Ties That Bind – Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb and Slovenian Artists Between the Two Wars exhibition is the result of collaboration between the National Museum of Modern Art in Zagreb, the Božidar Jakac Art Museum in Kostanjevica on Krka and the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb.
The centuries-old contacts between artists from Croatian and Slovenian territories within the same country intensified with the founding of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Zagreb – the region’s cultural and studying hotspot at the time – was also the only city in the newly formed state that had a fine arts academy. Ivan Meštrović, one of the most famous artists of the period, was at the helm of the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, which could easily compete with similar European education institutions thanks to its quality study programmes. In the interwar period, almost one hundred Slovenian artists studied there, many of whom later left their mark on Slovenian art and culture as painters, sculptors, set designers, art teachers, cultural workers, theorists and, ultimately, as professors at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana which was founded in 1945. Lasting friendships were formed, former professors and students became colleagues, former colleagues became collaborators, they became active in different societies and associations, exhibited, were members of committees, and so collaborated in the shaping of pre-war and post-war cultural and artistic life.
Curated by Asta Vrečko, PhD (Božidar Jakac Art Museum) and Dajana Vlaisavljević (National Museum of Modern Art in Zagreb), the exhibition is presenting approximately one hundred paintings, sculptures and graphic art pieces by the most famous Slovenian artists who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, such as: Gabrijel Stupica, Zoran Mušič, Zoran Didek, France Pavlovec, Marij Pregelj, Maksim Sedej, Miha Maleš, Nikolaj Pirnat, France Gorše, France Mihelič, Zdenko Kalin. Some works were already exhibited in Zagreb in the interwar period and will now be presented to Zagreb’s public again after eighty years.
The works of Slovenian artists will be exhibited in parallel with the works of their Croatian colleagues, namely Antun Motika, Oton Postružnik, Marijan Detoni, Frano Šimunović, Slavko Kopač and then professors Ljubo Babić, Vladimir Becić, Ivan Meštrović, Krsto Hegedušić, Marino Tartaglia and others. The exhibition attempts to detect the mutual influences, ties and collaborations between Slovenian and Croatian artists, and to point out some of the widely known key issues that were of particular interest to the artists of both milieus at the time, such as the issue of national artistic expression or socially engaged art.
Besides works of art from the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art in Zagreb and the Božidar Jakac Art Museum, the exhibition is also presenting works from fifteen other public collections from Slovenia and Croatia, from several private collections and the archives of the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb.
The texts in the accompanying exhibition catalogue are authored by art historians Asta Vrečko, PhD, museum consultant Dajana Vlaisavljević, Head of the Archives of the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb Ariana Novina, and retired senior museum consultant at the National Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana Breda Ilich Klančnik. The exhibition catalogue was designed by Ana Zubić. Due to the public health and safety situation, there is no official opening.
Catalogue cover page design with an image of work by Gabrijel Stupica (Self portrait with a Friend (detail), 1941 ) - Design: Ana Zubić© National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
From the exhibition set-up. Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb