Art Gallery Owners

OLESYA AND JERRY KOENIG

 

Saint Basil's 09 Jerry and Olesya Koenig are the owners of the From Russia with Art Gallery, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Koenigs are part of the intellectual atmosphere of Boston and the very special area of Harvard University. They see their mission in building knowledge of contemporary Russian – American art. Their gallery also served as the base for various Russian cultural events.

The From Russia with Art Gallery is a member of the Cambridge Arts Council. It participated in the Cambridge Open Studios in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The Koenigs work with several non-profit charity organizations such as Palliative Care Initiative and Help Journal. They also have participated in exhibitions at Children’s Hospital, Boston in the “Art For Kool Kids” Exhibition and at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston in the Illuminations Exhibitions. They are also active members of the Russian American Cultural Center of Boston At Russia Wharf. They organize and participate in numerous exhibitions throughout the Boston, Cape Cod and New England area.

 

  • How long have you been working in the art gallery business and how did it start?

We started as collectors in the mid 1990’s while Jerry worked in Russia.  We became friends with Alexander Vetrov “Honored Artist of Russia” and from there we met othet artists and started collecting their art, mostly etchings and oil on canvas paintings.  Jerry worked in Russia for 17 years since April 1991 and except for a 2 year hiatus in Cologne, Germany worked in Russia until January 2010.  We then moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and started preparations to start up an art gallery. We originally only sold art work brought from Russia but then we met a number of Russian and Ukrainian artists, who had moved to America and we started exhibiting and selling their artwork too!

 

  •  Do you have any particular preferences in terms of art and painting styles and genres? Who are your favorite artists both classic and modern?

 

As long time art collectors, we personally prefer artists that represent Moscow and St. Petersburg Art Schools ( Surikov Art institute in Moscow and St. Petersburg Acedemy of Fine Arts). Our favorite artistic styles are contemporary realism, impressionism and post- impressionism. We exhibit People’s and Honored Artists of Russia Staniaslav Nikireyev, Alexander Vetrov and Irina Makoveeva ( from Moscow), as well as renowned Russian -American painters Anatoly Dverin, Alexander Korman, Misha Lenn and Tatiana Yanovskaya-Sink and Russian avant-guarde artist Ekaterina Khromin (originally from St. Petersburg). Our preference is simple – we love beautiful Russian art and want our wide American audience to know it and love it too!

 

  • How do you select art works for your exhibitions? Do you prefer to work with those artists whom you have already gotten to know or are you open to cooperation with new ones?

 

This is a very good question because some artists are difficult to work with while others are very easy and cooperative.  The key criteria is: does their artwork sell or not?  If it sells, we can overlook differences of opinions.  We continue to represent our original artists still living in Russia, who are all easy to work with and plan to continue with them indefitiitely into the future.  We also are always open to meeting and talking with some potentially new artists, however we both need to agree on their potential in order to go forward with them and represent them.

 

  • From your perspective what is the most difficult aspect of working on exhibitions and organizing other cultural events?

Since we are now what is referred to as a “pop up gallery,”we need to find venues, which will compliment our schedule.  We don’t want any significant down time when we have no exhibitions, nor do we want to have 2 or more exhibitions happening at the same time.  An example would be; we had an exhibition at a Temple in Boston which lasted about one month.  The day after we took this exhibition down, we set up another different one at drama theater just outside of Boston and when this exhibition ends, we will have 2 days to set up for the 16th Annual Boston Fine Art Show, which is the premier art show in Boston every year. We are also in the preminary stages of organizing our second “From Russia With Art & Culture” show in a Boston suburb in early May.  We also are working on doing an exhibition in Albany, New York from mid January till the beginning of March in conjunction with their Russian Winter Festival.

 

  • What is the most ambitious project you would like to undertake in the next twelve months?

This would be our Second Annual From Russia With Art & Culture festival in May. For our first festival, we had the Mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, open it and we had 12 different artists participating in the event.  In addition, we arranged for different concerts, one even with a pianist and soprano, Russian folk singers studying at Berklee Institure of Music, a fashion show, with Russian American models wearing clothing made by a Russian American designer. We had talks by Russian American Authors and film makers. We even made arrangements for Russian restaurants and food markets to donate food and drinks to the event, which was quite successful because about 500+ people attend it, many of whom had no connection to Russia and just wanted to learn about Russian culture and sample its cuisine.

 

  • Do you attract primarily Russian-Americans or do you serve a more diverse cultural and ethnic community?

Being based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is home to Harvard University and MIT, two of the top ten universities in the world, we attract a very diverse and educated group of people to our events.  We have a number of professors, not only from Harvard and MIT, but also from other leading universities such as Tufts University, Boston University and Boston College attending.  We estimate about 25%  of our customers are from Russia or Ukraine and 75% are Americans, Europeans, Asians, who represent the diverse international community of Cambridge, MA.

 

 

  • What do you think about the potential for extending cross-cultural cooperation in the areas of art and design?

One of our principal objectives is to introduce Russian culture to Americans by displaying art by Russian educated and trained artists, whether they now live in America or still live in Russia.  In organizing the From Russia With Art & Culture exhibitions, we expose people to not only Russian art but to its music, fashions, books, films and food to many non-Russians, some for the first time. So we are accomplishing this and we hope to do more going forward.

 

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www.fromrussiawithart.org