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Eva Maria Daniels

Film producer Eva Maria Daniels recently relocated with her family to Switzerland after working in the film industry in NY and LA for over a decade. Now she is on a new creative path, with a different passion project that combines her love of storytelling with the art world. Intimate and friendly, Diller Daniels, is a gallery located in her home which she designed along with her partner, with stunning views over Lake Zurich. The mission of the project is to champion the careers of Iceland´s most dynamic artists, as well as being a cultural gift to her young son Henry.

Eva Maria, you recently started your gallery Diller Daniels, at your home in Wollerau just outside Zurich, Switzerland, can you tell us a bit about it? What was the drive behind starting the project?

I´m always looking for ways to dissect my creative journey. I´m born and raised in Iceland but I´ve never really lived and worked there since I left at the age of 22. As a film producer, I love storytelling, but I´ve always been equally as passionate about art, design and food, and so I wanted to use the opportunity of our move from New York to Switzerland to try and combine all those different worlds and give them one voice. Throughout my film career I have collected art at a slow pace, hosted various art shows and I´ve always known this is something that I love and brings me joy. I also wanted to be sharing my career more with my family and my young son Henry, who is now 3. I wanted to connect to our roots and so the idea of working with Icelandic artists became exciting to us. It´s somewhat of a cultural gift to my son and a tool for us to build a meaningful art collection for his future as well.

Your background is in the film industry as a producer, what was your first connection to the art world, and what made you decide to make the shift?

I´ve always been drawn to escapism and so for me when I was able to get lost in a movie as a kid, that was my first great escape and revelation in the art world. I don´t really see a clear line between the film and the art world. Both worlds are masters of creating new worlds. You need to have passion and focus to do anything well. You need to show up and be on time. Then you need to put in the hours and work hard, and for creative work you need to have a decent eye as well. To me it´s exactly that for both film and art. I don´t think I´m great at anything except trying to follow the above and surround myself with the right people. When I lived in California in 2010 – 2013 I plotted my first efforts of trying to combine the two worlds when I hosted a few art shows showcasing some emerging (mostly American) artists that I was inspired by and I got a few actors to help me host including Marisa Tomei and Dakota Johnson. The guest list and the clients were mostly from the film world and the whole thing felt so organic as if these two worlds were one. I will still continue to develop and produce movies and feel lucky that I´m able to do both.

What is the gallery´s overall mission?

The goal is to champion the careers of Iceland´s most dynamic emerging and established artists with a commitment to introducing their art to an international audience. Through exhibitions, dialogues, and outgrowths of the two, we seek to enrich and extend an art experience by harnessing our immediate surroundings, and the reach afforded by technology.

Diller Daniel´s first exhibition, A Life in a Day, features two Icelandic artists, Sigtryggur Berg and Steingrímur Gauti. Can you tell us how that exhibition was developed and why you chose to start with them?

While Steingrímur is a painter and Sigtryggur favors works on paper and energetic, sonological performances, they share an affinity for emotion and a near-disregard for the formal tenets of art making which I´m very much drawn to. I had purchased work by Steingrimur last summer for my personal collection and visited him at his studio in Reykjavik and fell in love with his process. Without thinking about it his work drew me to Sigtryggur´s work – without knowing they had a personal relationship. There´s impulsiveness and quickness to their work that I very much relate to in my own life.

Did it come naturally to you to work mainly with Icelandic artists?

Absolutely. I´ve been a serial mover since leaving Iceland at the age of 22 making a home for myself in 7 different cities, one after another, but with New York at the center of it and where I´ve spent most of my adult years. At the same time, I´ve been constantly looking for ways to stay better connected to my roots, especially since having my son in 2017, and so to work exclusively with Icelandic artists felt like the most organic way forward as we made the decision to move from New York to Switzerland.

The gallery space is in your own home, which is a very interesting concept, why did you decide to open the space there?

I wanted to create a destination where you could experience art outside of a traditional gallery or institutional context. A meeting point between all disciplines but deeply rooted in art, design, entertainment and culinary appreciation. A destination for both established and a new breed of collectors where I could champion the careers of Icelandic artists and entertain very small groups at a time. It´s kid friendly and it´s silly friendly. It´s online and it´s personal. I don´t think there’s precedence for this in Switzerland and that´s why I´m excited to have our physical location here.

What would you say is the biggest challenge to start a gallery, and in running one now in this new landscape we are all dealing with?

For me the key was to keep the overhead low and keep the exhibitions small and start only with 2 shows the first year and grow from there. Not relying on having to pay rent for the space gave me the confidence that I can do this in the long run. I decided not to open any social media accounts for the space which is perhaps our biggest challenge. I´m always looking for ways to stay better connected to the analogue worlds so this felt like the right opportunity to practice that preach and build upon personal connections, old and new.

Will you be doing the fair round when they resume their schedule? Do you feel that the online fairs have the same impact for the galleries as the physical fair form has had in the last years?

We will not be hitting the fairs. We like to keep our gallery private and personal at home and plan on keeping it that way in the future as well. For our first show we had more buyers than work for sale and we have no ambition to try and expand from there. For our shows we will never return any work back to the artist. If something won´t sell then it will go into our private collection. I don´t think that the online fairs can ever compete with the physical ones but it´s been wonderful to see how many buyers are now purchasing art for the first time online, buyers that had never considered that pre covid. The online fairs are certainly opening up the world which is a wonderful opportunity on its own.

What is your vision for the future, how do you see the project developing over the next few years?

The plan is to expand to 3 shows next year and to 4 shows per year the years after that. We are currently figuring out ways to do some kid friendly art events in between as well as I´d like for my son Henry to become more involved in some of the decision makings so we´re moving at a slow pace given that he´s only 4 this fall….

WORDS Sara Torcato
PHOTOS  Filippo Bamberghi