In the 45 years of the communist regime (1944 – 1989), a strictly organized system of art life is established in Bulgaria. In it, everything is ruled by the state which on its part is governed by the Bulgarian Communist Party, and the exhibiting and selling of artworks is organized by different structures. In the center of these structures is the Union of Bulgarian Artists (UBA) that has exhibition halls in Sofia and throughout the country. In the capital, these are mainly the exhibition halls at 6 Shipka Street and the gallery at 126 Rakovski Street which was soon renamed to Rayko Aleksiev. When the regime collapses at the end of 1989, rapid processes of decentralization begin. Nevertheless, in the first years of the 90’s, almost everything happens in relation to the Union of Bulgarian Artists. The beginning of the private galleries is as early as the end of the 80’s of of the 20th century. It is a natural outcome of the so called “perestroyka” that at the last years of the regime leads to attempts for starting economic reforms and to the enactment of Decree 56 from the early 1989. The decree was the first permission for the citizens to register firms and develop private commercial activities. This has its direct reflection on the situation in art. The start of the legal art trade is given although the first private gallery is found a year earlier in 1988. It is Gallery 8 located on the ground floor of the family house of Boris Statelov at 8 Bratya Shkorpil Street in Varna. Statelov himself is an chemical engineer by occupation, but his love for art and his long friendship with artists motivate him to create an art gallery in his home. Even with his first exhibition, he shows the circle of artists he is going to work actively with during the next 30 years. These are authors who use predominantly traditional techniques, but also present photography and other projects created particularly for the gallery. Different is the task of the gallery The City, created in 1989 as an initiative of the art group of the same name. The gallery is located on the ground-floor of 134 Georgi S. Rakovski Street and is the first one registered as a commercial company. In its short existence, it has mainly commercial goals while succeeding in the organization of several exhibitions of authors from the group of the same name and of other active artists of that time. The artists do not exhibit avant-garde art, or as it was called, “unconventional art”. In this period, the building is given to the oppositional Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and the combination of a party headquarters and a gallery proved to be impossible. As an equivalent to the Varna Gallery 8, Kamelia Mincheva’s gallery Art 36 started its activity in Sofia. Her gallery is located at 159 Georgi S. Rakovski Street at the beginning, and then it is moved to the basement of 40 Slavyanska Street where it has a courtyard and a private entrance. Both enterprises are personal, they are carried out by people who are not a part of the art circles, and the main motive is creating space for art where the relations between artist and gallery owner give the main impetus to the activities. The two oldest galleries in Bulgaria continue to exist today. The early 90’s are a time when everything is “the first of its kind”, a time of brave experiments and risky actions. This is a time of shocking enrichment and dramatic bankruptcies. These first years are filled with energy, but also with naïve enthusiasm. The galleries of the first half of the 90’s are very far from clear self-definition. People who create them are always driven by love and enthusiasm for art, not by desire for trading artworks. Yet in a society that turbulent and changing, the trade is very difficult. There are no clear rules, no regulated market, no collectors to demonstrate constant attitude to art. Hence the first spaces for art are forced to combine many different activities in their program in order to survive. Thus it is often the case for video art or performance sessions to be preceded or followed by exhibitions of ceramics, commercial painting or sculpture.
In this period, the gallery Arosita is started.
Deyan Yanev, Kaloyan Iliev-Kokimoto, Jordan Pancov
European Cuteness Art, 2014.
- Description: European Cuteness Art, СОФИЙСКИ АРСЕНАЛ – МУЗЕЙ ЗА СЪВРЕМЕННО ИЗКУСТВО , Сдружение за култура „Студио Солиго” , ГАЛЕРИЯ АРОСИТА
The international traveling exhibition includes artists from Romania, Bulgaria, Spain, Finland and Italy. Giancarlo Carpi, curator
Valentin Stefanoff and NINA Kovacheva, RASSIM
Physics and Metaphysics of the Spot, Swears, 2012.
It is found in 1991 by Ekaterina and Kolyo Getsovi and in the better part of its existence it exhibits artworks made of glass. This is one of the galleries in Sofia that existed longest. In the last years, the gallery is managed by Rositsa Getsova and it starts showing different projects from the field of contemporary art, while the events are imbued with specific aura coming from a united circle of artists and adherents.
