“Being in touch with art enriches us all!” – Interview with Tanja Skorepa, head of STRABAG Kunstforum

Interview with Tanja Skorepa, Head of STRABAG Kunstforum, about the 2022 STRABAG International Artaward and many more.

How do you decide which countries can apply in a given period?

The STRABAG Artaward will be awarded for the 27th time this year. It started when STRABAG, as an Austrian construction company, first advertised this art prize in Austria in 1994. With the expansion of STRABAG, the art prize also became more international in 2009 in European countries where the company is active. The board of directors has since determined the participating countries for the artprize in 3 year cycles. To date, artists from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Russia, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Switzerland have been invited to apply.

What are the main motivations behind supporting art?

As well as economic and ecological responsibility, cultural and social engagement is deeply integrated into the life of the company. STRABAG Kunstforum, which was founded more than 35 years ago, has successfully built bridges between art and business and continues to do so. It was founded with the intention of funding art, building up a collection and supporting artists. The gallery space STRABAG Artlounge presents eight annual exhibitions for employees, partners, and visitors alike. Being in touch with art enriches us all!

STRABAG Artaward International 2021

Why only painting and drawing?

For over three decades STRABAG has been collecting art with a strong focus on painting and drawing and the STRABAG Artaward International also follows along these lines. The main reason for this decision was the idea, that the collection’s artworks are not kept in storage but are installed along hallways, meeting rooms and offices in more than 60 STRABAG office locations all over Europe to hopefully enrich employees daily lives.

On what basis is the list of jury members selected?

We are very proud to be working with renowned and highly accomplished curators, museum directors and art critics as our dedicated jury members! According to the countries eligible to the award, the jury is composed in three-year-cylces as well. The jury members are experts for contemporary art and have vast insights to the young art scenes in their respective countries.

Jury Session. Photos: Eva Kelety
Jury Session. Photos: Eva Kelety
Jury Session. Photos: Eva Kelety

Who is your personal favourite among previous winners?

A question far too difficult to answer! I enjoyed working with all previous winners of STRABAG Artaward and am very much looking forward to meet the new winners each year. Over the years, we as an art collection keep staying in contact and following the artistic development of the award winners, which offers insights into new developments and is a very rewarding aspect of our work.

What is the concept driving the collection building strategy, what are the criteria according to which artists and artworks are selected?

As an artcollection of a large construction company it is often assumed that we collect art based on a special theme related to building, architecture and construction. This is not the case. The STRABAG Artcollection is based on three columns: There’s a large number of established Austrian artists after 1945 and some unique and underrated positions in Austrian contemporary art that are collected in depth. Furthermore, the collection is constantly growing from acquisitions of the winners of the STRABAG Artaward, which adds a contemporary and international dimension to STRABAG Artcollection.

Tanja Skorepa, head of STRABAG Kunstforum. Photo: Eva Kelety

What is it that catches you personally in an artwork?

That depends on the respective work of art: one time it’s the topic that catches me, with another artwork it’s the composition or execution that makes me curious – it really is the variety that is fascinating for me. Good art needs to evoke emotions! The feeling I get from looking at and diving into art: It is so rewarding!

What’s the best art experience you ever had?

A good conversation with an artist about his/her work always provides for excellent experiences in my day-to-day job. Of course, I also regularly travel to visit international art fairs and some of my best art experiences happened there: Just to name a few, I remember the installation by Studio Drift at Art Basel 2021, the fascinating and beautiful co-existence of contemporary art and old palazzos at Manifesta 12 in Palermo or “The Key in the Hand” by Chiharu Shiota, one of the most touching installations for me at the Venice Biennale 2015.

Meadow by Studio Drift is a site-specific installation commissioned by Chodov Centre in Prague. 2018.
Patricia Kaersenhout The Soul of Salt, 2016
Fallen Fruit, Theatre of the Sun, 2018, installation view, Manifesta 12. Courtesy: Manifesta 12; photograph: Wolfgang Träger
Chiharu Shiota: The Key in the Hand at the Venice Biennale 2015

What is your advice to young and fresh artists?

Trust in your creativity and uniqueness! Gather knowledge about the history of art and its techniques. And while focusing on creating art – don’t forget about the other tasks of your profession, e.g. self-promotion via multiple channels, an up to date website, networking and gaining international experience through scholarships, exhibitions and residencies.

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