Saturday, February 5, 2011
labour of love
I made a comment recently about how Sofia could market itself as an art city – and now find myself working on an idea to produce a small book (in English) about „modern” Bulgarian painters which would give the European visitor a sense of what is available in the many municipal and private galleries in the country – but particularly in Sofia. I’ve spent many pleasant hours during this visit with Yassan of the Konos Gallery and his friend who sold me the Emilia Radushava which headed my post of 30 January. Both are painters themselves and - over cheese, bread and wine – have presented me with examples of painters and extended my knowledge of this great painting tradition. I’m defining „modern” to cover the last 100 years – from the superb little 1911 oil by Alexander Mutafov I was offered for 1,000 euros to the younger contemporary painters examples of which can be seen here.
As a result of these chats and my visits to galleries, I now have a list of more than 100 painters – available on my website with some argument about why the book is necessary. I was able to buy in 2008 a nice little booklet which listed all antique dealers in the whole of Bulgaria but later editions are no longer available. The Sofia City Gallery has a few residual copies of a marvellous large book which is a black and white catalogue of all the Bulgarian paintings in their possession – but the little shop which sells it is closed!
This will not pretend to be a comprehensive guide to the painters who have been active in Bulgaria in the past 100 years. Its purpose is rather
• to convey one man’s passion for viewing and collecting Bulgarian painters of this period
• to encourage visitors to Bulgaria to visit both the private and municipal art galleries - and
• to make their own discoveries.
A printer did a tentative costing yesterday – and was able to tell me I could have 500 copies of a very attractive 100 page book for about 3,000 euros – about a quarter I suspect of what it would cost in the UK. I went looking yesterday for what Yassen told me was the best overview (in Bulgarian) of the period (by Dimitar Avramov). My inquiries at the large second-hand bookshop in the underground passage in front of the University threw up only a large 1982 book purporting to be about modern Bulgarian painting – which , however, had no Mario Zhekovs and only 2 Nikola Tanevs. A revealing historical remnant of socialist selectivity! But not, for me, worth the 100 euros they were asking. Neither the bookshop next door nor the cubicle on the left as you enter the School of Fine Arts could offer me a general book on the period although the shop had a great book with what seemed to be the entire works of Boris Anzelyushev – a graphic artist who lived between 1902 and 1966 and seemed influenced by Kathe Kollwitz. The Fine Arts shop had nice booklets on specific artists I didn’t know – such as Marko Monev from Russe.
And, while we’re on the subject of marketing cities, there is an interesting essay on this subject in the current issue of Eurozine.
The painting is one of my Denjo Chokanoffs