Among the first galleries are also Sapio, the gallery of Veselin Dosev – in Sofia, AY and KA in Bugras, Akrabov in Plovdiv, etc. A very important gallery for the art of the 90’s is Lesedra. It is found in 1990 by Georgi Kolev – economist by education, he is among the first to start exhibiting the new media, actions and experiments. Some of the earliest galleries also exist today, others are remembered only if we see their names written in the biographies of artists. Some manage to build up a circle of authors and public of their own, establish big names, or undergo different transformations in time; others remain more or less just spaces that shelter some interesting for their time exhibitions and works.
Another gallery, that is opened in 1993 and exists till 1995, is Studio Specter at 10 Angel Kanchev Street in Sofia. It is created by Stefan Bankov who manages to gather around himself young and interesting artists. They were making exhibitions important for that period. Among them we should mention for example AIDS by Huben Cherkelov with curator Yara Bubnova and made in 1994; and In the Steps of…, an installation by Adelina Popnedeleva and Snezhana Simeonova, in 1995.
Great importance for the development of contemporary art in these years shall be attributed to the activity of Raymonda Mudova and her galleries in Sofia – Ata- Ray (1991-1998), ATA – Center for Contemporary Art (1996-2003). After in 1989 Mudova stops working in the Creative Fund of the UBA, she decides to open a small gallery on Milin Kamak Street. This is the first Ata – Ray. In those years the interest for art and particularly for paintings is huge. The same year Raymonda Mudova opens a gallery at a larger place, Ata – Ray at Karnigradska Street. At this place, she starts combining sellable exhibitions with presentations of contemporary art which is almost impossible to find its market but is of serious interest to her. She never chooses the works of the artists alone. She chooses a particular artist and it is up to him/her to show his work in the way that seems best to him. Mudova selects her artists mainly by intuition, but she also trusts the professional assessment of art scholars. She works actively with them. Her gallery is the place where Yara Bubnova, Maria Vasileva, Diana Popova, Ruen Ruenov, etc., make some of their firs curatorial projects. Every artist, who makes his exhibition at the gallery, leaves one of his works for her collection. On its behalf, the gallery strives for complete media coverage of its activity. It is probably the first gallery to introduce the press releases and the archiving of media coverage for each and every exhibition. “If an exhibition I present is not covered by Culture weekly, then it does not exist” – Mudova likes to say quite often. Besides, in the 90’s the gallery tries to introduce a more refined profiling by concentrating its interest upon artists working on paper. It is exactly this material that turns out to be a very appropriate field of expression for the Bulgarian artists since it is at the same time close to both classical techniques and contemporary art. The art life in Sofia in the second half of the 90’s is so differentiated and dynamic, that each and every place on its map has a clearly defined circle of adherents – artists and public. For several years, a group of authors is established around Ata – Ray and Ata – Center for Contemporary Art and they make their first memorable exhibitions in these galleries.
In the second half of the 90’s, the owner of Ata – Ray Gallery Raymonda Mudova already has a clearly defined policy for contemporary art. In 1996 she openes a second space at 25 Hristo Belchev Street – ATA – Center for Contemporary Art which she moves in several years to John Paul II Square in Sofia. If Bulgarian art was previously only a small part of the program of the gallery, at this point it becomes the focus of its activity. Practically, Ata turns into one of the most attractive places for artist to show their works and for the curators of this period also. What makes this gallery different is that it is the first one to succeed in selling art. The list of exhibitions shown under the brand of Ata reveals an impressive sequence of names of artists and strong curatorial projects. The Art Circle and the Gallery of XXL Art Group
As early as the beginning of the 90’s, among the new generation of artists there stand out the names of Kosyo Minchev, Georgi Tushev and Huben Cherkelov. They are very young by then, students at the High-School of Fine Arts or at the Academy of Art, where they study painting or sculpture. At the end of 1994, a whole group of young authors gathers around the three artists. Members of the group are Genadi Gatev, Petko Durmana, Ivan Kyuranov, Rasim, Slavi Slavov and Maria Toteva, as well as the art scholar Svilen Stefanov.  Svilen Stefanov is also to become the main ideologist of the group known today as XXL.
