Manuela Plapcianu – Remarcable things arise without planning, without too much noise, without spotlights

An art collectioner since 1985, CEO of Artmark since 2009 and stockholder at Artmark Auction House, with over 15 years in management positions and with a passion for aesthetics, Manuela Plapcianu is a „leader on heels”. My conversation with her took me, it seemed to me, in a time travel, in a dreamlike scenery decorated in a Victorian style, where the tea is served in silver teacup and in the air Verdi`s „Aida” is heard.

Trainart: Six years ago you have chosen another path in your career. What were the most difficult obstacles you overcame, going from banking to art industry?

M.P: In that time, there were many joint properties in art market, a lot of innocence, many empty places, and a lot of envy. I was quite alone with my need for rigor, for transparency, for predictability… And now art market looks differently, it has become democratized and professionalized, it benefits of all instruments of a functional market: art market index, indicators, art investments trust, platforms for accessibilization and information…Also related to the impact of beginnings, probably from the very vocal orders of magnitude in art market, but infinitely lower that those I was accustomed to in the banking system. All others obstacles are related to entrepreneurship and pioneering in a less articulated industry before 2009. That entrepreneurship that keeps you awake 25 hours from 24, and the pioneering which lures you to make all possible mistakes!

Trainart: The official sources ( Mediafax) announced that you are planning to retire from two positions: CEO and president of Artmark so as to develop an educational project in social entrepreneurship. What are your targeted objectives?

M.P: In a way, it seems to me, that my “executive” mission in art market has been accomplished. Seven companies in six years, 80% of public transactions market, professionalizing and democratizing the market…I think now I am more needed elsewhere. And no, this is not a project, because a project has a beginning and an ending, but education…It is about a complementary educational program to the formal education which offers to children who are 5-14 years old a better chance to a social integration, adaptation abilities and reflections to a technological world. Program runs over a period of approximately 5 years and it addresses to a number of 400.000 children from poor families, especially from rural areas.

Trainart: After  being in important positions during your career, what do you consider to be the “recipe for success”?

M.P.: No, I absolutely don`t believe in recipes for success. First of all the external realities or internal realities are so particular in their rigid complexity and dynamics, that we absolutely can`t talk about recipes. We can talk about case studies, we can talk about our mistakes, and we can talk about how to keep going on smiling symmetrically during asymmetrical times. Every time is different. The entrepreneurship is about doing, less about illusions or reflection.

Almost all of 95% of entrepreneurs whose business withstands less than an year ( according to the last statistics) are wise, tenacious, inspiring, adaptive, restless, with tireless business instincts, with generous values and strategies, with executive knowledge, responsible, brave, with a special nose for human nature, clients, markets, with personal projects perfectly overlapped with professional ones… We discover at every entrepreneur the exuberance of adaptability, the pioneering torment, the scantiness, the coherence between realities from their minds, the reality of their own business, the reality of the market, the reality of times, they choose clearly between the concourse of immediate opportunities and the pride of long term maps…Not to mention all side emotions. And yet…every entrepreneur with his own dark circles around their eyes! Remarkable things arise without premeditation, without too much noise, without spotlights. They are a coincidence, if they are!

You don`t wake up in the morning and you say to yourself, today I want to be a hero or today I want to fall in love or today I want to start a successful business…you can`t plan these things, the planets must align too, many things are necessary. And this remarkable “it”, the cause of this too shabby success, whatever it might be, it is not about what or how you do with your own life, but probably, about how we influence the others’ lives, the footprints we leave behind, that seed of prolific inspiration.

Trainart: Comparing with other East-European markets, how you visualize the present Romanian art market?

M.P.: Art market is somehow a measure of a country’s breathability level, it’s the normality, in the end. The concern for aestethics, the need for cultural identity is a natural thing in a steady society.

The good news is that we are an emergent market which benefits of an European frame regarding instruments to professionalize it and become more accessible, that in 5 years Romanian art market has gone up six times, that in the last three years the audience of galleries, museums or auction houses has almost dubled. The less good news is that we are far from our neighbourhood markets (Hungary or Poland) at marketed volume or at records of famous/prestigious authors, that in the last 18 months the market has entered in a sort of depression of marketed volumes, certainly because of the large number of transactions and it seems that, since February, signs of revival are revealed.

On the other hand, especially in the last years we assisted to an effervescence of ideas, projects and cultural platforms. Cultural institutions, galleries, alternative places for visual arts are much more interconnected than ever with important European institutions. Romanian contemporary artists are much more noticeable in exhibitions and prestigious museums, they attract attention by the number of world record transactions, they are loudly awarded, such as Mircea Cantor, Robert Muntean, Iulia Sorina Nistor, Dumitru Gorzo, Dan Gorzo, Dan & Lia Perjovschi, Daniel Nicolae Djamo, Valeriu Mladin, Silvia Traistaru, Alina Ondin Slimovschi, Nicolae Mircea, Victor Man, Ion Grigorescu, Geta Bratescu, Adrian Ghenie and many, many others.

Trainart: You collect art since 1985, is it an object you always wished to add to your collection?

