An Interview with сurator19.90

Recently, The Hippo Collective announced a dual mission.  As a publication, the magazine seeks to provide a platform for talented, eloquent and driven writers so that they may express and propose their opinions, views and ideas.  In turn, The Hippo Collective seeks to promote young, exciting and innovative artists who are attempting to enter the art world.  As a continuation of this process, I spoke with curator19.90.  Curator19.90 is a ‘project that connects artists and curators, develops new stars and organizes shows.’  The company has organized shows all over the world culminating in their upcoming project ‘Urban Dawn’ in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  ‘Urban Dawn’ will be curated by the renowned Rasmus Fischer and will be the largest urban art show in the region.  With a stellar line-up, featuring names such as Richie Culver, ECB and El Mac, the month long show will be an impressive achievement for curator19.90.  I recently spoke with curator19.90’s CEO Victoria Latysheva for The Hippo Collective.  Enjoy!

The Hippo Collective:  Thank you Victoria for taking the time to speak with me about curator19.90.  Tell us a little bit about yourself and about curator19.90?  What is the organization’s purpose?

Curator19.90: I used to work for Phillips [Auction House] and several galleries in Europe and Moscow but I have a great love for street art.  It’s my passion!  I find it quite boring when people consider street art as a lower form of art.  That’s simply not true.  The artwork and designer products that you see in galleries, auction houses and fashion maisons, all come from the street.  Not vice versa. 

Established artists do not set these fashion trends.  It’s individuals who really understand artistic progress and aesthetics.  You can only grasp this reality on the street- you can’t find it sitting in a private jet or working with higher society clients.  Customers enjoy street and urban culture and understand it better than ‘snobbish’, expensive pieces of art.  And expensive is not always good.

That said, curator19.90 is not solely focused on street art.  We work with other artists and mediums.  The main rule is that we don’t work with people whose art we don’t agree with.  The whole purpose of curator19.90 is to connect artists, curators and investors.  For example, anyone can send us a portfolio with a list of his or her work and past projects.  If we think that it’s pure and natural, we will start working with that artist.  We also adopt the same guidelines with curators.  We work with established as well as young and emerging curators.

In terms of investors, we can act as we like.  We can work with people who have galleries in Abu Dhabi, New York or China.  The important issue is that when our team visits a potential location, they already understand what art is appropriate for the space.  It’s also about PR.  We make a building or a space suitable for art. 

We work both with established and emerging artists.  We try to cause the older and newer groups to collaborate.  In the art business, this would normally be considered madness!  From our point of view, it’s funny. It’s hyper realistic and ironic for an emerging artist to see his or her works shown with established artists’ pieces.  We find this hilarious because after the show, the young artists see their prices increase greatly.

THC:  From where does the name come?

TC:  We wanted to make a name that incorporates everything.  A curator is like a connection.  We chose 19. 90 because this was the when a new generation was born.  In our opinion, the 90s generation rocks!  If you meet someone who was born before 1990, he or she is completely different from someone born after.  Of course, this is because the 90s generation grew up with the internet and new technology.

THC:  How many artists does the curator currently represent? 

TC:  We represent more than 20 artists, although we haven’t listed all of them on the website.  We add new artists after we include them in a show. 

THC:  I saw that curator19.90 holds many events at Porta 9 in Moscow.  Could you explain the relationship you have with Porta 9?

TC:  We have a strong relationship with Porta 9.  Our shows there feature young artists who are already famous in the street art world.  The shows last three weeks and the artist cuts prices to match the merchandise cost at Porta 9.  Porta 9 is a shoe concept store and has been covered by many magazines.  They’re considered the most fashionable footwear concept store in Europe.  The artist cuts their prices so anyone who can afford the shoes can also afford the art. 

THC:  Speaking of exhibitions, what do you find makes a show successful in terms of displaying and selling art?  How do you attract an audience?

TC:  What makes a show interesting?  That’s a tough question.  It depends on the country in which you are showing.  I know that if I’m showing in a country such as Russia, the customers would like to see a famous and affordable Russian artist.  Street art sales also depend on a country’s economic situation.  On the other hand, in New York, customers always want to see something new.  New York is challenging since anything is possible and it’s all been done before.  It all depends on the country in which you show. 

THC:  Is Moscow an accommodating city in which to run an art curatorial service?

TC:  While we are an international service and not actually based in Moscow, I love the Muscovite audience that you can attract with shows.  It’s a well-developed city in terms of culture and one of the best in the world. In Moscow, you can see anything.  It’s a very contemporary place.  You can see anything and meet anybody. 

I think that modern day Moscow is the New York of the 70s or Paris of the 20s.  It’s a change that has started thanks to projects such ours with Porta 9.  People are curious, they want something new and want to be ‘insiders’ in the art world.  Again, this generation is growing up.  The generations before are stuck in their prejudices and a USSR mindset.  Everything new that you see in Moscow is made by the 90s generation.  All the design stores, restaurants, cafes and even barbers shops are made by 90s kids.  It’s why it’s so attractive.

THC:  Let us talk about the ‘Urban Dawn’ show that will take place this coming September.  Why Almaty?

TC:  Well, ‘Urban Dawn’ will be the largest art show in central Asia and Kazakhstan in history.  It will feature 800 square meters of gallery space.  We are going to show El Mac and James Reka.  It’s a very ambitious project and I’m very pleased to be working with our Kazakh partner Timur Tuleu. 