In 1996, the artists from the circle XXL make a gallery of their own which rather belongs to the type of artist run space. It is located on Macedonia Square in Sofia, at a place people know as the Old Inn. In order for one to enter the hall with its terracotta-tile floor and white walls, he has to go through a narrow passage and a large courtyard. The place is a municipal one and is used by the group without paying any rent. The whole organization around the gallery is done with enthusiasm and personal funds of the participants. The XXL Gallery exists till 2002 and is one of the emblematic places for contemporary art on the map of Sofia in the 90’s. Soon after its founding, it is recognized by Soros Center as partner for many initiatives. At the same time, gallery XXL is open to different projects. Till the end of its existence, almost all active young authors dealing with contemporary art pass through it. There are also many foreign guests. In the first years of the existence of XXL Gallery, almost all young conceptual artists show their works in it. Apart from that, the authors from the group are at the core of several large program exhibitions that they are trying to promote their ideas with. First, this is the series of 4 expositions New Radical Practices, presented at the gallery from 1997 to 2001 and curated by Svilen Stefanov. They seem designated to break the barriers of many different taboos that are more or less haunting both art and society. The search for the image of the new Bulgarian painting and the problematization of the traditional, classical techniques in contemporary art as a whole are some of the contributions of the XXL Gallery. The exhibitions in the series New Bulgarian Painting, the projects Drawings from 1997 and Bulgarian Landscape as a Metaphor from 2001 represent a strong effort in this direction.
Around the year 2000, Kosyo Minchev, Georgi Tushev and Huben Cherkelov leave for New York, Genadi Gatev leaves for Canada and later on for USA. Left without its most prominent faces, the XXL Gallery continues to work till the spring of 2003.
Contemporary Art in Plovdiv – The Week of Contemporary Art, Autumn Exhibitions and the Society Art Today
In the 90’s Plovdiv is the place where some of the most interesting events in the field of contemporary art happen. An old city with many centuries of cultural achievements and with very well-developed art scene and active public, Plovdiv is the ideal location for art. It is exactly there that in 1995 the start of the Week of Contemporary Art was given. From this moment on, the start was also given to the use of the extremely interesting space from the 16th century Chifte Banya or The Old Baths that is known for its architecture. At that time the bath is in wretched condition, half-destroyed after a fire. The exhibition sets itself the goal of attracting the attention to the unique place and of collecting funds for its restoration. In 1997, the foundation Art Today is found. Some of the members are people from the Plovdiv Municipality and others are the director of the city art gallery Krasimir Linkov, the art scholar Galina Lardeva and the artists Emil Mirzachev, Monika Romenska, Nadya Genova, Rumen Zhekov. Emil Mirzachev is elected as chairman of the foundation. Its main task is to turn the old Turkish baths into a multifunctional center for contemporary art. At this point it is in poor condition after a big fire in the 80’s. While the plans for restoration and restructuring of the baths are under way, a number of seminal exhibitions of contemporary art are held there having an effect capable of exceeding the borders of Plovdiv. The space becomes a part of the City Gallery and its activity for the period 1997 – 2002 is coordinated by Galina Lardeva. The first years of the Old Baths are to a great extent related to its activities. Within the Week of Contemporary Art, one of the oldest annual exhibitions started in 1995, Lardeva is also a curator of several significant projects about the 90’s, such as Human. Document in 1996 and The Alternative Galleries of the 90’s in 1999, etc.
After 2002, Art Today is reregistered as society in which Emil Mirzachiev remains the main factor. His is educated as graphic artist, but often works with video or installation. He, together with the artists Nadya Genova, Monika Romenska and Rumen Zhekov, a part of the legendary group Edge, take up the Old Bath with the desire of developing a large and active center for contemporary art. Apart from the organization of exhibitions, the society makes a resident program with artists and curators for certain periods of time. The Week of Contemporary Art is organized in the bath annually in the autumn. Curators from Bulgaria and from abroad are invited for it and the exhibition is expected as one of the events of the year. Another traditional exhibition from those years, that also exists today, is Art Positive which is reserved for the artists of Plovdiv. At the end of the 90’s, Art Today and the Old Baths are in the center of the increasing interest for the new media in art.
