Monday, August 2, 2010
patrimony in Bulgaria and Romania
One of my links is with Valentin Mandache's website which is a glorious one-man campaign celebrating and trying to protect Romanian's architectural heritage. A recent posting was of the typical fate of a 100 year old paddle steamer - sold for 7,000 euros to a local butcher and mafia company rather than be restored by public authorities (ideally using local labour and helping retain traditional skills) and made accessible to the public as happens in Scotland and most European countries.
Bulgaria has a better understanding of its architectural heritage - with at least 6 specially protected villages. And I have to pay tribute to some of the Brits whose individual restoration of buidlings has also helped (Brits are not interested in the Romanian housing market).
But even the Bulgarians are in danger of undervaluing their painting heritage. One of my dream projects is to help edit a proper book in English which would make the Bulgarian painters of the twentieth century better known to the English speaking world. Thanks to my various friends in the Sofia art galleries, I’m now able to reel off enough names on visits to new galleries to make people’s jaws drop – and I do have examples of well-known painters such as Zhekov, Vassilev and Mechkuevska . However, going by the paintings available on the websites of Victoria gallery and Domino Gallery, I know only about ten per cent of those who worked then.
I thought I was on to something when I encountered the latter since it is entitled Bulgarian Art Galleries – but discovered that only 2 galleries are subscribed (Shumen and Tyrgoviste) although the site does give about 100 of Mario Zhekov’s paintings as against Victoria’s 41. I remember the delight of the Smolyan Art Gallery in the Rhodope mountains – and yet, 2 years ago, they didn’t have enough money for proper maintenance of the paintings let alone for setting up a website or printing a proper catalogue or postcards. I offered to help set up a website or produce a gallery - but their budgetary system couldn't apparently cope with such a donation! Our visit to Varna's art gallery on Saturday was disappointing - with none of their 20th century work on display. Instead there was a special tribute to one of their local artists - Alexander Kaprichev - who suffered from depression and died all too early in 2008.
In Brussels recently, I found an interesting booklet (in French) on modern Bulgarian art - produced by the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture in 1947. And I did notice that Ruhmen had quite a formidable collection of art books in his langauge - including a superb one on the painters from who were born in Stara Zagora (including Mario Zhekov). Next visit I should spend some time with such books!
The painting above is by Denyo Chokanov (1901-1982)a couple of whose paintings I am very happy to have in my collection