Even though I only visited Sarajevo for a few days this summer, I did not get the impression that the city has a thriving contemporary art scene. We toured the National Museum and the Bosnian History Museum but did not have enough time for gallery-hopping. Sarajevo is a great city for strolling through the narrow, bustling streets but one does not see public art while walking. In fact, the only public art that I did see was outside the National Museum- an ironic concrete block with the inscription: “Under this stone there is a monument to the victims of the war and Cold War.” I snapped a photo as I am interested in public art and memorializing without realizing until today that the piece is by the only Bosnian artist I know, Braco Dimitrijević. In October 2007, I drove four hours from my university to hear him speak near my parent’s home in Philadelphia. He spoke at the Slought Foundation on his series “The Casual Passer-By” and although my father fell asleep in the audience and I did not understand everything he discussed, these early experiences led me to study the Balkans today.
Still, there must be more to Bosnian contemporary art than Braco Dimitrijević. Today I am thrilled to read an article in the NY Times travel section discussing this very topic. The article illuminates the struggles of contemporary art in Sarajevo, the gallery scene, and hopes for the future. I am pleased to read that abandoned spaces in the city are now used to showcase local contemporary art. Apparently the Ars Aevi contemporary art museum is open by appointment only because of financial reasons, but other galleries are mentioned that I would like to check out on my next visit. Finally, I learned that Bosnia is planning a biennial for contemporary art to begin in 2011 if all goes according to plan.
Organizing a biennial with Serbia’s Ministry of Culture shows commitment towards creating a unified national identity and forging a future of tolerance and acceptance. Hopefully the Council of Europe will follow through on their promise of finances, because this event would be a great opportunity for Bosnian artists with different ethnic backgrounds to work together. I am a firm believer in the powers of art to create a sense of community. If this biennial is a success, artists currently lost in the country’s rehabilitation process will be recognized. Maybe Bosnia and Europe will see the need for more public art especially in the city of Sarajevo in order to help the country deal with the past. A Serbian friend once cynically remarked that the Balkans have bigger issues than worrying about modern art. Although I admit to being somewhat idealistic, I think that art is a great way to deal with some of these “issues”. A greater importance placed on art in the Balkans in general and Bosnia specifically means steps towards a future of acceptance and peace. The article in the NY Times today gives me hope.
For those traveling to Sarajevo, these are the galleries noted in the article:
Charlama Depot Gallery, Centar Skenderija, Terezije; (387-33) 203-178. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday (9 a.m. for the Sub Dokumenta exhibition).
Galerija 10m2 and Duplex/10m2, Stakleni Grad, Ferhadija 15; (387-63) 952-197; galerija10m2sarajevo.unblog.fr and www.duplex10m2.com. Both galleries are open 2 to 7 p.m. (closed Wednesday and Sunday).
Obala Meeting Point, Hamdije Kresevljakovica 13, Skenderija; (387-33) 668-186. A cafe where mini-exhibitions are often on display; video pieces by artists are sometimes screened in the adjacent cinema.