This year Zagreb hosts its biennial exhibition of painting for the fifth time. Organised by the Croatian Association of Artists, the Biennial aims to present, to nurture and progress painting as an art form. By all accounts, it is succeeding.
The 2019 Biennial presents the work of 45 artists. Most of them are in their 30s showing that painting is as vital a genre as ever and is experiencing a renaissance in Croatia, with the scene engendering plenty of new talent. However, all generations are represented, for example Đuro Seder, still a prolific artist in his 90s who explores erotically-charged themes and who is exhibiting three paintings at the Biennial.
Overseas visitors might find it particularly easy to relate to the work by StjepanŠandrk whose contribution to this year’s Biennial is entitled “Fake News” and features the famous “blimp” of Donald Trump. Most of the other artists deal with deeply personal themes, producing work which can sometimes be eerie, sometimes bordering on the surreal but always shimmering with attitude and talent.
Zagreb has in recent years been garnering a reputation as an urban destination with an edgy aesthetic and this is underlined by the inclusion, for the first time this year, of a street art component in the Biennial. The Ring Gallery in Ivan Meštrović’s famous pavilion, home to the Croatian Association of Artists, will display a selection of murals and street art works by 12 artists from across Croatia.
The Leipzig Connection
Each edition of the Zagreb Biennial hosts an exhibition presenting aspects of the painting tradition from another European city. In 2019 it explores the scene in Leipzig – a city similar in size to Zagreb which, as part of the former German Democratic Republic, shares elements of its shared history and political heritage with Zagreb. Since the Croatian Association of Artists has a permanent residency programme in Leipzig there is a continuing strong cultural connection between the art scenes of the two cities.
The Leipzig Academy of Fine Arts is one of the most prestigious colleges of art in Europe which has taught students of painting for more than 250 years. During the 1960s, a movement of artists renowned for their analytical approach and high artistic standards emerged known as the Leipzig School. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall the school has once again been opened up to global streams of thought and creativity, allowing art a new freedom to flourish even further, leading to a current of renowned painters in this millennium known as the New Leipzig School.
This exhibition, curated by noted art historian Mark Gisbourne, focuses on the period starting in the 1990s until the present day and aims to introduce the rich diversity of Leipzig-trained figurative painters to the public in Zagreb.
The Biennial is also holding an exhibition of works by graduate students of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. To see their work please visit the Šira gallery at Preradovićeva 13 (see @GalerijaShira on Faceboook for opening hours).
Guided tours of the exhibition
During the Biennial, every Thursday at 5:30 pm a guided tour of the exhibition will be organized. The meeting point is in front of the Bačva Gallery at the HDLU pavilion (Croatian Association of Artists), Trg žrtava fašizma 16. The tours are free of charge – simply present your exhibition ticket.
To sum up: there is plenty of new art to get acquainted with at this year’s Zagreb Biennial of painting. Be sure not to miss it!
The Biennial is open until 8 December.
For opening hours of the Croatian Association of Artists galleries please see www.hdlu.hr/eng/.