Klaudia Ofwona Draber is the Founder and President of KODA—a social practice residency for mid-career artists. She has lived and led arts, technology and strategy projects in Europe, Africa and the United States. She works as the Head of Public Relations at the Polish Cultural Institute New York. Previously she served as a consultant to the British Council Arts, and worked at UBS, managing arts Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects. Klaudia is the 2021-2022 Helena Rubinstein Fellow at the Whitney ISP Curatorial Studies Program. She also serves at the Membership Committee of ArtTable, mentors at New Museum’s NEW INC, and is a member of For(best) The Culture. Klaudia holds MA in Art Business from the Sotheby‘s Institute of Art New York. She also holds MA in Economics from the Warsaw School of Economics.
What was your first job in the Arts?
It was a former squat in the center of Paris, on Rue de Rivoli. The 6-story high building, with 30 artist studios, and a 2-story gallery space, overlooking the street.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
The wide variety of art being made there taught me to be open-minded and made me realize that working with artists and supporting their work is a rare skill, and I do have it.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
It was during my time at UBS. My day-to-day job was strategic change, but all my free and volunteering time was spent organizing shows, arts education, partnerships with galleries, museums, the fine art academy—did lots of arts and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects. From then on, arts became a conscious career choice, a decision that was grounded during my time at the British Council Arts, when I supported their arts collection.
What do you do now?
Curating. I founded KODA (www.kodalab.org) —a social practice residency for mid-career artists—where I serve as Board President. Besides residencies, we organize survey exhibitions, publish artist monographs, and overall find ways to support artists, especially women, people of color, migrants and people from minority communities in general. On a daily basis, I head the public relations department at the Polish Cultural Institute New York, where we work across all visual arts and design, film and performing arts, music, humanities, and Polish-Jewish programming.
Where are you from?
Born in Poland and raised between Polish and Kenyan cultures.
What is the arts community like there?
Progressive, brave, avant-garde, inspiring. Especially younger generations keep up with the world’s politics, and also do make history. The Polish art world is definitely way smaller than the one in NYC, but it does have a rich history, and great influences.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
Being from two distinct cultures, being a nomad, and a migrant, shaped my curatorial focus.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Do what you love.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
What has been a challenge for you?
Finding my place in the NYC art world. I had had great experiences, but still needed something that would address my interests and utilize my skillset more holistically.
What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)?
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Paint hundreds of confetti filled latex gloves. Not that weird though, it’s the art world.
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
Curiosity, and mutual support in personal and professional growth.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
Genuine interest in the organization.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview?
Being honest, especially when you don’t know something.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
Keep your mind open and try out many other things. The art world is super vast, and with some experience you will find your people and your place.
Any other anecdotes about your working experience that you would like to share?
Nadine Braquetti, the Executive Director of KODA, and I, are writing a KODA memoir where we gather hilarious and outrageous experiences we sometimes have. Often these are funny things we do or did. Might become a publication one day.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
Haven’t left home to see any exhibitions during the pandemic, so must speak about mine. “You are in the war zone.” I recently curated is a survey exhibition of nearly a decade of Farideh Sakhaeifar’s work. Definitely the best exhibition I’ve seen in the last year! It has been an honor to spend time with these powerful artworks on war and conflict in the MENA region. Exhibition on view at Trotter&Sholer until April 17, 2021. Then, available in print (monograph) and in 3D.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
Baseera Khan, Renee Cox, Carrie Mae Weems, Rico Gatson, Dread Scott.
Have you seen any virtual exhibitions recently that you would like to comment on?
“Building a better monument” curated by Seph Rodney was a very needed and timely online curation, a must see. Available on Art at a Time Like This.
What artwork is in your home office?
Hidemi Takagi’s ABC #1 from “The Barbershops” (2015) and Tahir Carl Karmali’s PAPER:Work Screen from the Strongroom 2019 installation.
What is your greatest WFH challenge? Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again?
Being able to have an extensive morning routine and still be able to start work very early.
How do you think art can play a fundamental role in the world’s recovery?
Art has the power to change the world.
How do you think art should be shared and/or experienced moving forward?
What is your go to snack in quarantine? And your go to soundtrack?
Snack: pineapple. Soundtrack: classical music.
Since we are all at home and exploring more galleries and museums online, perhaps some for the first time, when the quarantine is lifted, what is your first art filled destination?
It can be argued that the art world is finally forced to adopt and adapt technologies that have long been a part of other industries. Agree or Disagree?
And finally, do you think the art world should be more transparent?