Interview with Virginia Damtsa, Co-Founder of Riflemaker

Born in Athens, Virginia Damtsa is a contemporary art dealer and the Co-Founder of Riflemaker gallery in London. Moving to Paris when she was selected by the Opera National de Paris schools to train for a career in dance, she studied in Paris, Belgium, New York and Cambridge, England before moving to London in 1990 to continue her studies in the arts whilst working on private sales including Monet and Picasso. In 2004, she co-founded Riflemaker with Tot Taylor. Damtsa speaks to Aesthetica about her thoughts on contemporary art and her inspirations.

A: Who are your favourite contemporary artists?
VD: At Riflemaker we have a handful of them, from Josephine King who we are showing during Frieze week (the UN just selected one of her paintings for a US postage stamp) to the master painter Stuart Pearson Wright, who has 31 works in the National Portrait Gallery collection.

A: What was the last exhibition that surprised you and why?
VD: I loved our Analog show. It included an analogue recording studio at the gallery to record music directly onto vinyl. We had Jarvis Cocker, Primal Scream and others recording live. Also, Yoko Ono’s Bagism live performance at Riflemaker was surreal as we have quite a small space. People were queuing outside from the early morning to see the evening performance. I also like the Neue Galerie in New York. I have seen the best Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele there.

A: What role does the artist have in society?
As the world is becoming more digital and corporate, individual creative talents that can change the way we think and particularly how we see visual things, are essential.

A: What is your strongest memory of your childhood?
VD: We traveled a lot by car and my mother kept on saying to look out of the window at nature, buildings, life. It was a joke in the family how many times she would keep telling us to look. She made us realise that people look but they don’t necessarily see.

A: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
VD: It would not be a surprise if I tell you or them. I always like to surprise myself so we try to create challenging exhibitions and ideas, that’s the whole point of the gallery.

A: Which art do you most identify with?
Art that has skill, art that has a unique story, concept, mastery.

A: What is your dream project?
My dream project would be to make Riflemaker the institute of contemporary art.

To find out more about Riflemaker and the upcoming exhibitions, visit

Words: Matt Swain

1. Image courtesy of Virginia Damtsa.