It was apt that my last post was about the current British intellectual craze for recent decades of social history - since I visited last night the opening of an exhibition – spread over three large floors of the Bulgarian Union of Artists’ building on Shipka St – focusing on Bulgarian Art of the 1970s and marking the 50th anniversary of the Art Gallery in Dobrich with works from the 1970s held by the gallery and a few from the City Art Gallery in Sofia.
Bulgarian art has been celebrating 120 years – on the basis of the first general art exhibition here having apparently taken place in 1892 and the first Association of Bulgarian artists being founded in 1893. I referred recently to a marvellous book which the Union of Artists published last year to mark the period.
There is an agit prop air to this particular exhibition – with the huge posters of text and black and white photographs hanging from the ceilings and gigantic, generally sombre if not brutalist, paintings on the walls. There are also drawings and sculpture and the aim is to restore the appearance of the exhibition as it was in 1972 – with no concessions to present-day judgements or tastes. Thus, for example, Svetlin Russev, the doyen of Bulgarian art who still graces exhibitions here, is simply described on one of the posters as “People’s Artist”. I was lucky enough to get a personal tour of the Dobrich gallery last year from its Director and recorded then my conversation with her
The exhibition gives a vivid snapshot picture of one part of life 50 years ago here in Bulgaria and deserves support and comment. I, for one, felt it powerfully gloomy – and find it interesting that a large book I have of Bulgarian art of the 1980s (from an exhibition at the National Gallery in Sofia in 2002) shows a completely different zest and colour, Does this, I wonder, reflect differences in those decades – I shall have to ask my older Bulgarian friends…..
As I left the Union building, I was excited to notice a poster for a nearby exhibition of a painter Slavi Genev – born 120 years ago - one of whose Samokov works has pride of place in my collection (alongside Dobre Dobrev, Alex Moutafov, Alexandra Mechkuevska, Gregor Naidenov and Kolyo Kolev)