The special exhibitions of Sofia City Art Gallery play an important role in Bulgaria in bringing together the paintings of people like Dobre Dobrev, Nikolae Boiadjiev (to mention 2 recent events) from the various municipal and private museums in the country. But the Sofia gallery boasts the best collection of Bulgarian art (7,000 artefacts) and how therefore to ensure that they see the light of day? The Gallery curator Dr. Maria Vasileva has different ways of dealing with the issue - first collections around themes such as "the window"; the "artists's studio and model" and "portraits of artists"(to mention three recent themes).
The Gallery has also started a series of exhibitions (and booklets/discs)(“The other Eye”) which involves opening up the gallery's large collections to selected outsiders - who are invited to comb the dungeons of the gallery where the collections are stored, strip off the protective covering and select some paintings for public display.
I missed the first two exhibitions of such works – selected by an artist Luchezar Boyadjiev and a philosopher Boyan Manchev. The small booklet which accompanied the second exhibition tells of Manchev expecting to find a large section of the museum’s collection covering major events – whether historical or personal). Instead
“the representation of various aspects of people’s private world obviously prevails, there being, conditionally speaking, an “idyllic” thread running through the works, which unifies all those aspects through the representation of elements of everyday living, which are not directly related to either big moments in history and monumental events, or to essential existential and metaphysical issues such as life, death, birth, violence, suffering, etc.”It says a lot about the richness of the Bulgarian painting tradition that only the first four of the following names selected for the exhibition are on the list of more than 140 painters I have selected for the booklet on Bulgarian painting I am working on! Naoum Hadjimladenov, Bencho Obreshkov, Dechko Ouzounov, Kiril Tsonev, Vera Nedkova, Vera Loukova, Ivan Nenov, Lika Yanko, Sami Bidjerano-Sabin, Georgi Bawev, Nadezhda Kouteva, Samouil (Suli) Seferov, Dimiter Voinov, Dariya Vassilyanska, Nadezhda Deleva, Andrei Daniel, Zina Yourdanova, Luben Kostov, Nina Kovacheva, Ivan Moudov, Nikola Mihov, Stoyan Sotirov, etc.
Of the new names, I found Loukova, Nedkova and Nenov most attractive.
And a third exhibition has just opened – The Choice - of artefacts this time selected by 43 prominent Bulgarian art and cultural historians belonging to different generations and fields of work (lecturers, researchers, museum curators, directors of art galleries, museums and nongovernmental organizations, art critics, curators and freelance researchers. The project aim is defined in very ambitious terms
• to look into the factors that single out an artwork as valuable and important for the development of Bulgarian art from today’s perspective;The accompanying booklet (only 5 euros) allows each of the 47 to analyze their choice both in view of its specific features and the features it shares with other works belonging to the same historical period. Alongside the collection’s masterpieces there appear somewhat forgotten names, as well as some totally unfamiliar ones; alongside classical artists there stand young artists. For my taste, there is too much contemporary crap – collages and multi-media. And the text which accompanies each artefact – which could have been informative to lay people like myself – is too often self-indulgent and uninformative.
• to establish whether selection criteria have changed as compared to the ones applied in decades past;
• whether the best textbook examples of artworks have stood the test of time;
• whether the language of art criticism has changed; what is the personal stance of the most prominent Bulgarian art historians.
The displays which impacted on me were –
• A still life from a forgotten - Patriki Sandev (1881-1959)
• A portrait by Konstantin Shturkelov (1889-1961)
• A portrait by Kiril Tsonev(whose greatness I am only now beginning to appreciate)
• The famous Haymaking-Rest by Zlatyu Boyadjiev (1941)
• Village scene (Muslim Bulgarian women) by Simeon Velkov (1885-1966)
• Zlatin Nuriev’s harrowing scuplture Window (1985) of an eyeless Pomak (carved during the “Revival Process” when those of Turkish descent were forced to take Bulgarian names.
Perhaps I can persuade the Gallery to let me into its depths?? And I wonder whether the Regional Galleries have the same policy. I hope to visit the Stara Zagora Gallery on Sunday. The painting is an Ivan Milev - who died so young.