The changes in the institutionally supported scene in the second half of the 90’s are dynamic. Another aspect that matters is the development outside the art life in the capital, where contemporary art is very weakly presented. In 1997 in Varna, TED Gallery is opened. The space is located in the family house of the artist Dimitrina Sevova. The exposition area neighbors a small apartment which facilitates the receiving of guest artists and exhibitions. The program of the gallery is made with the participation of the art scholar Maria Vasileva. In the first year of the life of the gallery, 28 solo and group exhibitions are shown. A part of them are deliberately created for this space, others have been shown at other places and are adapted to the hall of TED. Lectures and presentations are also held there, and the policy of the gallery gradually shifts to the development of video-art and new media. Unfortunately, this place for contemporary art exists for a short period of time, only one or two years in which it does not manage to impact the art life of the city sufficiently.
Spaces for Art after the year 2000
From 2003 to 2006, ATA – Center for Contemporary Art is renamed to ATA – Center / ICA Sofia, as the Institute for Contemporary Art is engaged with the program of the already existent gallery at 2 John Paul II Square in Sofia and it becomes a part of the activities of the Institute for Contemporary Art for that period. At the same time, new places that show contemporary art appear. In the period 2000 – 2004, in the gallery Irida at 37 Gen. Gurko Street, otherwise oriented towards decorative and rather commercial art, starts working with Daniela Kostova. She is one of the central faces among the new generation of painters. Under her influence, Irida starts making exhibitions that bravely mix traditional and conceptual painting, shows new media and opens its gates to international projects. Sofia City Art Gallery is one of the most active spaces for presenting contemporary art in Sofia of that period. It is actually a museum created in 1928 and funded by the Sofia Municipality. Until the midst of the 90’s, its halls are occupied by a permanent exposition of classical works from the depository of the gallery. From the beginning of the year 2000 onwards, the gallery enters a new period. Contemporary art appears ever more often in the exhibition schedule. This is mainly a result of the activity of the art scholar Maria Vasileva, as well as of a group of young curators around her, among them we should mention Daniela Radeva and Vladya Mihaylova. As they work, they maintain the awareness that contemporary art needs systematic institutional support. In 2004, the fund Contemporary Art and Photography is founded as a continuation of the collection. The fund is regularly maintained by purchases, donations are also gathered. In 2003, in SCAG the program Space for Meetings starts and it is again after an idea by Vasileva. The program combines exhibitions and discussions in one common space. Within the agenda of this project, young curators present young artists in a separate part of the gallery. It is there for the first time that many art scholars and artists make projects of their own, it is their first experience with the work. The careers of several very talented curators start there, among them Yana Kostova, Vera Mlechevska, Daniela Radeva, etc. When in 2005 the City Art Gallery opens its branch gallery Vaska Emanuilova near Zaimov Park, Space form Meetings becomes a permanent part of its program. In the gallery that is otherwise created for a constant exposition of the sculptor Vaska Emanuilova from the first half of the 20th century, the old works are combined with an expositional part where the work of young artists from Bulgaria and from abroad is shown. Curator of the gallery is Vladya Mihaylova who is educated in cultural studies and works actively for the promotion of the new generation of artists that appeared in the recent years.
Main exposition of Vaska Emanouilova Gallery, branch of Sofia City Art Gallery, 2017.
- Property of: Vaska Emanouilova Gallery, branch of Sofia City Art Gallery
Voin de Voin
Installation view from the solo exhibition of Voin de Voin - "Disconnecting Intergod", Meeting Point Platform, Vaska Emanouilova Gallery, photo Geo Kalev, 2015.
