go beyond our experience, often even our perception. In our country, the need for answers, for an interpretation proposition, is noted and increasingly pressing. The transcendent intervention of Art is imperatively needed.

What is your relationship with the local area?

I went to Poros for the first time in the Christmas of 1988. In this first visit, it seemed to me that the place exuded melancholy, as is always the case on Greek islands in winter. Poros is an extraordinary island. The sea, still like a lake, doesn’t divide; it connects with Galatas across. This island, where, despite being close, is not reached by the noisy summer paces of the surrounding islands, life moves reassuringly, almost silently. The movement comes naturally, from the small and larger boats, as well as from the subtle swaying of the pine trees, that gradually descend reaching the sea.

My relationship with the place was essentially established fifteen years ago -together with our home. Although it is not our ancestral building, this 19th century building at the port from the beginning acquired the air of a personal home. It was renovated, but also rebuilt. It incorporated our characteristics, it sheltered our experiences, it depicted our choices and our way of life. Namely, it became a piece incorporated in the local tradition, as well as an active opening at the sea horizon. Our children grew up in this house, from summer to summer; they created their own memories, their own references, their own local history.

This is how I understand Poros, this is how I appropriate it. I espouse its close relationship with the land, with the Peloponnese coast across: Lemonodasos, familiar from my adolescent readings, the “Sleeping Lady”, that reminds us of the historic, moving sculpture of Chalepas, the restless boats in Galatas little port. On the island, the pine trees and the landlocked sea, almost always calm, mark the landscapes and the buildings: the romantic Love Bay, then the Russian Bay Naval Station, Villa Galini, with the ever-living memory of Seferis and Theotokas, the quaint little church on the verdant Daskaleio.

In this special atmosphere, at the ground floor of our home, CITRONNE gallery took shape, a venue where modern Art movements intersect, where works of artists from Greece and the Diaspora are exhibited. Its name comes naturally from Lemonodasos (lemon grove), as well as from the big lemon tree that we found in the house’s yard.

How has crisis affected your work and your life and how do you deal with it?

The current health crisis resulted in galleries and museums to interrupt their operations from mid-March. In this context, CITRONNE gallery, like other art venues, tried to find new ways to achieve their objective, namely to impart trends, ideas, aesthetics and knowledge to as wide a public as possible. So, the crisis boosted the use of new technologies (online exhibitions and tours), so as to keep the contact of the public with visual arts and artists alive.

Which of your knowledge and personality traits have been most useful to you in your professional life?

My studies in the History of Art and the theoretical background that I had before I started the gallery, helped me to be able to make better choices of artists and exhibitions. To be able to judge whether an artist whom we present at the gallery is important; namely, whether what he or she shows mark his or her age and, potentially extend to the future.

What would you like to improve in your personality or work? What are your weaknesses and how have they influenced you?

Honestly, I don’t think that I would do anything different. Poros is a choice, an offspring of long thought and the fulfillment of a need. Apart from our obvious family origins, this island has a long tradition as an epicenter and space of creation. Artists, writers, intellectuals have left their print, reinforcing the distinctiveness of the site and the landscape. Poros means opening, passage; this is the quality that Citronne gallery strives to showcase and optimize.

I also consider our collaboration with the Archaeological Museum of Poros important, in the context of the International Museum Day. This year is the eighth summer that, in the context of this collaboration, works of modern artists are presented, which “converse” with the archaeological exhibits of the museum.

What piece of advice would you give to a young person who would like to do what you do?

To realize that a gallery is not just a business, it does not aim exclusively at financial profit. Of course, a prerequisite and main objective of a gallery is to be self-sufficient, namely to ensure at least an economic balance in its operations, but, at the same time, an Art venue exhibits a cultural proposition. It owes to play a complex, social, informative, intervening and, why not, pedagogic part.

What are your plans for the future, short-term and long-term ones?

Our venue changes daily. It opens and adjusts to the changes that are brought upon by time, developments, circumstances. The current health crisis and its impact on people’s movement has caused CITRONNE gallery, as well as other cultural venues, to face a new reality. At CITRONNE gallery, however, we opted to consider this crisis as a precipitation, if not even as an opportunity, to introduce the gallery to the new technologies, to participate in the new challenges, to make the best of the new possibilities.

In this decision, the preparation that we had already begun, a long time before the pandemic forced us, was very helpful. From the very start, we were conscious that, as important as the thoroughness and the aesthetic identity of an Art venue is, today, equally important is the way in which it is presented online, through its site and social media (Facebook/Instagram). Following closely similar activities abroad, we realized that younger generations are informed almost exclusively from the internet and that, very often, the beginning of a work’s purchase is its presentation at a valid e-platform.

With this experience, we researched, worked and organized in time the way in which we would extend and showcase the gallery in this space. We needed, of course, to select a platform, a space in which other important galleries also participated. We found Artsy, as the most valid platform, and decided that that would be the best option for us. So, CITRONNE gallery is presented there since the beginning of April already. We present archive material from our important exhibitions, the works of the artists whom we represent, as well as works from the gallery’s depot.

The gallery opens to a much wider space, overcoming the geographical limitations of its natural space in Athens or on Poros. It opens to an international public. Until recently, this opening was ensured through transporting and traveling outside of Greece -for example, to Paris, to the international OECD venue. Today, technology provides us with much larger possibilities, as well as much more serious challenges of course. In this new context, outside of what was the norm up until recently, the gallery is appreciated and measured principally as an organized field of visual arts promotion.

In this first challenge, the artistic weight of its artists on an international level is added. Greek artists, very important and often pioneers in my opinion, are as a general rule, almost unknown to the international public. That means that the spectators/visitors don’t have a predetermined, fully formed conception in their minds, as is the case with the works of known, international artists, who co-exist on the platform -for example, Georg Baselitz, Frank Stella, Andreas Gursky, Ai Weiwei, etc.

At CITRONNE gallery, we aim to turn this initial disadvantage into an advantage. We have a lot of appreciation for and trust in the artists whom we represent. Thus, we believe that the strength, the ideas, the aesthetics, the originality, the sources of inspiration of their work emit to the spectator-recipient a new dimension, powerful, fresh and independent. That is why we are of the opinion that Greek artists can compete with their foreign fellow artists on a global level. At CITRONNE gallery, we accept with a lot of enthusiasm the challenge of this international comparison.

What else would you like to add?

In our country, we need a diplomatic cultural policy with amplitude and imagination. Up to date, the prevalent perception limits the promoted Art, in all its aspects, to Antiquity, somewhat extending to the Byzantium as well. Modern artistic creation is almost entirely absent. Even the way in which we define Tourism is superficial, emphasizing exclusively on financial gain. There is no comprehensive, informed view of our modern cultural identity.

Tourism can and should be supported and disseminate our cultural products, namely promote the cultural physiognomy of our country. Such a strategy, apart from money, it yields status and influence. That is why in other countries, the state either promotes directly the modern artistic achievements or encourages and reinforces relevant private initiatives.

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18 June 2020
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