Stane Jagodič

BTC City is the most important shopping and business centre in Ljubljana, dedicated not only to business and consumption, but also to cultural and spiritual activities. It boasts the SiTi Teater, exhibitions, concerts, art collection and numerous bronze sculptures housed in the exterior of the centre. In this vibrant business location, Institute AAMI (Atelier Art Murn International) also found its shelter. The institute was founded in 2015 with the intention of helping different artists in the art market (exhibitions, promotion, participation in different art markets). Since then, they have been associated with a number of related institutions and art fairs:

In 2017, the corporation launched the 1. ART Expo Ljubljana. The main creators of the fair were artists Miha Murn and Nuša Smolič with a start-up team who organized the first event with BTC’s culturally aware director Jože Mermal. It was an experimental event in tents, which, unfortunately, was hindered by heavy rain. And because after the bad weather always shines the sun, a new organizational venture has taken place, preparing for the 2. ART Expo Ljubljana 2019, a fair that will be hosted at the Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre (GR) in the centre of Ljubljana. GR is the largest event centre in Slovenia with multi-functional halls, trade fair and congress activity, which also has a rich cultural offer, and its director is the breakthrough Iztok Bricl.

Around the world, there are exceptional visual art fairs and therefore, Ljubljana also deserves this kind of event. In Slovenia, many sales galleries collapsed after independence, and since the interest in visual art has waned considerably, this year’s fair is a new cultural and spiritual impetus for artists.

During the time of Yugoslavia, Slovenia boasted many sales galleries, which were the most numerous in Ljubljana, but existed in other places too. The oldest among them was the Kos Gallery which was succeeded by the art dealer Vaso Vujić in 1991 who named it ‘Visconti Fine Art’. Before our independence, the most important promoter of Slovenian visual art was dr. Zoran Kržišnik, director of the Modern Gallery and the International Centre of Graphic Arts of Ljubljana. During that period, the sale of artifacts flourished, with an emphasis on graphics, painting and sculpture. The sale was encouraged by some national galleries and other galleries: Equrna, Ars, Labirint, Lala, Insula, Meduza, Ažbe, Zala, Vista, Mozaik, Kolar, Ars Medici, etc. Administrative institutions, commercial companies, banks, wholesalers, spas, hotels, hospitals, dispensaries, editorial offices and, of course, individual art lovers who adorned their interiors and exteriors were also interested in the purchase of works of art.

The sales of paintings, prints and statues were specially taken care of by companies like: Gorenje, Krka, Lek, Iskra, Smelt, Riko and wholesalers such as: Manufaktura, Merkur, Kokra Globus, Slovenijales, Mercator, as well as publishing houses: Mladinska knjiga, Delavska enotnost, Cankarjeva založba, etc.

Today, the Slovenian art market is fragmented, poorly organized, and purchases are rare, leaving some artists in an unenviable social state.

A few years ago, I visited a well-known editorial office in Ljubljana and asked the editor why all the walls of their new building were without decoration, without any art creations. He smiled and led me to a huge closet where many artworks were piled up and explained to me that the architect, the author of the building, does not allow any decorations. I smiled and said to him: “I understand that any dilettante, kitschy motifs do not belong on the walls, but in the closet I also noticed extremely creative, harmonious works of art, which would give special emphasis to the interior, because the cultured society not only strives for material but also spiritual goods. I mentioned to him the Paleolithic Old Stone Age and praised the homo sapiens for what an excellent sense he had to paint stone walls in otherwise murky living pits. We can also recall the Willendorf Venus from ancient Paleolithic times, the Venus of Milos from ancient Greek times, the oil painting entitled The Birth of Venus by the Renaissance author Botticelli, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo’s David. And of course, the great masterpieces that were created later, during baroque, rococo, romantic periods, secession, realism, impressionism, expressionism, surrealism, symbolism, metaphysical painting, cubism, abstraction, dadaism, constructivism, kinetic art, pop art, x-ray art. Works of art that adorn public spaces (interiors, exteriors), museums, galleries and private collections have in the past been financially or otherwise supported by church institutions, nobility, aristocracy, and in modern times by factory owners, craftsmen, museums, galleries and passionate collectors. The works of art enrich our soul and also reach high prices, created mainly by western galleries and museums, such as the Tate Britain (London), Metropolitan, MoMA (New York), Pompidou (Paris), and auction houses, most notably Christie’s, and Sotheby’s which have branches all over the world. World art fairs also play a very important role: Dresden, Paris, London, New York, Basel, Budapest, Vienna, Bologna, etc.

Among living artists, the highest astronomical prices reached the following artists: a German Gerhard Richter (54 million EUR), an American Jeff Koons ($ 58.4 million) and a British David Hokney ($ 80 million). Unbelievable!

‘Art Expo Ljubljana’ also includes the photographic medium, a medium that was not adequately valued by the galleries and art critics until the 1970s, a particularly creative photomontage which was systematically introduced into the Slovenian visual art by the International Junij Group (1970-85).

Many photo fairs have emerged in the new millennium in Europe: Vienna Fair, Art Forum (Berlin), Paris Photo, Art Photo (Budapest), Vienna Contemporary, Photofever (Paris), Photo Basel, Photo London, etc.

The Photon Gallery, which has exhibition places in Ljubljana and Vienna, successfully participates in these fairs, too. The gallery is run by director Dejan Sluga who is also the curator. There is also another gallery agile in this direction, ‘Galerija Fotografija’ (Ljubljana), headed by Barbara Čeferin.

On the sunny side of the Alps, for the second time in a row, ‘Art Expo Ljubljana 2019’ opens its fair doors in order to attract as many people as possible who will enjoy a wide range of works of art and be able to furnish private and public spaces with attractive motifs. The mission of this fair is therefore for exhibitors to experience spiritual as well as material satisfaction.