- Photographer: Geo Kalev
- Property of: Artist and Vaska Emanouilova Gallery
The opportunities to show them regularly in the gallery give additional stability to the process. In the first half of the decade, another institution dealing with contemporary culture appears. This is the Center for Culture and Debate - the Red House “Andrey Nikolov”. It starts functioning in 2004 in the house-studio of the Bulgarian sculptor Andrey Nikolov. He is an artist from the beginning of the 20th century. The organization is an interesting combination between space for socially important debates and field for presentation of contemporary art and culture. The building has a hall for theatre and cinema, as well as exhibition halls. The Red House has a specific, versatile activity and this is an obstacle to the creation of a traditional program for contemporary art. The building is a monument of culture. Its architecture cannot be changed or damaged, and the joining of activities of different character in one place and often in one and the same time does not allow for maintaining autonomous exhibition area that would be regulated by its own expositional rules. On the other hand, the Red House hosts for a short period a lot of young artists for whom this place turns into a second home. Ivo Dimchev makes some of his first performances there. In consonance with their work, for several years the festival Art and Weightlessness is organized there. In 2011, the Ministry of Culture and the Norwegian Fund open SAMCA – Sofia Arsenal, Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum is located in a relatively small building owned by the National Art Gallery. It is a branch of the gallery, without a budget of its own, without collection and architecture of its own, with a building non-compliant to the requirements for holding exhibitions. Despite the difficult beginning, there are signs of positive prospects for SAMCA. Chief curator of the space is Nadezhda Djakova who up to this moment dealt with the international relations of the National Art Gallery. She is among the few Bulgarian curators who take ever firmer stand in contemporary art. In spite of the limited material and technical opportunities, she makes strong group and solo exhibitions both on the first exhibition floor and in those the spaces of the building where there are current repair works. After 2005, the problem with the lack of exhibition space for the Institute for Contemporary Art enters the agenda. In 2009, due to the efforts of Nedko Solakov and Slava Nakovska, the Institute is moved to a new place. It is located at 34 Vasil Levski Blvd. in Sofia, on the first floor of an old apartment block where the apartment is rearranged as an exhibition hall with a library and an office – with all necessary facilities for presenting art. One of the first exhibitions at the new place is International Artist by Dan Perjovschi. It is the beginning of a series of exhibitions of big names in world art. Others to stand out among them are Massimo Bartolini, Erwin Wurm, Anna Ermolaeva, etc. There are also exhibitions of many active, young Bulgarian authors.
In 2003, Sibank Gallery is opened. As it can be inferred from the name, the gallery is an initiative of the bank of the same name which is located at the very center of the capital, at 2 Slavyanska Street. The specifics of the place require a complex combination of the interests of a conservative banking institution and the desire to show high-quality exhibitions. Although the gallery actually does not manage to focus solely on contemporary art, several strong projects happen in it and exert influence upon the professional scene. At the very beginning, the art director is Georgi Lozanov who is a person of versatile knowledge in the field of art and especially in photography. He writes actively on photography since the 80’s. At the same time, the art scholar Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva. She is the person to determine the policy of the gallery to a large extent for the next 10 years. At the same time, she establishes herself both as a critic and as a curator of specific view on art. In 2011, the gallery is renamed to gallery Credo Bonum as it becomes a part of the activities of the foundation of the same name. The curators of the place are also changed. After Kuyumdzhieva leaves, Galina Dimitrova – Dimova and Vesela Nozharova work at the gallery. As a part of a foundation with nonprofit activities, the gallery cannot trade with art and does not have such relations with artists. The profile of the foundation also implies the interest for topics like: cultural historical heritage, ecology, positive social change, social projects, etc., that often appear as central for art projects.
View to the works of Vesela Dancheva and Ivan Bogdanov
Pavilion of Tomorrow exhibition - general view, 2018.
- Photographer: Radina Gancheva
- Description: "Pavilion of Tomorrow" is event and exhibition on the occasion of 12 years Credo Bonum Foundation. With the participation of: Bozhidar Vassilev and Volen Milchev, Vesela Dancheva, Vito Valentinov, Georgi Gospodinov, Diana Ivanova, Eva Ventova, Ivan Bogdanov, Kalin Serapionov, Mike Campamp, Martha Djurina, Praz Lab - Vesela Mihaylova and Veronika Crane and Simeon Stoilov, Stanimir Genov.
