The City Art Gallery Ljubljana (Mestna galerija Ljubljana) consists of two spaces: Mestna galerija and 001 Gallery in the former Tobacco Factory. This municipal gallery is a fine art exhibition space in the old centre of Ljubljana that has been operating continuously for almost 50 years. It has a broad exhibition programme and organises presentations of Slovene artists abroad. For years the space was directed by Aleksander Bassin, succeeded in 2009 by Alenka Gregorič, the former artistic director of Škuc Gallery. Since then the gallery has been operating within the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana public institute.
Background and venues
The City Art Gallery Ljubljana is the ancestor of the old building of the Jakopič Pavilion (the first Ljubljana exhibition space built in 1908 by the painter Rihard Jakopič). After it was demolished in 1961, the house at Mestni trg 5 was chosen for the new venue for exhibition activities and their management. In November 1962, the Jakopič Pavilion was renamed as Mestna galerija Ljubljana. In 1990 and 1991, the Municipality of Ljubljana financed a thorough renovation of the building. In addition to modernised exhibition rooms and offices in the converted loft, the gallery now also features a café on the ground floor.
In 1996 the City Art Gallery Ljubljana opened another premise, Mestna galerija 2, to feature its permanent collection. Soon this venue became the programme addition to the Mestna galerija 1 featuring the newest production of Slovene and international artists. The venue was closed in 2010. Since 1996 the City Art Gallery Ljubljana has also been administrating the Bežigrajska galerija (established in 1976) and since 2002 the new venue also on the north-bound artery: the Bežigrajska galerija 2.
When the City Museum of Ljubljana and the City Art Gallery Ljubljana merged into a new public institute Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana in 2009, the Mestna galerija venues began to be administratively operated under the umbrella institute as 2 of 8 autonomous units specialised or connected to contemporary art and culture.
Programme and mission
Both venues of the City Art Gallery Ljubljana are focused on the production and presentation of exhibitions of contemporary art positions. The City Art Gallery Ljubljana also provides a public service with exhibitions of modern and contemporary visual art in Slovenia and abroad.
The City Art Gallery Ljubljana also promotes the visual arts by producing publications and prints and organising seminars, lectures, art workshops, and cultural events compatible with its main activities.
Staging approximately 8 exhibitions annually, the Mestna galerija features solo exhibitions of Slovene artists (with special attention to artists from Ljubljana) and complex group exhibitions linking national and international artist positions and statements. This activity has become stronger since the appointment of the new artist director Alenka Gregorič. Many projects are curated in cooperation with other local or international colleagues. Opening complex but focused topics of contemporary arts, the projects mirror some of the most vital themes of the field as was evident in the discursive exhibition and project Communication Networks curated by Alenka Gregorič and Bojana Piškur, the senior curator of the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition featured almost 30 more and less established international authors and artistic groups as Ernesto Neto and Erzen Shkololli, including two Slovene artists Apolonija Šušteršič and Vesna Bukovec. The active participants were also guests from many international institutions such as Eyal Danon from the Israeli Centre for Digital Art in Holon, Iara Boubnova from ICA in Sofia, Gülşen Bal from Open Space in Vienna, Zoran Erić from the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, Ana Janevski from the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, and others.
Another project marking the new period of the City Art Gallery Ljubljana was the January 2010 exhibition Sweet Nowhere curated by Alenka Gregorič and which presented the production of 13 mostly Ljubljana-based artists or art tandems and collectives who deal with the city of Ljubljana from different points of view (architectural, social …) and in different media (photography, music, video, film …). This exhibition was also accompanied by a guided tour of the exhibition together with a number of artists. The show featured the work of Matej Andraž Vogrinčič, Vuk Ćosić, Tadej Pogačar & P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. Institute, Vadim Fiškin and others.
In recent years, the solo exhibition programme has focused on the older generation of Slovene artists such as Zdenko Huzjan, Zmago Jeraj, Boris Gaberščik orSandi Červek, the stage of Mestna galerija is also dedicated to the younger generation.
The City Art Gallery Ljubljana collection comprises 190 mostly donated original works on paper by 70 Slovene and 60 foreign artists. It has a heterogeneous character as artists from different periods and styles of expressions are presented – from traditional, realistic portrayals of objective reality to fantasy and abstraction. The concept of the collection grew out of the gallery’s exhibition activities. Mostly all the major representatives of Slovene art of the 20th century are included, although the City Art Gallery Ljubljana started to collect works for its collection only in the 1990s.
The collection is not presented permanently, but periodically. The first public display of the collection was staged on the premises at Mestni trg 4 in 1996 and after a few months was dismantled. In 2002 it moved to another location at Mestni trg 11/1 where it presented 50 artists from all generations, from the oldest, Marij Pregelj and Vladimir Makuc, to the youngest, Silvester Plotajs-Sicoe, featuring a wide range of techniques, subjects and foreign works not previously exhibited.