Why Almaty?  ‘Urban Dawn’ roughly translates to ‘city sunrise’ in English from Kazakh or Russian.  Kazakhstan is a country that is experiencing a social, cultural and political ‘sunrise’.  The public there has not been exposed to urban artwork yet.  There are some famous street artists and groups that are based in Kazakhstan.  For example, Repas is famous both in Kazakhstan and Europe.  However, the audience has never seen the stars of street art.  I personally think that the Kazakhs will understand street art since it’s very close to their mentality.

Anton Savitsky

By Anton Savitsky; featured in their upcoming project ‘Urban Dawn’ in Almaty, Kazakhstan

THC:  So you mentioned a few of the artists that will be exhibiting.  Who else will be present?

TC:  The big stars are ECB, STRØK, Morten Andersen, James Reka, El Mac, Repas, Misha Most (an artist who created the first Russian graffiti team), Nootk and others.  There are about twenty artists all together!  We will also feature some very talented young artists.

THC:  I saw that Rasmus Fischer is curating the show.  What can people expect from him?

TC:  Rasmus Fischer is a very well-known and established curator based at the Galerie Wolfsen in Denmark.  He lives in Scandinavia and has worked extensively with contemporary art in general for a long time.  He is very passionate about street art and knows how best to show it. 

THC:  How exciting!  What will Morten Andersen be exhibiting?

TC:  Morten is actually appearing as a guest of the city.  He will be painting a wall at the city zoo; it will be a gift for the people and the government of Almaty.

THC:  Cool!  I read that curator19.90 is running the entire show.  Is this curator19.90`s first time taking on such an expansive role?

TC:  For curator19.90, as a company, it will be the first such show.  However, all the team members are quite experienced in their various roles.  Each team member has worked on other shows individually in specific capacities.  This is the first time we will all come together to set up and run a gallery show. 

The team is not only composed of art specialists but also features very talented video production specialists.  You probably saw their videos on the website.  We have web, graphic and fashion designers and DJs as well.  It’s a large collaboration between lots of talented people who are very competent in their respective areas of expertise. 

THC:  Speaking of DJs, will you be featuring any music during the show?

TC:  We will work with DJs because their music acts as an auditory background during the show.  People really want an immersive and complete experience when they visit a show.  They also want good drinks, which is why we collaborated with Jack Daniels during our previous exhibit.

The audience expects everything to be in one place.  The reason we work with DJs is that people aren’t there just for the physical artwork, they want to hear high quality music.  For example, Maiden OBEY will perform during the ‘Urban Dawn’ show.  Maiden OBEY are quite well known in Europe and performed in London this year.  The group is composed of two very creative and insane (in a good way) girls.  During each of their performances, they don special costumes that they themselves make.  They will prepare some costumes for ‘Urban Dawn’ too.  It’s definitely be something to look out for! 

THC:  The curator19.90’s aim is therefore about delivering a complete experience and ensuring that the environment is stimulating and appealing.  Will entry be free for the exhibit?

TC:  Yes, entry is free.  People do not have to buy tickets for the show.  It’s not a museum!

THC:  You said that curator19.90 also wants to help young artists and provide space for them.  How would you advise young artists to start a successful career in the art world?

TC:  Well, it depends on what you want to be.  Will you be an artist, a curator or a gallery owner?  It will depend on your personality. 

For artists, it’s all about talent and you have to be born with that.  So, either you are an artist or you aren’t.  There so many ‘artists’ that just have good PR managers.  We all know whom I’m talking about.  Sometimes, you can achieve success in terms of profit and benefits by selling your idea.  However, it might not be so successful with people who truly understand and feel art.  So, it’s all about who you would like to attract as an audience and which people you would like to collaborate with. 

The advice I can offer to other young people is to practice a lot of psychoanalysis.  Psychoanalysis is the only way to understand who you are.  It is very hard to ‘read’ yourself.  A lot of books tell you that you need to listen to your heart.  How does one accomplish that?

The second piece of advice would be to work hard, no matter what you do.  Thirdly, study constantly.  I don’t just mean in terms of further education.  As Osho said: ‘I never had a teacher but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t a student.’  If you want to be successful, non-stop hard work on yourself, your projects and your studies [is essential].

THC:  Does the curator19.90 operate in the UK?  Do you represent any outstanding UK artists?

TC:  We have partners and artists in the UK.  Richie Culver is one of the most exciting.  He will also be showing his work at ‘Urban Dawn’.  In recent years Londoners called Richie ‘the king of hipsters’ and he completed an amazing collaboration with Topman.  We work with some advisory groups in London as well and we would like to expand over there.  Obviously, our specialists always visit Frieze, Art15 and other shows.


THC:  Any last remarks that would like to make?

TC:  If you have any interesting art projects, send them to us!  We are open to working with anyone as long as the artwork is interesting and presentable.

THC:  Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me about curator19.90.  Have a good day.

TC:  Thank you.  Likewise!

The Hippo Collective would like to thank the curator19.90 for taking the time to speak with us.  Please visit their website and their Facebook page.  If you are a young artist looking for exposure, send the curator an email with your portfolio.  You never know!  If you are in the region, stop by their ‘Urban Dawn’ show in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  ‘Urban Dawn’ will run from 25 September until 25 October 2015.  Below is a list of the attending artists.  Keep your eyes peeled for new curator19.90 events in your area.  Thank you for reading!

By Misha Igoshin

By Misha Igoshin

Artists exhibiting at the ‘Urban Dawn’ show:




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