Irena Gapkovska

Irena Gapkovska



Irena graduated from High Art School in Skopje, Macedonia, in 1988. In 1995 she earned her Master’s Degree in Graphic Art from St. Kyril Methodiy University Fine Art Academy in Skopje, with her thesis on Symbolism in Art. While at University, Irena was also graphic designer for the newspaper “Elena” and for “Nova Makedonija” magazine, receiving a national award for best art illustration in 1994. In 1997 she received a scholarship to study at the Elam School of Fine Art in Auckland, New Zealand. From 2001 to 2003 she studied the ancient Byzantine technique of fresco and Icon painting, which she learned at the Veljusa Monastery, near Strumica, Macedonia. Educated in a very traditional manner, she takes inspiration from the moments and impressions from life: “Our deeply visual culture shows the fascination humanity has always had with the power of images within the context of Byzantine art.”


In 1998 Irena founded NGO Art Studio, a non-governmental (not-for-profit) open art studio in Skopje, where she continues to mentor students. She has worked with enthusiasm and dedication to promote Macedonian culture and arts. Although strictly non-political, from 2006-2008 Irena was Project Coordinator for the Macedonian Ministry of Culture, promoting projects including the European Premiere of the opera “The Captivation of Eunice Williams” at the Albanian National Theatre and “Alternativa”, the first Albanian independent magazine for culture. From 2014-2018, Irena served as Cultural Attaché to the Honorary Consulate from Macedonia to South Florida.

Exhibitions and Projects

While a student, Irena’s work was featured in several group exhibitions in Skopje, Bitola, and Ohrid, in what was then Yugoslavia. Since graduation, she has shown her work in Skopje at the KIC-QIK Cultural Information Center in 1998; the MKC Youth Cultural Center in 1999; the Army Holl Center in 2001, 2004, and 2005; and “Peace One Day” at the Univerzitetska Biblioteka Sv. Kliment Ohridski in 2006. In 2007, Irena organized and participated in an important show “Ars Vivendi” at the Macedonian National Gallery “Mala Stanica”. Irena’s international exhibitions include Eindhoveen in 2004; Reusel in 2006; Jan de Bouvries Tiburlg in 2006 (all in The Netherlands); and the Shangri-La Art Gallery in Houston, Texas, in 2008.
In February 2010, Irena organized “Ars vs. Argumentum” at the KIC-QIK Cultural Information Center in Skopje, an exhibition to inaugurate the collaboration between Irena’s NGO Art Studio and the Bakehouse Art Complex in Miami, Florida, at which Mr. John Surface, Cultural Attaché to Macedonia from the United States Embassy, was the guest of honor. In April 2010, Macedonian Honorary Consuls Tommy Taneff and Dana Klein attended the opening exhibition of Irena’s new Studio at the Bakehouse Art Complex, as did Gligor Tashkovich, former Macedonian Minister of Foreign Investment, and Robert Starnes, Regional Director of the Office of Foreign Missions of the U.S. Department of State.

Irena participated in many group exhibitions at the Bakehouse Art Complex and elsewhere; she had works accepted in “Love thy Liberty” at Sailboat Loft in Ft. Lauderdale, the “My Art Art Show” and auction for UTV Television in North Miami, and “Project New Born” at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. In 2011, Irena had her first South Florida solo exhibition at the Luna Star Café (opposite the Museum of Contemporary Art), and she had a solo exhibition in Washington DC and was interviewed on Voice of America. She also delivered an Icon of the Holy Trinity commissioned by St. Thomas University for the newly renovated Kennedy Hall, and she exhibited at the Galleria Ft. Lauderdale’s “Spring for the Arts ~ Life Is Art” South Florida Artist Show, as well as participating in a number of group shows including “Sketchy Miami” at the Bakehouse Art Complex and elsewhere in South Florida.

In 2012, Irena had a solo exhibition at the world famous Churchill’s Pub in Little Haiti, Miami, where she was subsequently commissioned to paint three large murals for the ceiling. She also had her drawing published and exhibited in the OSTEN World Gallery of Drawings 40th Biennale, and was profiled in “IRREVERSABLE” magazine’s “Inside OUT” column. In 2013, Irena participated in several group shows in South Florida; at the annual holiday exhibitions at South Pointe Tower, at Macys in South Beach (where she gave live demonstrations of her artwork), and at the Blue Moon Gallery in Coconut Grove and The Stage in Miami.

In 2014, NGO Art Studio in Macedonia moved to new premises in Skopje, and Irena participated in a group exhibition to inaugurate the new Atelier. Irena was also one of six international winners of the prestigious OSTEN Plaque (from over 1416 submissions by 475 artists from 53 countries). Her artwork was exhibited at the OSTEN World Gallery of Drawings in Skopje, published in the 42nd OSTEN Biennial of Drawings Catalogue, and she was featured on Macedonian Radio Television MRT.

His Excellency Vasko Naumovski, then the Macedonian Ambassador to the United States, was an honored guest in Irena’s Studio in 2015. Irena was also invited to give a solo “painting performance” in conjunction with “Speak Friday” at the Bakehouse Art Complex, and she opened a solo exhibition (which remained for one year) at the Macedonian Embassy in Washington DC, coinciding with black tie events celebrating Macedonian Independence Day. Irena was also one of 12 artists invited to paint at Spectrum-Miami for a public demonstration during Art Basel Miami Beach.

In 2016, Irena participated in a group exhibition at Libraria e Çarshisë in Skopje (attended by the usual VIP’s). In July, a limited edition portfolio of 10 of her prints was released in conjunction with a solo exhibition at OSTEN Gallery. Also, Irena’s artwork was exhibited in a group show at Čifte Amam, part of the National Gallery of Macedonia.

Irena presented another limited edition Portfolio at the Skopje Book Fair in 2017, and had a solo exhibition: "Venus in Venice: Sequences of Female Illusion" at the Archivi della Misericordia in Venice, Italy, for two weeks during the Venice Biennale, in conjunction with the release of a book of Irena’s artwork published by the OSTEN World Gallery of Art. Also in 2017, Irena’s artwork was presented at an exposition in Rijeka, Croatia.

In 2018, Irena left her Studio at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Miami to establish a Studio in Perpignan, in the south of France. Perpignan is famous for its light and ambiance, and it is where some of the most important artists of the 20th Century lived for a time.

Irena had an exhibition at La Boîte à Fabrique and an exhibition of 15 works leased for one year by BNP Paribas Bank in Perpignan in 2019, and she appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of P-O Life magazine. Although most exhibitions in 2020 and early 2021 were cancelled or postponed, in August – September 2021 her solo exhibition “Metamorphoses: L’Arbre Chimerique” at KIC-QIK Cultural Information Center in Skopje was widely acclaimed.

In addition to working in her Studio in Perpignan and mentoring students at the Monastery of St John the Forerunner in Slepche, Macedonia, Irena’s current projects include making portraits for a limited edition book: “Les Rues de Perpignan: Rien n’est Define, Rien n’est Aleatoire” and illustrating a commercial book on American Blues Music and the cover of the related CD. She has several expositions planned for 2022 and 2023.