Georgia has a long and great history of fine arts and traditional handicrafts, as evidenced by the frescoes, reliefs and works of fine and applied art preserved in museums.
Support for contemporary art since the 1990s, even with very limited funding, has been a priority for the state. In 1996, the first Tbilisi Biennale of Contemporary Art was held. The art scene of independent Georgia sought to restore Tbilisi as a hub of contemporary art, which it held as the Caucasus centre of modernist bohemia in the early twentieth century.
Since the late 1990s, contemporary art activities have shifted from public museum spaces to the private and non-governmental sectors.
Today, there is one state-funded national gallery in Georgia, which was part of the National Museum until 2021. Accurate statistics on private art galleries are not available.
In 2021, 450 920 GEL (110 000 EUR) were allocated for the priority area “Promoting the Development of Fine and Contemporary Art” of the Culture Promotion Programme of the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Youth. Important non-commercial projects from the non-competition sub-program are:
- Artisterium – Tbilisi International Contemporary Art Exhibition (established in 2008)
- Fest i Nova – The Zdanevich Brothers’ International Festival of Contemporary Art
- Furnishing museum funds with new and contemporary works of art.
Despite the lack of state promotion, the activity of private galleries in the international art market is increasing day by day. Noteworthy is the presentation of Georgian artists at Sotheby’s and Crossroads art auctions and sales by Baia Gallery and TBC Art Gallery.
TAF – Tbilisi Art Fair is an important player in the exhibition industry. TAF is an international contemporary art market focused largely on galleries and artists from the Black, Caspian and Baltic States. 12 galleries from Georgia are consistently participating in it.
Since 2018, with the support of Adjara Group (a leading Georgian company in the fields of hospitality, lifestyle development and agro production), the N(N)LE Propaganda’s project “Oxygen Contemporary Art Biennale” has been implemented, which initially operated in “Non Fair” format. Since 2020, the exhibition has gained international scale.
The best example of social responsibility and support for culture by the private sector is the creation of multifunctional spaces by the Adjara Group, which have become cultural hubs of Tbilisi (“Stamba”, “Fabrika”). Hotel “Stamba”” also houses the Tbilisi Museum of Photography and Multimedia.
According to the Contemporary Art Market study conducted by the Tbilisi State Academy in 2020: “Because of the pandemic caused by Covid-19, galleries have virtually stopped exhibition programmes in physical spaces and moved to a virtual platform, which contributed to the democratization of contemporary art to some extent.”
Preserving and developing handicraft traditions is also on the agenda of cultural policy. Important kinds of Georgian traditional handicrafts are: Textiles, Ceramics, Metalsmithing, Jewelry-making, Woodcarving, and Enamelling. The development of these industries as part of the creative industry is greatly facilitated by the nongovernmental sector, in particular, the Georgian Craft Association and the Georgian Art and Culture Centre (GACC).
The strategic document “Culture Strategy 2025” (01.07.2016), Chapter III: Sector-specific Tasks, includes the development of the Visual arts:
In order to allow the development of an effective visual arts education and improve its quality, advance legal and administrative regulations of visual arts education, designate teaching standards and learning methodologies, etc.;
- To support the development of the institutions of visual arts education;
- To create and develop the system of visual arts schools in order to develop professional skills and thinking;
- To deliver special incentives to encourage artists;
- To support the development of corresponding business models and business skills for the personnel of galleries, curators and arts consultants in order to promote visual arts and stimulate the dynamics of domestic art market;
- To facilitate the organization of periodic events, arts residencies and galleries and encourage participation in international projects in order to raise the interest of international artists and curators towards Georgia;
- To create a multifunctional facility of culture – the museum of contemporary art, in order to ensure national and international promotion of visual arts, its protection and demonstration.
- To develop legislative initiatives, identify artisans, create an integrated public electronic database, develop craft studios, encourage corresponding publications and support the participation in exhibitions and fairs in order to develop Georgian traditional craftsmanship and contribute to its integration into the international market;
- To support the development of sustainable entrepreneurship by studying historical Georgian crafts and by employing the resources of the existing and forgotten traditions;
- To support the realization of training programmes for artisans and the development of distribution networks, in order to ensure the production and sale of high quality products.