Masha Sabsay sees her role as an enabler

Masha Sabsay sees her role as an enabler

Masha Sabsay

To Masha Sabsay working as a gallerist is more like being on a mission than running a business based on profit. We have had a chat with the woman behind the gallery Sabsay that, during Art Week, will be exhibiting and hosting talks with French-Danish ‘emergency artist’ Thierry Geoffroy.

When did you open your gallery and why?
I opened Sabsay in May 2016 with the ambition to create a space for showing high quality art by a mix of emerging international artists. Our inaugural exhibition was a group exhibition dedicated to the theme of female identity and included works by international contemporary artists such as Tracey Emin, Simone Leigh and Tao Hui among others. I think that exhibition really set the tone for the direction I wanted to go. It was a great example of how a unique constellation of works can enable a powerful message to emerge and stir strong reactions.

What kind of art/artists do you exhibit and why – please give examples.
From the start I have been intent to provide a space for young artists to unfold. Our artist Liu Wa is a good example of an artist with great potential, whose work in new media is really cutting-edge. We also represent more established artists, among which it is inevitable to mention Ursula Reuter Christiansen as she is experiencing incredible revival these days.

I see how all the artists we exhibit work to establish their own distinct voice on the global art scene. For instance our previous exhibition by Palestinian artist Hazem Harb was a great demonstration of how an artist can affect the way we think by bringing a deeper understanding of an aspect of the world to us through his work, which revolves around cultural identity and displacement. In my opinion this is a very special and important thing to do. His work has strongly affected me and reshaped my feelings and perception of the Middle East.

What is the best and the hardest about being a gallery owner?
The best is that you work with artists. You are exposed to their powerful influence and can enable them to spread it further. As a gallery owner I am an enabler and I love that role, it has more to do with mission rather than business based on profit.
The hardest is that it is a business in the end of the day. And I am reminded of having to increase our profits in order to be able to enjoy the best part of it.

Thierry Geoffroy, <em>TOO LATE</em>. Press Photo.
Thierry Geoffroy, TOO LATE. Press Photo.

How do you see the role of the gallery on the Danish art scene?
It is no different from the role of the gallery anywhere in the world – to continue enriching the art scene with artistic practices, exposing the artists to the collectors and creating support system for their art practice. In Denmark I think it is easier to be a young gallery than, let’s say, in New York. If you want to be original and show things, which are important rather than fashionable, then roll up your sleeves, you are in the right place. Denmark is more rigid in its tastes, but more loyal once you win over its trust.

The current scene is dynamic and we are witnessing diverse artistic practices and expressions, which the exhibitions at Sabsay reflect. Having been around now for 3 years, I see how we have gradually reached a wider audience. Our local and global presence is growing as we are building more relationships with international museums and collectors.

What is your gallery’s goals for the future?
We want to continue doing a good job for the artists that we took responsibility for. It is interesting to observe how they each develop in their own unique direction. I have mixed feelings about the art fairs, and yet with caution we try to take part in more and more. This year we will be making our first presence at ASIA Now in Paris with Liu Wa’s project as a curated feature of the fair. We will also take part in the upcoming Enter Art Fair in Copenhagen and Vienna Art Fair with works by Hazem Harb and Nikita Shalenny.

Can you reveal what people can experience if they pass by your gallery during Art Week May 23 to 25?
When Art Week opens, our exhibition TOO LATE by Danish-French artist Thierry Geoffroy will be on view. I keep wondering how an artist can influence and change our perception of the world the way he does. The exhibition reflects upon artists’ impact and capability of voicing the urgent social and political matters and emergencies in today’s society. Geoffroy is the master of ‘emergency art’ and we hope to be ultimately instrumental at channeling his unique talent to the audience during Art Week.

On May 24th we will hold a special event, Thierry Geoffroy in conversation with Erlend G. Høyersten, the director of ARoS museum and Mikkel Bogh, the director of SMK. Geoffroy’s popularity and appreciation by European audiences has grown significantly in the past few years, while Danish art professionals have been treating him with more caution, observing his vigorous activity with a filter of scepticism. I believe this is a turning point for Thierry Geoffroy’s practice that will find its way into the exhibitions and collections of Danish Art institutions.

Gallery Portraits – six questions for the galleries
As in previous years, Art Week is focusing on the Copenhagen gallery scene with gallery-walks and the event Gallery Day&Night on the 24th of May. At this event several of the galleries in Denmark's capital are opening their doors to exciting exhibitions. In this context we are asking six questions to five of the galleries in order to get know who they are, what they want to exhibit at Art Week and what they are doing for the Copenhagen art scene.

Read more about Gallery Day&Night


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'Masha Sabsay sees her role as an enabler'