M.P.: I am not a portofolio collection hobbist, I don`t always react at cold, lucidly and under the preciosity of patience, instead I attach to a certain piece of work spontaneously and visceral…And yes, there is always a new piece of work that world can’t exist whithout! Luckily every time it is another one and these worlds kaleidoscopically reincorporate themselves, every time. Very often, the epilogue and the prologue cover one another… Take Tracy Emin for example. I wished an art work with her signature, but I didn`t follow her obsessively through all London auctions, it just happened to simply meet her and to focus on one of her work… Like any other illusion of possesion, everything start first in our head…

Trainart: What was the most spectacular auction Artmark House hosted?

M.P.: Imagine 2013 Winter Auction, imagine Romanian Atheneum, crowded, rustling with adrenalin. Imagine 134 lots were sold consecutively, records for Luchian, Tonitza, Darascu, an auction rate over 97%… Also spectacular were Impressionism and Jewelry Auction in Duplex Mamaia-Monaco or Duplex Romania-Moldavia or Collection Cars Auction. For us, all auctions were and will be spectacular. Invariably, at least until calling the last lot. The generous themes including, other than fine arts, auctions with old books, Enlightenment, the cabinet with curiosities, erotica, decorative art, comics, photography, Judaic, old watches, toys, Royal Romania, Golden Age, collection wines and many others. Each of these themes take you into another story, they reconfigure a different world. We are always afraid. Will the public appreciate this new theme? Bets are made until the last minute. As usual, someone wins, someone loses.

Trainart: Can you make a “radiography” of trends and inclinations of Romanian people in arts?

M.P.: No, I cannot do that, for simply that every collector relates differently to the object of his passion. As many collectors, so as many habits, as many passions, as many contradictions, as many loves, as many deconstructions of beauty, as many tireless searching, as many addictions… It is such a private relation with all these natural accents of uniqueness, with inevitable axiological frenzies, that any collective radiography would put pressure and would limit the nature and the essence of collection hobbies.

Trainart: Tell us a story, shortly, about a situation when you felt empowered/resourceful/spectacular.

M.P.: I am about to give you a wrong answer, an arrogant one…assuming reactions of psyhologists, the truth is that, somehow, I feel like that almost all the time. Otherwise I couldn`t have had such an easygoing relation with boundaries.

Trainart: It is said that for a woman with a successful career, it is no balance between proffessional and private life. What do you think about this?

M.P.: The balance itself fails in static, I mean full closed nature, and the relation between private and professional, so splitted, falls into schizoid personality. You can`t be restless and insomniac in professional career and mime faint and yawn continously in the private life. We are not more people into one…So as we can`t be in love from 3 pm to 4 pm, likewise we can`t be concerned with a certain project only on fixed hours… There are priorities, a possible dynamic of well-tempered priorities, an well controlled not-to-do list, a fortunately combination of personal project with the professional one…


Trainart: What advice can you offer to young collectors?

M.P.: A collection is much more than anything, a personal exercise, subjective, emotional, a metafairy…So advice don`t work here. Like any other domain, the knowledge, searching, curiosity, drainless energy for research and information can make the difference. The art collection hobby is not neccesarilly about art investment (no matter how tempting that would might be, especially in emergent markets), also it is not only about profilling, status or trendiness. The native course of collection hobby, its own primary meaning is related, first of all, to the need of aestethics, of cultural identity, of personal taste. A safe guidance through collection hobby labirinth needs a good dosage between endless passion and lucidity of correct information.

Trainart: What are those small pleasures of life or maybe habits that you can`t give up?

M.P.: I like to believe that I don`t have habits or that I can easily drop them out. And maybe I could even do that. But why? Wouldn`t it be sad to disappear the chocolate or blues or Bag&Olufsen or duck meals or Mezzo or my silver portvisit meticulously created 140 years ago in an Austrian atelier?

Trainart: If you would have the chance to have a conversation with 2 great artists of all times and all areas, who would that be and why?

M.P.: With all of them…obviously all. You won’t be able to stop me…with Paul Klee, Cy Twombly, Raymond Pettibon, Maurizio Cattelan…I don`t know if it is right to tell you about what I would talk with them, but what it may be storied about and looks good on interviews, probably with Klee, I couldn`t skip talking about the relation between music and art in visual arts, with Cy Twombly I wouldn`t stop to dispute about primitivism and imposture, with Remon Patibon about anticomics and punk rock, with Maurizio Cattelan about meteorites, vampires, punch line and art…

Trainart: If you would have to choose between multiple feminine personalities from Romania to appear on a Romanian banknote, who would you choose?

M.P.: Let assume it is an important banknote. Then, is my mother. Or any other mother, with many bags, patient, dark rings around the eyes, concerned, hard working, always forgiving, starting over and over and over again, any unknown mother. Or any teacher dedicated to her pupils, a teacher unknown…remebered only by her pupils or students. Maybe.

Or, on the other side, I wouldn`t exclude Miorita, assumed, looked in the eyes every time we buy a bio black bread (no otherwise) paid with that banknote.

And if you really want a name for collection of women with capital, then let it be Cecilia Cutescu Stork because is the first woman professor at a public university of arts from Europe, for her incomparable vital force and, not at least, because she was cooking the best kranz on her street…

Henry Ford says that most of people think of succes as in terms of receiving, in spite the fact that success is about giving. By her natural efervescence and positive attitude, Manuela Plapcianu succeeded in embodying the portret of a ERS individual – self motivated, innovator and memorable.

« Back to articles