In the increasingly homoegenised world in which we sadly now exist, second-hand bookshops and private art galleries are the last sanctuaries of originality, discovery and ambience.
My booklet on Bulgarian Realist painters lists 16 private galleries here in Sofia – focussing on those which sell the more classic painters of the last century. Almost by definition, there’s not much room to move around in such galleries – most of the paintings are in piles against the wall or in storerooms. They have a great atmosphere – compared with the more clinical aspect of some contemporary galleries. The Inter Nos Gallery – which I mentioned yesterday – is a perfect example of that atmosphere.
Valerie Filipov is an interesting example of a dealer who used to have such an Aladdin’s Cave but now operates in the more clinical setting of The Impression Art Gallery, 11 Vasil Levski Bvd which holds special exhibitions of contemporary artists. Trouble with this approach is that it takes less than 5 minutes to see the display! I vastly preferred the serendipity of his previous Cave!
Last week I said hello to Biliana Djingova who opened the A and B gallery last year at 45, Tsar Assen St for special exhibitions of contemporaries - and was very taken with Maria Bogdanova, a few of whose works are showing (see above) - as are her husband’s. A wonderful balance of precision, colour and humour. Bulgaria is lucky at the moment in having a few artists (eg Angela Minkova, Natasha Atanassova, Nikolai Tiholov) who have this combination. This is a Tiholov of mine
And yesterday I visited the small Loran Gallery and discovered a painter from the early part of last century - Petko Zadgorski (1902-1974).
The Gallery had marked his birthday with a recent exhibition of his work. They also carried on their nice tradition of publishing a catalogue to go with the exhibition and have quite a few of his paintings for sale on their well-organised website.
Zadgorski was born in Sliven but spent most of his life at Burgas where he developed his love of the sea – as you can see from this example of his painting. And the Burgas Municipal Gallery (one of the few I have so far not been able to visit) has a nice little outline of his work
The Loran Gallery seems to be the best organised of all the private galleries I know – frequent special exhibitions, catalogues to promote the artists, a good reserve of paintings for sale, active website……Of course The Victoria Gallery, as Sofia’s only auction house, has a great website and catalogue for each of its auctions (there’s one on Thursday) when more than 200 artefacts are usually for sale.
Regular readers will know I am a great fan of Astry Gallery here in Sofia whose owner Vihra Pesheva singlehandedly seeks out and promotes living artists – young and old – with frequent special exhibitions and materials. But the reason Astry Gallery scores is that so much is crammed into such a small space; that Vihra shares her enthusiasm so readily; and I never feel I am imposing….. This is what I said last year about the Gallery -
And that is also the case with Yassen Gollevi of Konus Gallery who is in his own right a serious painter and teacher at the Art Academy.
Astry Gallery (under Vihra's tutelage) is unique for me amongst the Sofia galleries in encouraging contemporary Bulgarian painting. Two things are unique - first the frequency of the special exhibitions; but mainly that Vihra follows her passion (not fashion). I am not an art professional - but Vihra has a real art of creating an atmosphere in which people like me can explore. I have been to a couple of other exhibition openings here and they were, sadly, full of what I call "pseuds" - people who talked loudly (mostly Embassy people) and had little interest in the paintings (except perhaps their investment value). Vihra and her Astry Gallery attract real people who share her passion and curiousity. It is always a joy to pop in there - and talk to her, visitors, artists, other collectors and her father.