On the occasion of its 12 anniversary, the Credo Bonum Foundation will begin the big talk about the future and the time of a technological boom when communication and empathy between people will be put to test. At the special exhibition "The Pavilion of Tomorrow" at the Credo Bonum Gallery are presented the concepts of 13 contemporary Bulgarian artists, through different forms of art.
"Pelican" and general view from Plastic Paradise exhibition, 2017.
- Photographer: Radina Gancheva
- Material: ready made object
- Property of: Credo Bonum Gallery
- Description: PLASTIC PARADISE
14.12.2017 – 9.01.2018
Chris Jordan, САЩ
Maria-Luisa Bakova and Alexandra Yotovska
- Copyright: Credo Bonum Gallery, Radina Gancheva, and the artists
Independent Galleries - Artist Run and Project Spaces after 2000
At the end of the first decade of the new millennium, the young generation looks for its own spaces for showing art. The logical outcome for them is to choose independent galleries - artist run и project spaces that are rapidly established as spaces where the art of the new generation of contemporary artists can be seen. The existence of such spaces is very difficult since there is no well-developed art market in the country, that these spaces could rely on. They fund their activities mainly through applications for projects at municipal or governmental funds. That is why their life on the scene is short, around 2-3 years. This is also the main reason for the lack of exhibition program in these spaces. For the same reason they often change their address, but always preserve the specific style of work and a circle of faithful fans.
The first one of the group of alternative spaces is Studio Dauhaus, opened in 2006. At the very beginning, it is located on one floor of an old, half-deserted building, once used by Geopribor Factory in Pavlovo housing estate in the capital. The place is far off the center of the city, the space is motley, rugged and large, ideal place for showing video, but also for the organization of concerts. The creator of the project is Yovo Panchev, artist, curator and manager who, after he is made to leave the building, starts developing different art projects under the label of Studio Dauhaus.
In this same year of 2006, another important space for contemporary art starts working. Pistol Gallery is created by the young artist Leda Ekimova and it also changes its address often. The gallery is consecutively located in a shop space, in a basement, in a corridor, all according to the opportunities presented to its creator who covers the expenses for the rent and the bills of the places.
The Fridge functions as a typical artist-run space. It is created in 2009 by Nataliya Todorova and Ivana Nencheva. At the beginning it is located in the basement parts of an old factory in Sofia. The gallery, with its low ceiling and concrete floor, hosts not only exhibitions, but also concerts, theatric performances and parties. The organized events attract many young people from different art spheres from the very beginning. The webpage of the gallery states: THE FRIDGE is a place for open art – art that does not allow being patronized, petted, castrated. Art that takes the risk of being responsible for itself.” At the beginning of 2012, the Fridge is moved to a space shared with Social Center Haspel. It is at 8 Madrid Street, and from 2016 on they occupy an apartment in the center of Sofia at 6 Parensov Street.
TEN SQUARE METER, 2015.
- Photographer: Rayna Teneva
- Description: Exhibition in the frame of the project Plan for action 2
Peeping Toms and Jerries, 2018.
- Photographer: Radina Gancheva
- Description: Curator: Stefka Tsaneva
Exhibition in the frame of Sofia Pride Arts
May 29th - June 10th
In 2009 three artists – Kamen Stoyanov, Ivan Mudov and Steven Germer – found the so called gallery in a drawer 0gms, after the idea of Nedko Solakov. The idea is for different established exhibition spaces to integrate another gallery as limited to the space of a drawer of a cabinet. Such a drawer is functioning in the kitchen of ISI Gallery – Sofia, as well as in Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, and in Galerie Skuj in Ljubljana. Especially for the drawer’s limited dimensions, the artists are invited to create a work that has a life of its own, its public and its socialization. And it is completely natural that this typical Artist-Run-Space project grows into a larger version – a gallery is opened with a location in an apartment in an old block in the center of Sofia. For a bit more than 3 years, the gallery represents 7 Bulgarian and international artists, and dozens of other authors pass through it and through its drawer – mainly artists from Austria and Bulgaria. In those years the gallery takes part also in Vienna Art Fair, Contemporary Istanbul and Scope Miami by providing a part of its space.
