“We are the only European pavilion!” is what conservationist and exhibition curator Tímea Junghaus could proudly claim about her pavilion “Paradise Lost” installed inside the Palazzo Pisani during the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. Indeed, the pavilion presented works by Roma artists from the four corners of Europe, and from different nationalities. It was the first of its kind for this international event, above all in terms of visibility garnered for artists from this culture.
Although the Roma are the largest minority in Europe, between 11 and 12 million individuals strewn across all European countries, their art and culture remain for the most part completely unknown to the greater public, since their works are rarely exhibited in national museums. This absence of representation in the cultural sphere feeds prejudices about their community and inhibits rather than encourages Roma artists from presenting their artistic practices.
So this visibility and value given to the oft-deformed image of this culture was long overdue.
After four years in the making it is done, and Roma art finally has a permanent space: The European Roma Institute for Art and Culture (ERIAC) opened its doors in June 2017. The institute hosts various artists and researchers, and is the fruit of a synergy between the European Council, the Open Society Foundation and the German government. Located in Berlin, a pivotal and symbolic city where East meets West, ERIAC seeks to “preserve, rebuild and develop Roma identity and self-esteem” by themselves, and for everyone.
During the inaugural exhibition Transgressing the Past, Shaping the Future, the public could discover works by Gabi Jimenez, Emilia Rivoga, Sead Kazanxhiu or Daniel Baker, under the leadership of ERIAC’s director, who is none other than Tímea Junghaus.
Translation by Maya Dalinsky