Gallerist Q&A – Wilson Saplana Gallery

Meet Christina Wilson and Nanna Saplana who partnered up to open Wilson Saplana Gallery in 2022 in inner Vesterbro, Copenhagen, where they focus on artistic development and fostering international networks

Portrait of Christina Wilson and Nanna Saplana

Courtesy of Wilson Saplana Gallery. Photo by Anders Sune Berg

How did you get into the artworld - what were your previous work experiences?

Back in the 80s the exhibition space Tranegården in Gentofte (suburb of Copenhagen) was where you could see ‘De Unge Vilde’ (a movement of young ‘wild’ artists) which inspired me to study art history. Thereafter, I took the traditional route into the art museum sector, which I thought was great, but also a bit frustrating because you focus intensely on an artist for a short period, and then you move on to the next. When I started working with Susanne Ottesen in the 1990s I realised that you could work differently with artists; you could have long, steady collaborations with artists over time, which made so much sense to me.

For me, it didn't start with an exhibition like it did for Christina - it was a friend's older sister who was studying art history, and I remember visiting her and experiencing how you can learn so much about the world and the human condition through art. So I started studying art history, and quite quickly I got a job at an artist-run exhibition space, working closely with artists and getting a real behind-the-scenes look at their practices. That’s what really sparked my interest from the start—the close collaboration with artists and why I worked at various institutions that foster artist residencies and career development before entering the gallery.

My Tender Wife, 2024, Installation view of Jytte Rex' (b. 1942) solo exhibition

Courtesy of Wilson Saplana Gallery

How do your backgrounds complement each other in the way you run the gallery?

First of all it's a strength that we're from different generations. The most noticeable thing is that I'm not as digital as Nanna. I am grounded in a more traditional art historian platform, with a lot of attention on artistic ingenuity and with a long background in the art scene, from working at art museums, in coaching and also as an art advisor and gallerist.

That is true. I come from a mixed academic background in art history, modern culture and visual anthropology, so I bring a different perspective than Christina. I focus a lot on social media and keep an eye on young artists whereas Christina is deeply rooted in the institutional landscape, both locally in Denmark and internationally. What is interesting though is that we always agree on artistic quality and on what defines a great artist!

A magic sent, 2024, Ida Thorhauge (b. 1990)

Courtesy of the artist and Wilson Saplana Gallery

How would you describe your job titles as gallerists? What are your primary responsibilities and to who?

Our main responsibility is to the artists we work for. We need to assist them to develop their careers and to make some money so they can work with their art. It's a form of mediation between the artist, artwork and the client.

We also have a responsibility to develop the Danish art scene and we always want to present art of the highest quality and originality.

In the beginning, 2024, Maria Wæhrens (b. 1976)

Courtesy of the artist and Wilson Saplana Gallery

How do you balance the commercial aspects of running a gallery with supporting artists’ careers and practices?

It's about being a facilitator for each artist and each piece of art - how do we develop an artist's career sustainably? It's about finding the right clients; private collectors and public and private institutions - placing the pieces in the right spots. We have a large focus on artistic development and we can tell that the artists appreciate this way of working. It feels really fulfilling, and it makes sense to them because we have these developmental discussions and keep a long-term view.

Maria Wæhrens studio visit with Nanna Saplana (left) and Maria Wæhrens (right)

Courtesy of Wilson Saplana Gallery

How do you see the relationship between galleries and artists developing in the future?

I hope that our way of working with artistic development can inspire others to do the same. An art gallery mimics the whole art world. That means that gallerists today have to be professional in many different areas of expertise; coaching, marketing, communication, innovation and entrepreneurship - just to mention a few areas we have to master. But so does the artist - they also have to master an incredible amount of competencies, so in fact we are more than ever before business partners. We as gallerists strive to understand their artistic practice in depth so we can support them on many levels, in order for them to get as much studio time as possible.

I completely agree. We have to understand that it is a partnership and that we can do so much more together. It's about trust and respect. Also, the art world seems to be changing fast due to new economic, material, and technological systems. The long term consequences of these changes can be hard to figure out why we need each other even more, to think smart, and be ready to adapt.

Sophie Calle, Maternité, 2018

Courtesy of the artist, Perrotin, and Wilson Saplana Gallery. Photo by Claire Dorn

Where is the gallery headed? Any big plans for the future?

We are really focusing on international expansion. That's something we're working towards. We're traveling a lot to strengthen our knowledge of the art world and our artists' careers on an international scale - and the other way around, we’d like to bring international artists to Denmark. For example we are having an exhibition with the renowned French artist Sophie Calle during CHART in August.

When Nanna says we are focusing on international expansion - we're really interested in international collaborations, but it’s hard to make those connections. I think many other gallerists would agree that the world is still a bit cautious after Covid. People are more mindful of resources, and galleries aren’t just packing up and jetting off to seven fairs a year like in the past. The reality is that without CHART you don't see many international curators in Denmark. It's quite rare but very much needed!

Mette Winckelmann, Lend and Borrow, Installation view, 2024, Wilson Saplana Gallery

Photo by David Stjernholm. Courtesy of the artist and Wilson Saplana Gallery

"Artistic development matters a lot to us because we'd get bored out of our minds if we saw the same pieces over and over again."

Christina Wilson

Founder and director of Wilson Saplana Gallery

Christina Wilson is an art historian, art advisor, and former owner of Gallery Christina Wilson (2000-2012). Wilson founded the gallery as Gas9 Gallery in January 2022 which later changed its name to Wilson Saplana as it moved to bigger premises in the center of Copenhagen in October 2023.

Photo by Anders Sune Berg

Nanna Saplana has a degree in Visual Anthropology and Modern Culture. Saplana has worked extensively with young contemporary artists and artistic development programs in Denmark through her previous work, before continuing this path as a partner in Wilson Saplana Gallery.

Photo by Anders Sune Berg