Sariev Contemporary is a gallery just off Plovdiv’s main street, past the office of the Open Arts Foundation and the bohemian hangout, Artnewscafe. A 180-square-foot white box, it is easy to miss. But the gallery is the heartbeat of Plovdiv’s contemporary art scene, and over the last decade, its proprietors — Katrin Sarieva and her daughter, Vesselina, who also run the cafe and the foundation — have created an ecosystem that combines the arts, community organizing and historical preservation. More than one person I met credited them with bringing contemporary art to the fore, not just in Plovdiv, but in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe as a whole., Sebastian Modak, New York Times
SARIEV Contemporary is a nonconventional multi-generational gallery founded 2011 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. It is considered one of the essential places for discovering strong contemporary art positions and the most recognizable Bulgarian gallery internationally. The gallery's program and activities have always extended beyond its physical space, as evidenced by the large number of satellite exhibitions, projects, external initiatives and collaborations in SARIEV'shistory. Specializing in contemporary Bulgarian art, the gallery has a history of building private collections, advising corporate collections and cooperating with international museums and institutions.
SARIEV Contemporary is successor to the original gallery opened by Katrin Sarieva in 2004, Sariev Gallery, which was specialized in photography and ceramics. SARIEV Contemporary is launched in 2011 when Vesselina Sarieva joined as co-director of the gallery introducing a new model of operation as international institution for contemporary art including new exhibition program, represented list of artists and active international activities.
*SARIEV Contemporary was operating till September 2021 when Katrin Sarieva retired and Vesselina Sarieva founded new institution named Sarieva.
The main exhibition space of SARIEV Contemporary was in the center of the historical city of Plovdiv, next to the Ancient Odeon on Otets Paisiy Street - a street with its own rich history that allows a charming alternative to the corporate retailers on the main pedestrian walkway just one block away. SARIEV Contemporary gallery had its own café with a library – the artnewscafé, located next to the gallery. Along with the nearby offices of Katrin and Vesselina Sarieva's Open Arts Foundation and the open summer art stage FLUCA, it formed a whole block in the city, defined as cultural center without rooftop.
The main exhibition space of SARIEV Contemporary on 40, Otets Paisiy str. was small scaled and inspired by the white cube concept. It offered flexibility to artists and curators to transform the space according to their own concept and vision.
Between 2014 and 2015, the gallery launched the pop-up gallery Sariev Project Space in the Kapana art district of Plovdiv, where the exhibitions presenting young artists took place.
In 2017, Vesselina Sarieva started SARIEV Studio in Sofia, with the concept of establishing a space for collectors to discover artists and works in personal meetings. The studio space was situated in the former sculpture studio of the well-known Bulgarian artist, Dimitar Boykov (1927-2000) and is located near the historical Women's Market.
The gallery represented a broad view of different generations of artists and art movements. The gallery also had professional focus on rediscoveries and discoveries. SARIEV worked with professional artists who had international careers, and who belonged to a wider European artistic scene - well-established figures such as Nedko Solakov, Pravdoliub Ivanov, Stefan Nikolaev, Luchezar Boyadjiev, as well as younger artists Kamen Stoyanov, Rada Boukova and Valio Tchenkov. The gallery also supported the development of the next generation of artists such as Lubri, Voin de Voin, Vikenti Komitski and Martina Vacheva.
SARIEV's exhibition policy was aimed at presenting and producing solo shows by the artists from the gallery list, new collaborations and solo or group shows by international artists, all of them developed in cooperation with curators. The gallery had three exhibition programs that had become influential for the art scene over the years: Background: Young Artists, Re-discovery and Let Them Draw.
One of the objectives of SARIEV as Bulgarian gallery was the participation in international art fairs where the gallery brought and showcased new artists and collectors. SARIEV Contemporary was generally the sole Bulgarian gallery to participate in these pan-European fairs.
SARIEV had wide network of partnering galleries, foundations and institutions with whom it organized exhibitions and initiates projects.
The gallery had initiated and supported public sculpture projects in the city of Plovdiv. Project in this discipline were also launched in 2019 in Sofia.
PROJECTS / LAB
In 2011, when Katrin and Vesselina Sarievi started the concept of SARIEV Contemporary, Bulgarian contemporary art and its representatives, due to various reasons, still had poor public presence and understanding compared to traditional arts in the country, and the Bulgarian contemporary art scene in general had very poor visibility outside of its territories. Along the way with developing SARIEV Contemporary and the list of the gallery’s represented artists, Katrin and Vesselina Sarievi generously committed early on to a number of core initiatives to support and develop the whole contemporary art scene in Plovdiv and Sofia, and the presence and understanding of Bulgarian contemporary art internationally.
In the frame of their non-profit organization Open Arts Foundation (2007), they founded a special educational platform called Introduction to Contemporary Art. Some of the initiatives within the platform are: Introduction to Contemporary Art (since 2011) – a popular annual educational course that takes place in major museums and cultural centers in Sofia and Plovdiv, Collectors' Forum (since 2011), Working Visits for International Curators and Art Critics (since 2015), Focus Bulgaria at viennacontemporary (2015), the monthly art guide artnewscafe bulletin.
In 2018, in the frame of the Open Arts Foundation's educational platform was published the book Introduction to Bulgarian Contemporary Art (1982– 2015) by Vessela Nozharova that is considered the first comprehensive history of Bulgarian art from the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. It is based on a six years research process commissioned by the foundation and a cycle of educational lectures delivered in Plovdiv and Sofia by the author of the book.
Recent project was Open Art Files: Topics, People, Spaces, Files in Bulgarian Contemporary Art, which consists of a data base for contemporary Bulgarian art – www.openartfiles.bg, and a program of visits, presentations and exhibitions during 2019, when Plovdiv will be European Capital of Culture.
Throughout all its projects Open Arts Foundation team worked in cooperation with established art critics, curators, authors and institutions from Bulgaria and abroad.