Zeta Gallery is a modest and friendly gallery in the heart of Tirana, in Blloku, currently a very chic and popular district, filled with clubs and cafés, trendy shops and bars. This area was once completely closed off to the locals; it was where the party leaders lived during the communist era. Now it is the bustling and thriving heart of Tirana’s city center.
Zeta Gallery is run by Valentina, an artist herself, who opened the gallery because she wanted to provide a space for young Albanian artists to exhibit. Her gallery also functions as a museum and archive of contemporary Albanian art, because she keeps one or two works from each exhibition, and displays those works when there is no special exhibition on.
Valentina tells me that there is no real art market for contemporary art in Albania. A lot of the less “traditional” work (meaning anything other than realist painting) is sold to foreigners. There isn’t enough knowledge, yet, by the locals, of contemporary trends in art to create a market for more avant-garde work. In some ways this echoes the situation in other post-communist countries where, during the communist era, experimental art was bought and exported by foreigners, and now much of the contemporary art of these countries resides outside of its borders. The Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection, for example, is the largest collection of its kind (approximately 17,000 works), and it resides in the West, at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
While on the one hand it is good that there is a market for contemporary art at all, ideally there would also be a local market as well. In the absence of any contemporary art museum in Tirana at the moment, however, it is nice to know that there are places, such as the Zeta Gallery, where people can go to view interesting contemporary art.