From 2002 on, the Vienna based artist Lazar Lyutakov organizes a small, around 10 square meters, space in the village of Shabla at the Black Sea coast. His project is located in his grandmother’s house and the title is The Basement of Granny Vasa. Each summer Lazar Lyutakov invites different artists (Bulgarian and foreign) to make an exhibition at his grandma’s basement and garden. The works often reflect upon local cultural situation or the specific characteristics of the courtyard of granny Vasa.
The process of exchange and of opening of the scene, that starts in the beginning of 2000, has a long-lasting and two-sided effect. A proof for that is the appearance of the space for art Swimming Pool in the autumn of 2010. The place is an attic with a wonderful roof terrace, in the very center of Sofia, at 10 Tsar Osvoboditel. In 1939, a small swimming pool is built on one of the terraces, and the name of the project originates from that.
- Photographer: Mihail Novakov
- Description: Installation view “Balconia” with painting by Stefania Batoeva at Swimming Pool, Sofia, 2015. Photo: Mihail Novakov
An Object of Concern, 2018.
- Photographer: Yana Lozeva
- Description: Installation view “Martin Penev: An Object of Concern” at Swimming Pool, Sofia, 2018.
- Copyright: Photo: Yana Lozeva
The roof is owned by Victoria Draganova, curator and theoretician who lives in both Frankfurt and Sofia. Similarly to the international biography of Draganova, the whole idea of Swimming Pool is to erase the borders and differences in the field of art by gathering artists on one exotic terrace, and making them work in dialogue with the specific cultural context that Bulgaria can offer and with the history and the architecture of the space itself. The gallery Æther also establishes itself with a specific program. It is a personal product of the artist Voyn de Voyn started in the spring of 2016 in the shop space at 39 Knyaz Boris Street in the center of Sofia. The projects shown there are searching for the intersection between experiment and the critical power of contemporary art. The exhibitions in the gallery often present guest artists who are international authors. The exhibitions can also be a result of art residence in the space itself or they can achieve their effect through an artistic process incorporating the public in its action. Æther demonstrates strong interest for the performative practices and to a great extent relies on the language of activism, scientific discoveries or social reflection.
The Private Galleries for Contemporary Art
The first conscious and purposeful attempt at creating a commercial gallery for contemporary art is made in 2007. First of all, this happened in Plovdiv, where Emil Mirazchiev and “Art Today” Association opened the gallery “Corridor” in their own space in the Old Plovdiv. In the same year, the ARCProjects gallery is opened in Sofia. Its owners were Iliana Nedkova and Kris Burn, who lived in Edinburg. The gallery is located in an apartment block on one of the main boulevards in Sofia. Everything around the enterprise is carefully considered and planned. And yet, despite the promising beginning with exhibitions at the gallery, the project manages to survive only till 2010. There is a sign this attempt will not remain a singular event; in 2009, the small space of the Sariev Gallery, located on Otets Paisiy Street in Plovdiv, is getting ready for big changes. Up to that moment, Katrin and Veselina Sarievi have developed their idea of making a gallery that specializes in photography and ceramics. A moment of change comes for them. The gallery starts carefully developing its policy for the presentation and popularization of Bulgarian contemporary art in the country and abroad. The gallery aims to present young Bulgarian artists in the country and abroad, to make young names visible by means of the program Background: Young Authors, and to show guest projects from abroad. For Sariev Gallery the process of transformation and defining the model of functioning starts in 2009 and it seems to end in 2011 with the place being renamed to Sariev Contemporary. In all that time, the gallery regularly presents exhibitions of its authors, as well as of guest artists from abroad, and thus it demonstrates its purposeful policy for work at an international level. The gallery shows established artists from the international scene; among them are Ignacio Uriarte, Sakir Gokcebag and Jiri Kovanda. In international aspect, Sariev Contemporary has been in cooperation with a number of curators, such as Rene Block (Germany), Edith Jerabkova (Czech Republic), Aaron Moulton (USA), Walter Seidl (Austria) and Betina Steinbruegge (Germany). Sariev Contemporary is the only Bulgarian gallery for contemporary art to take part in fairs like Art Brussels, Viennacontemporary, Art Cologne, Art Rotterdam, etc. The entry into the world of art trade is very important for Bulgarian artists. It renders what they create more visible and attributes additional value to it, but it also builds a healthy infrastructure of art life, while up to now art trade was almost nonexistent.
