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Serbian Cultural Emblem Reopens

The public had been frozen out of Belgrade’s National Museum for 15 years.

3 July 2018

Belgrade’s National Museum reopened its doors on 28 June.

 

Inaugurating the refurbished museum, Culture Minister Vladan Vukosavljevic said there was “no excuse” for the institution’s long hiatus, adding, “we owe an apology to the citizens and one whole generation of young people,” Balkan Insight reports.

 

The event marked the second major museum event in the Serbian capital recently, after the Museum of Contemporary Art reopened in October following a 10-year shutdown.

 

Some temporary shows were held in the National Museum since the permanent exhibition was shuttered in 2003. A number of ideas for reviving the museum were scrapped, and eventually the authorities decided to refurbish its existing home, senior curator and PR director Lidija Ham Milovanovic said.

 

The National Museum, founded in 1844, has been housed in a neo-Renaissance former bank on Trg Republike (Republic Square) in the city center since 1952, the Art Newspaper writes. The museum is flanked by the National Theater and a grandiose equestrian statue of Serbia’s 19th-century Prince Mihailo sits on the plaza between them.

 

The National Museum of Serbia in 2011. Image by only_point_five/Wikimedia Commons.

 

The museum building fell into disrepair like many other cultural monuments during the 1990s. The refurbishment cost between 12 and 13 million euros, Vukosavljevic said.

 

The permanent exhibition will occupy 5,000 square meters of space on three levels, senior curator and PR director Ham Milovanovic told Balkan Insight.

 

Some of Serbia’s most famous cultural artefacts will be displayed in the atrium, such as Neolithic sculptures and treasures of Roman-era Serbia.

 

Its collections are rich in antiquities from what is now Macedonia, coins, and Medieval art, the Art Newspaper says.

 

The Museum of Contemporary Art’s recent history has likewise been one of decay and neglect.

 

Built in 1965, the modernist structure sits in a park near the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers.

 

The museum was damaged when a NATO missile hit a nearby building in 1999. “The boarded-up building became a symbol of Belgrade’s inability to transform,” the Calvert Journal wrote after its reopening last year.

 

The museum holds about 8,000 artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries.

 

 

  • The impetus for the refurbishment of both museums is largely owed to Ivan Tasovac, who served as culture minister from 2013 to 2016, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s chief curator, Zoran Eric, told the Art Newspaper.

 

  • More than 50,000 people streamed into the contemporary art museum in the first 10 days after it reopened, taking advantage of free admission. Paying visitor numbers have since dropped to about 170 a day. “Considering the overall interest of the Serbian public in contemporary art, the current figures are very good – and much higher than before we closed,” Eric said.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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