Split Nomad Gallery

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When the Split Nomad Gallery, a pop-up art gallery based in Split, Croatia, came to life in the spring of 2019, founder Mirela Jusupović was trying to give local artists an opportunity to showcase their art and earn money in a way they had not been able to before.

“The main idea behind Split Nomad Gallery is to bridge the gap between the artist and the audience.” Jusupović said. “We’re doing that in a couple of ways. Through producing their artwork, we give artists (the) opportunity to create … we’re making it possible for them to create certain art works, or a series of artworks, that the gallery would be then responsible for promoting, selling, et cetera.”

Jusupović, originally from Sarajevo and educated in New York, worked in fashion design for over a decade. She took the skills and experience she developed working with creative teams and people, and used them to support the local art scene in Split.

Familiar with the pop-up concept from her fashion experience, she created a mobile event. The events would be hosted at alternative locations like local bars and coffee shops, where art is displayed and available for sale.

“We pop up in alternative locations such as bars, you know, different spaces where people would be a little more inclined to come.” Jusupović explains. “To create an event where for the whole day, you have local artists, exhibiting everything from graphics to posters to illustrations to paintings to photographs – and all available to buy. Then bring a local DJ or a band who will be complementing this whole event with music.”

“You can come in with your friends, have a drink, enjoy some music, be surrounded by local art and be able to buy something affordable if you like it, and engage in a conversation with the artists. It’s kind of all-in-one. It’s promoting the local art scene in a different way, and it’s a nice thing to do for the local community.”

In its successful first year, the Split Nomad Gallery held events every week. 

“Every Thursday of the week for six months we had an event in one location, and we also had a couple of solo exhibitions by different members of the gallery – artists – in different locations.” 

Jusupović had big plans in motion for the Split Nomad Gallery in 2020, but a global pandemic forced them to delay those events.

“If there weren’t coronavirus, we had plans with the Mediterranean Film Festival Split here, we started planning collaborations with other festivals … the events themselves would be less frequent, but they would be bigger, and attract a wider audience.” She said. “Now all of those plans have been postponed for next year.”

Although most 2020 plans have been postponed, Split Nomad Gallery hosted their second annual Xmas Art Sale in Split this year, offering something different for holiday shoppers while supporting local artists. Longer term, the Split Nomad Gallery hopes to take its nomadic roots a step further, popping up in new cities in Croatia and the Balkan region.

“Say in five years, for example, my dream, being from Bosnia, living in Croatia, knowing that there’s a lot of really talented artists and also very hungry local and wider communities for arts, for culture - I imagine that we could be crossing these borders of countries in the whole region and spreading to all major cities in the Balkans. That’s kind of the ultimate dream.” said Jusupović.

Jusupović had high praise for the artists, who believed in her and committed to the idea of Split Nomad Gallery. “As an outsider I managed to gather an amazing group for artists who kind of just blindly said yes to this project.” She said. “Without them none of this would happen.”

The events were held from Spring to Fall to coincide with the height of the tourist season in the beautiful city on the shore of the Adriatic Sea. 

“Last summer we did have a surprisingly successful summer, not only in terms of sales.” Jusupović said. “We did rely on Split being a tourist city, which is why we did start in the spring, and ran the events all the way through the summer.”

“Split Nomad Gallery became a name. People have heard of it, even if they never came to the event, they’ve heard of it. They heard that we’re doing something.” She said. “It’s a lot easier, having something behind you, going into bigger projects, production, (and) collaborations with new artists, cultural organizations and festivals.”

Visit Split Nomad Gallery’s website to learn more about this fantastic initiative.