In September 2015, Financial Times raised a question that still stands in my mind: a museum in every mall? The article referred to Shanghai, where thousands and thousands of tourists go and visit the shopping areas to admire art. Of course, attempts of using the shopping centre’s corridors as exhibition space and real time art happenings are common.

Until now, the local trials are quite timid, both in Bucharest and nationwide. But a new idea arose in Bucharest’s Baneasa Shopping City, in IT retailer Flanco flagship store: they exhibit Romanian contemporary artists, more precisely illustrators, which can be further bought online. Business Review talked with Antonela Ciucasu, marketing director at Flanco, about this urge to view contemporary art and invite people to actually buy it, while everything is at affordable prices.

What was the inspiration and motivation to open this gallery in your store from Baneasa Shopping City?

The inspiration actually came from one of our colleagues in the product management department, who asked us if we could organize a series of art exhibitions in our flagship store situated in Băneasa. This initiative happily coincided with our initial plans about that particular shop. Ever since its opening, we have created there a home-like space where kids can have fun while their parents shop around. It is a space that has, in time, hosted many public events, including most of our seminars that were part of ”Scoala Flanco”. So, the starting point was already there – we knew we wanted to give a richer context to the products we are selling, to place them in a more attractive and more personal environment. We created the new project, Poarta care art / Gateway to art, in just one day – from concept, to partners, to budget, communication, everything.

How do you select the artists and how do you choose the work you exhibit?

We found a very good partner in Colorhood, which operates like an online fine art gallery. They have many young artists they curate, whose works they sell in print format. The selection of artists was very much in line with the taste of our clients and with the overall feeling we wanted to create in our shops. More so, the fact that Colorhood has a very simple ordering mechanism and offers young art at very reasonable prices was very important for us. Anyone who sees a print he or she likes in our shop can scan its QR code and order it in just a few steps from their online gallery. We wanted to encourage people to get closer to modern Romanian artwork, to get them to see that art can be both affordable and accessible and contributes a lot to turning a house into a home.

Is your store an unconventional space for presenting contemporary Romanian art or it should be considered a normal approach for your business, taking into consideration the interior design trends?

I think this should become a normal approach for our business – at the end of the day, our home appliances and equipments go into homes.

Do you think that this type of temporary artistic occupation of your commercial space is  relevant to Bucharest today, when the city is transforming at such a rapid pace? 

The Baneasa project is our pilot project. If we see the people respond well to this approach, we will consider expanding it to other cities where we know the interest for art is growing.

Why is temporary public art important? What is its lasting value?

People like to be surprised and find beautiful things in unexpected, yet somehow logical places. They have very little time and this may mean sometimes that an art exhibition does not make it to their agenda. We are trying to bring the art exhibitions in their paths, help them make more of their time. This is why I think it is important. Furthermore, we also see this project as an educational tool.

Do you like that art is becoming more interdisciplinary?

Art cannot and should not be separated from people’s lives – it should be not only interdisciplinary, but it should pop up in as many places as possible to teach us once again to appreciate the beauty of the world we live in.

Your project is currently bound to your store from Baneasa Shopping City. Do you plan to spread the campaign to other stores as well? Do you perhaps plan to initiate similar practices outside Bucharest in the future?

Yes, this depends very much on the results generated by the Baneasa pilot project, but if everything turns out well, we could expand the project.

Editor’s note: Until now, illustrators Vali Petidrean, Cristina Barsony and Madalina Andronic were exhibited in the retailer’s store. Each month, a new artist is presented.

Photos courtesy of Flanco