Gallery Alma
Marita Batņa, culture theorist
"A classic contemporary art gallery" - when choosing such a description for the Alma Gallery it must be emphasized that the classic principles of gallery operation are not that common in Latvia. A visit to the Alma Gallery, located in the so-called "quiet centre" of Riga, at Rūpniecības iela 1-2, will leave a vivid impression. A high quality unity of image and content secures its position at the fore­front, as proved by a great number of public reviews on the art events organised by Alma during four years of operation.
Astrīda Riņķe. Photo from the Astrīda Riņķe private archive
The core principle of a contemporary art gallery is artist representation. The logical path to this level of activity was undertaken by Astrīda Riņķe, the founder and presently the sole director of the Alma Gallery: she has 15 years of experience, which led to opening her own gallery. The young artists represented by Alma are Ēriks Apaļais, Kristians Brekte, Otto Zitmanis, Ernests Kļaviņš, Kalvis Zuters, Miķelis Fišers, Kristiāna Dimitere, Jānis Blanks and Reinis Virtmanis.

Essentially a classic contemporary art gallery follows a mission-oriented marketing strategy. Confidence about an artist's potential motivates investment in various kinds of activity and stakeholder relationships, with the aim of building the artist's reputation, which, in the long run, will have economic value. But first comes the decision: Riņķe considers that selection depends on two major pillars: talent and devotion to art. The strategy also determines the rules of the game - the anticipated investment in promotion and the trustworthiness of a gallery can be considered as factors in the price of art. Alma's offer con­sists of the gallery's collection, which means the works have been evaluated, and sometimes selling a work is hard, not just a pleasant occasion for the gallerist.

A cornerstone of the gallery's promotional activity is participation at international art fairs. Shows of high quality standards are of interest. In May, 2009, Alma Gallery took part in NEXT, the Invitational Exhibition of Emerging Art, in Chicago, USA, where gallery participation is determined not by competition, but through invitation. The gallerist doesn't hide the fact that at international events one hopes to attract interest about the represented artists on the part of museums.

Taking into account the adoption of practices close to those of Western galleries, the question arises: how does Alma Gallery identify itself with this particular place (Latvia) and time? The vibrancy of the art life gives a sense of belonging. In the context of the wider public, how­ever, Alma is ahead of its time. In Astrīda Riņķe's view, interaction with contemporary art is poorly conceived at all, and sometimes such experience is understood with difficulty, which leads to a conclusion that the "gap" in cultural awareness requires the development of the whole of society. Nevertheless, something that is planted and nurtured grows well, and will flourish one day. With respect for each client, the director of Alma Gallery con­firms that there are particular partners she has helped in developing relationships with art.

Continuing on the chosen path, according to Astrīda Riņķe, is likely to bring more challenges: this may also include following the example of the world's successful galleries and adopting business-type approaches. This is natural, since the key to progress is always linked to innovative actions, investment, and risk - the future be­longs to those who are a step ahead of their time.
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