I’ve been a bit sniffy in the past about Sofia’s National Gallery of Art – so let me take my hat off to them for their display of digital facilities. I was a bit annoyed on Thursday to be denied access to an exhibition of Nouveau Art’s Nikola Rainov (for reasons of some private party) but was placated by being given the opportunity to use a smart phone to access some 200 watercolours of the past century which have not so far been available to the public – along with useful information about the painters.
This is part of a wider project of gradual digitization of the entire archive of the museum in 2015.
I managed to see the Rainov exhibition the following day – you don’t often see his work. And it was accompanied by a superb small catalogue – sadly almost entirely monolingual.
Running in a neighbouring room, was another delightful small exhibition of urban life here a hundred years ago – with a charming video of an elderly lady displaying various artefacts from the period.
And my ever-ready camera was able to catch this shot of a very sharply-dressed elderly visitor to the gallery…..
Lack of translation is one of two features which used to distinguish the National Gallery from the municipal one across the road – whose catalogues have been bilingual for quite some years. The second feature is pricing – the national Gallery used to charge 5 euros (now 3 – with pensioners half price). The municipal gallery was free – until last year when a nominal charge was introduced (with pensioners free).
It reminded me of one of my political colleagues in the 1970s Janey Buchan (who became an MEP in the 1979), She was a tireless advocate in the 60s of the rights of ordinary people (before the days of the Consumer Association) and was particularly strong on the importance of free entry to museums and art galleries, Thatcher put pressure on to introduce charges (although the British Museum held out) but entry was made free again in 2001 – with significant subsequent increases in visitors.
And I was glad to see that the Neil Mc Gregor, the renowned Director of the British Museum had declined an invitation to direct New York’s Metropolitan Museum because it charged an entry fee.
The attitude of Sofia City Gallery is yet another proof of the superiority of municipal to central government