Olga Dvořáková: Making a market for modern
Written by: Monika Mudranincová
Photo by: Vojtěch Vlk
Olga Dvořáková (34), the owner and curator of Gallery
Art Factory, has made her mark in the art business, where fierce
competition and the unrelenting dictate of money rule. Read how she
For the third year you are organizing the Sculpture Grande project,
an exhibition of large-sized sculptures on Wenceslas Square. You
have brought art to the people at a time when your colleagues are
complaining about a stagnating art market. How did you do it?
You're right, people don't visit galleries too much. But I don't
like sulking in a corner, so I've chosen an aggressive, assertive
approach. I think it's better to hold your head up with a smile
on the street and boldly go about your business. So my solution
was to use Prague's most dynamic boulevard, Wenceslas Square. Since
people weren't going to the gallery, I brought sculpture to them,
to the street.
Many people stopped to look at the sculptures. Some of them liked
them, while others said they were an eyesore in the historical
center. How do you handle criticism?
I understand that not everyone likes it. Normal people who don't
go to galleries don't expect to see sculptures on the streets,
but it's great to see the reactions, since every day hundreds of
thousands of people pass through Wenceslas Square. Contemporary
art is provocative and it gives people a chance to form opinions.
And if criticism comes from someone I respect, it helps me engage
in some crucial self-reflection.
What was your greatest mistake, and what did you learn from it?
There have been so many! I wish there had been only one and I had
learned a lot from it. For example, when I was a newcomer to
the art business, I thought that if the art was of high quality
it would sell. Now I know that the key to success is marketing,
which helps make people aware of an exhibition, defines a target
group, and puts forth an attractive presentation.
||graduated from the
Charles University School of Philosophy
at the Dorotheum Praha auction house, first responsible
for auctions and then became the auctioneer
||interned at the Philips
auction house in Sydney, which focuses on contemporary
with Zora Carrier founded Gallery Art Factory (GAF),
which presents contemporary art and sometimes controversial
projects such as the Streetart-Fanty exhibition and
the Pal Fiction Videoart Festival
||from 21 June to
30 Sept., GAF and Dvořáková organize the 3rd annual
Sculpture Grande project, an exhibition of large sculptural
installations and performances on Wenceslas Square
How did you, with your humanities education, acquire your managerial
On the job. I discovered that the art business is a lot different
from other types of business. You can't just show some sexy advertising
on TV and expect customers to come swarming. A gallery operator
has to come to terms with not selling too much as she's creating
the firm's trademark. We use exhibitions like Sculpture Grande
or controversial projects like "Tento měsíc menstruují" (I'm
Menstruating This Month). Making people aware of a brand can take
five years, as people gradually come to see you as trendy.
You are gallery curator and owner in one. Does this bring you
As the gallery's owner I currently have 50 projects from different
curators on my desk - they're just waiting and hoping the gallery
will have enough money for their ideas. Because I'm also the curator,
I try to undertake projects that I am certain can be realized.
I don't like waiting for things - time goes too quickly.
How big is your team?
The permanent team is very small. I have a business partner who
lives in Chicago and an office manager in the Prague gallery.
We work with external media colleagues and about 20 external
Can you recall your time of greatest stress?
Huge projects like Sculpture Grande, where the Lord Mayor and other
VIPs are present, bring many times the stress. This year nine
huge sculptures were specially made for this occasion - for example,
fifty-ton concrete pillars that were poured at the last minute.
The opening was on Tuesday and on Sunday I learned that the concrete
wasn't drying properly. The stress was terrible, and on top of
that I have a new-born baby, so I solved the problem from the
birthing hospital over my mobile phone.
You have three children, the youngest only a few weeks old. How
do you set your priorities with respect to work, obligations, and
Intuitively. Sometimes work comes first and my family must accept
that I have to go to set up sculptures on Wenceslas Square at night
or attend an opening. Sometimes I spend more time with my family.
Also, I think setting a good personal example is the best way to
bring up children.
Have you found yourself in crises in your profession that made
you want to just scrap it all?
It was very traumatic when my gallery partner followed her husband
to the US. It was difficult for me, because the person I worked
with every day left. On the other hand, now we have attractive
possibilities ahead of us - she lives in Chicago, where we're setting
up a Gallery Art Factory branch - we're trying to spread Czech
contemporary art to the US. If we succeed, we'll feel that we've
met a great professional challenge.
What traits do you most appreciate in business?
Loyalty. Also, the art of arguing, and experience, as they move
you ahead. I also appreciate humility and perspective.
What's the most interesting part of being a gallery owner?
I work with the youngest, the most contemporary art, which passes
on all the emotions you can think of. This art is often incomprehensible,
but it teaches us tolerance for everything we might not understand,
but which someone has put a lot of work into.