Meet the designers disrupting the gallery model

(Image credit: FISK Gallery)

FISK is a gallery with a difference. Founded in 2014 in Oregon by Bijan Berahimi and Michael Spoljaric, FISK is one part residency, one part exhibition space, and one part shop. Visual artists from around the world come to take over the gallery, creating immersive installations and collaborating with FISK to design limited edition products. The founding duo will be taking to the stage at the upcoming Us By Night, which takes place from 26-28 September in the diverse, metropolitan city of Antwerp. 

We caught up with them ahead of their talk to find out the theory behind their groundbreaking venture, and what makes it so different from traditional art galleries.

For FISK, community is key, and having a physical gallery space is vital. To them, it represents the opposite of the pristine, controlled online world. "It is a real place with dirty white floors and a slick sound system. Goods and bads... we love that," says Berahimi. 

Each FISK exhibition can be completely different from the next

Each FISK exhibition can be completely different from the next (Image credit: FISK Gallery)

While the gallery is (proudly) imperfect, the pair try and make it perfect for each artist that exhibits there, and their particular mood and aesthetic. This in turn means each show audience can be completely different from the last. 

"It is amazing to think a space takes on a completely different personality based on the art on the walls," continues Berahimi. "We love the spontaneity and transformation of a physical space that can happen. One show is bright and optimistic, and a month later the vibe is a bit heavy and exhausting. You can’t do that authentically online."

The aim for the future is to start branching out into different kind of events, exhibiting work from people who have never had a show before or perhaps aren't even artists.

Inside: The shop

To go alongside their show, exhibiting artists and designers are asked to create a product for the FISK shop. Berahimi and Spoljaric explain that three things are important in creating a product: it must be affordable, accessible and useful.

While it may seem like a bit of a challenge to shift from creating art to creating products, the pair insist that, with over 30 shows now under FISK's belt, it's all quite straightforward. "It is not hard collaborating with artists on making art as products. They get the idea," says Spoljaric. "The big thing is accessibility in cost. Art should not be exclusive."

Along similar lines, the gallery is planning creating the 'Fisk Library for One'. These will be special edition books based around art prints.

Inside: The residency

The final element of FISK is its residency programme, which again helps to build the community aspect of the venture. "We spend so much time meeting and communicating with artists through Instagram and email. We sometimes Skype, but the majority of the back and forth or even the 'discovery' of an artist happens online," says Berahimi. "We like sharing our experiences and being around people."

FISK gallery artists

Community is at the heart of FISK's ethos (Image credit: FISK Gallery)

Berahmi even invites exhibiting artists to stay in his home – something we'd venture not many galleries would be willing to offer. "Community and having a good sense of trust beyond what happens in the space is important," he explains.

The talk

FISK founders Bijan Berahimi and Michael Spoljaric will be appearing at the upcoming Us By Night festival, where they'll be discussing "our gallery, the ups and downs, lessons learned and what’s next". 

Us By Night is a design event with a difference – it's completely nocturnal, with talks starting at 5pm each evening, and a thriving nightmarket to explore during breaks. For its atypical event, Us By Night's organisers picked an atypical host city. Antwerp has a prestigious artistic pedigree, and continues to feed its reputation with a thriving creative community (one in six Antwerp enterprises works in the creative sector) as well as an enthusiasm for innovation. 

Computer Arts will be attending the event, which promises to be just as awesome as previous years. 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

The Creative Bloq team is made up of a group of design fans, and has changed and evolved since Creative Bloq began back in 2012. The current website team consists of seven full-time members of staff: Editor Georgia Coggan, Deputy Editor Rosie Hilder, Deals Editor Beren Neale, Senior News Editor Daniel Piper, Digital Arts and Design Editor Ian Dean, Tech Reviews Editor Erlingur Einarsson and Ecommerce Writer Abi Le Guilcher, as well as a roster of freelancers from around the world. The 3D World and ImagineFX magazine teams also pitch in, ensuring that content from 3D World and ImagineFX is represented on Creative Bloq.