On Life, Art and Politics with Barbara Polla

Barbara Polla is an amazing personality: gallerist, curator, medical doctor, politician and the mother of four daughters. We had a great conversation with Polla about her multidisciplinary career, her Analix Forever project and her world view.

How and why did you decide to become an art professional after such a glorious medical/research career?

I like to explore as many fields as possible and art is a fascinating one, covering all the others, and a fascinating tool for thought, understanding, and possibly improving the world…
Can you tell us how Analix Forever came into being? How would you describe its mission and vision?

Analix Forever came into being by passion for art. Its mission has definitively been, in the first ten years, to discover and promote young talents. With some great success: Analix Forever did the first shows outside of their own country for artists such as Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin, Maurizio Cattelan, Mat Collishaw, Martin Creed, and has been an open platform for many Italian artists. By today, Analix Forever has been showing the works of more than 700 artists. It is now working intensely with a dozen of artists, still discovering talents but also working with established artists, curating exhibitions for them, writing about them, thinking with them. One of the missions of Analix is to create interactions: between the artists themselves and between artists and curators, art historians, philosophers, writers, institutions…

What strategies do you recommend to emerging artists in their search for effective gallery representation?
They should work and create and do what they are up to. They should not invest too much energy in finding a gallery.
Effective gallery representation will follow the quality and perseverance of the work.
Your experience at the Contemporary Istanbul art fair? Are there any galleries or artists in the Turkish art scene that are particularly interesting for you?
I am very interested in Turkey overall. It is a very important country, especially nowadays, at the frontiers between occident and orient, modernity and tradition, democracy and religion. I have been working for many years now with Ali Kazma and have learnt a lot about Turkish artists thanks to him. I am also close to Hüsamettin Koçan and the Baksı Museum. Furthermore, I have had the privilege to cooperate with the Büyükkuşoğlu family on their artist residencies, and lately they have concentrated on young Turkish artists, which provides me with an incredible insight into that scene. I have been showing last year at the Contemporary Istanbul art fair a special project about « Art & Imprisonment » – together again with the Büyükkuşoğlu family – and will come back this year with a completely different project – too early to tell. I am amazed that the fair is also a place for special projects; this is quite rare!
Are you an art collector yourself? If so, what are your priorities in making your acquisition decisions? In your opinion, what are the criteria for building a good art collection?
I am not a collector. Some people say you cannot be a good gallerist if you are not also a collector… but my joy is to see the work, to show it, to share… to accompany the collectors in their choices. Collectors who are essentially investors are not much following Analix Forever, rather collectors with whom I may share my passion for the artists and the artworks. I feel that the collectors in general know what they want, what they are looking for, what they love, and don’t need much advice from me. They rather expect that I show them great works: this is the best advice I can give…
You are a multi-talented, multi-tasking, multi-dimensional character simultaneously involved in art, politics and medicine. How do these disciplines that seem so unrelated at first sight come together to create synergy in your life? How do your medical background and political career affect your curatorial approach?
The reason why I have been able to do explore these different fields is that they are actually all linked. To simplify, medicine is about the human body, art about the human soul, and politics about the human live-together.
Considering your wide range of areas of interest, does time management ever become an issue for you? How do you cope, and so successfully, with so many roles at the same time?
Time management is an art by itself. I have actually at a time given seminars for time management. It is all about taking into account your true priorities. Knowing what is most important to you and make sure you book enough time in your agenda for it. And even if your priority is personal life, or love time, or children or sport or whatever, even if it is not work, BOOK IT IN YOUR AGENDA.
As a planet we are going through very difficult times: climate change, violence and terrorism, migration, economic crisis, etc. As a politician, what do you think the future holds? Where do you see the solution? What do you think about the future of global contemporary art? Which regions of the world do you expect to see taking over the dominant axis both in terms of art market volume and quality?

First, I am not sure these times are more difficult than others in the past. I think they are more obviously troubled times because we communicate so much more – which provides us with a better insight to humanity, but an insight we have not been prepared to assume. Second, in terms of the future, having no ability to predict it, I like Alan Kay’s parabole: «  The best way to predict the future is to construct it » . So let’s do our best, each of us with our own means. The artists by creating art, we by promoting it, collectors by buying it, and all of us by looking, thinking, loving. About the art market, I am not enough of an expert to foresee the dominant axis to come. Anyway, I feel the art market is just a very small part of the arts. It’s feeding art somehow, therefore it is important, but it should never – and will never – take over the arts themselves.

Cover Photo: Steeve luncker Gomez

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