I haven’t been to Miza Gallery, but I thought I would write about it, because, from what I know of it, it seems worth writing about. In a city with not too many contemporary art galleries dealing with art that is outside the traditional (meaning painting and sculpture), it certainly deserves to be recognized. Although I haven’t been in the gallery, I have walked by it. It is easy to find even without an address – I Google-mapped it – right in the city center, just on the edge of Blloku, a chic and happening area that was once prohibited to the general public, as it was where all of the members of the Albanian politburo lived during the communist era.
Miza Gallery is run by Olson Lamaj and Ëndri Dani, both of whom I’ve written about here as artists. I told the story of their gallery in my post Inspiring Albania: the gallery is enInspiring Albania: the gallery is entirely self-funded and run by Olson and Ëndri in their spare time, and features Albanian artists who had studied or lived in Italy. There is no shortage of such artists. When preparing to come to Albania I was surprised (well, not really) at how many artists that I wanted to speak to lived elsewhere. Two performance artists I wanted to interview now live in Berlin, one lives in Milan, another in New York. In fact, many people tell me they can’t think of one person who does not have a family member abroad. The concierge at my hotel had lived in Cleveland, the busboy had spent time in Australia, one taxi driver I met had spent a few years in Milan, another had a brother living in London – the list goes on. That is why the Miza Gallery seems so poignant to me. It recognizes those artists who have gone abroad to study – for whatever reason (better opportunities, the chance to study in Italy, the desire to live elsewhere) – and brings them back to Albania.
The situation for contemporary artists in Albania is, as I have written elsewhere, challenging. But one thing that I think makes good art is diversity – a range of influences – which artists who go abroad and return, even if just for a short time, bring with them. So Miza Gallery should be applauded not only for providing a platform for experimental contemporary art in Albania and bringing some of its very valued artists back to Tirana, even if just for an exhibit, but also for celebrating the diversity of its art scene.
*Miza means “fly” in Albanian. I forgot to ask why they called it “fly,” and I can’t help but wonder if it refers to the artists who fly away to Italy…and back!