In the conversation podcast series NET, we untangle and analyse collaborative networks in the arts. How have prominent figures in the local art scene navigated the tangled path and where is contemporary art heading?

How does one run a gallery? What relationships does a good gallerist have with artists, and what uncertainties surround the art market? These are the topics of an interview with Katherine “Kacha” Kastner, who together with Camille Hunt founded one of Prague’s most successful private galleries in December 2005. The hunt kastner gallery represents young artists who, thanks to the professional approach of the gallerists, have established themselves as some of the most successful Czech artists, some of whom also resonate internationally.

Kacha Kastner, an American with Czech roots, and Camille Hunt, a Canadian, were brought together by their work in the non-profit sector. “Camille came up with the idea of starting a private gallery because at the time there was a lack of funding for the non-profit sector in the Czech Republic, and at the same time there were few private galleries, which meant that both the artists and the market itself were suffering and had yet to be built up,” says Kastner, explaining what led the gallerists to decide to set up their own space in Prague 17 years ago and prepare exhibitions with local artists.

But a private gallery is not just about organizing exhibitions and selling artwork. The work of a gallerist should cover a much wider range of activities. “Preparing an exhibition is only 20 % of our job,” Kastner explains. Far more of a gallerist’s time is spent caring for the artist’s work and career, developing relationships not only with buyers but also with curators, critics, and even directors of major institutions, as they try not only to sell artworks but also to broker them into exhibitions at quality local and international galleries. “Without the outreach abroad and participation in foreign fairs, we could not have built the gallery we have today,” says Kastner.

What she does from her position as a gallerist varies from artist to artist. “The relationship between gallerist and artist is about trust. Having a gallery is not for everyone. Above all, young artists should know their options and take full advantage of opportunities to exhibit in off spaces as well as non-profit and public galleries and institutions, of which there are plenty. I’m happy about that,” says Kastner. Conversely, by selling work through auctions, solitary art sales, showrooms, or online platforms, artists are missing out on opportunities to build their careers.

An important milestone in an artist’s career is the exhibition or purchase of a work for the collection of a world-class museum or gallery. Eva Koťátková, who is represented by hunt kastner and currently heads the J&T Banka Art Index, currently has a major exhibition which was brought from Bordeaux and can be seen in the Trade Fair Palace at the National Gallery Prague, and her work is also included in major institutional collections around the world, such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris or the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The work of Czech artist Zorka Ságlová is also in the Centre Pompidou in Paris and this year is also being acquired by the Tate Museum in London. Such a process takes about a year, Kastner says, citing the example of Anna Hulačová, whose work Ascension Mark 1 has already been purchased for the collections of the famous Centre Pompidou.

Even Covid, its resulting isolation, and the growth of online sales platforms will not threaten this premise or change the functioning of galleries, Kastner says. Even over the past two years, art sales at the brick-and-mortar gallery have thrived. “But worse is the uncertainty that comes with the war in Ukraine. We remain cautious this year too,” she adds.

„Art is an important reflection of our times, historically speaking, art represents what is left of us. Creative work is then an essential way to express what is happening in society and what it means to be human,“ contemplates Kacha Kastner.