The idea of showing a special selection of contemporary art, both Bulgarian and international (mainly French), is also incarnated in Un Cabinet D'Amateur, a gallery of Olivier Boissiere, a Frenchman living in Sofia. After years of developing a business with designer furniture and work as architectural journalist, in 2012 he decides to turn a part of his home into a gallery. He shares his personal affiliations as a collector there, but also his experience as a curator who works actively with artists in the realization of a series of exhibition projects. From the very beginning, the gallery is focused on the idea of persuading the wealthy people in Bulgaria that the opportunity of buying contemporary art can make sense to them and can bring them satisfaction. The most important contribution of the gallery is that in the years of its existence (it is temporarily closed in 2015), Boissiere works actively as a curator and patron with a group of artists, among them are Stella Viseleva, Svetlana Mircheva, Kalin Serapionov, etc. The space ends its activity with the death of its creator Olivier in 2017. Another space for contemporary art, this one is found in Varna, is Contemporary Space Gallery. This is an independent project space, found in 2012 by Bilyana Rubinova and Vasil Daskalov.
Disconnecting of The Object, 2015.
- Photographer: Biliana Rubinova
- Property of: Contemporary Space
- Photographer: Biliana Rubinova
- Property of: Contemporary Space
Iztrivane by Stefan Donchev (installation view at the Hello World exhibition), 2012.
- Photographer: Иван Пейков
- Description: Hello World was the first public exhibition of the first graduates from the then-newly formed Digital Arts MA programme at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia. The exhibition was curated by Rene Beekman. The exhibition opened at the Vaska Emanouilova Gallery in Sofia and was later shown at Contemporary Space in Varna.
Artists in the exhibition were: Albena Baeva, Nikoleta Boncheva, Neli Borisova, Stefan Donchev, Yana Krachunova and Martin Penev.
- Copyright: on the photo: Ivan Peykov
A part of the exhibition projects, that are shown there, have already been realized at other places, most often in Sofia, while they are adapted and developed further in Varna. The program of the gallery is supported by the curatorial work of Maria Vasileva and Daniela Radeva. The gallery is painted in black and is an ideal place for video art and special projects. Exhibitions are only one of the activities of Contemporary Space. At the gallery, there is also a painting school for children, a cafe, and a bookstore. In Varna between 1996 and 2017, Bulart Gallery carries out its activities. Its owner is Dora Doncheva. The gallery is a small one and occupies the ground-floor at 24 Shipka Street in Varna. Although the gallery has been an active supporter of contemporary art in the city through all the years of its existence, it combines that form of art with more popular projects in its program in order to function as a commercial and self-financed space. This is the place where many young people make their first exhibitions. The place also shows exhibitions that influence the cultural climate of the city.
In the last years in the field of contemporary art, other private galleries also develop their activities. They try to combine the interests of the market with those of “the experiment”, while somewhere between these two concepts and their local sense, one can see some great projects made by external curators. These galleries are predominantly focused on contemporary painting and sculpture. A good attempt in this respect is Art Alley Gallery, opened in 2002 at 51 William Gladstone Street in the center of Sofia. Rakursi Gallery, at 4 Khan Krum Street, where one can often see high-quality exhibitions of contemporary painting. In the last years, certain spaces in Sofia tend to sporadically show good exhibitions. They form circles of artists and viewers around them, which additionally strengthens the dynamics of the scene. One of these places is Arosita Galerry at 12 Vrabcha Street, which is one of the oldest galleries in Bulgaria.
Several galleries in Sofia are among the most adequate spaces in the current situation. Although some of them have existed for only a year or two and it is still early to draw categorical conclusions about their activities, it is good to mention them in this text. In the first place, such is Structure Gallery, located at 9 Kuzman Shapkarev Street in the center of Sofia. It is created at the very end of 2017 by Maria Vasileva. Her large experience and her name of one of the best Bulgarian curators bring about more interest and expectations to the activity of the gallery. Structure Gallery occupies a large space with one main hall and another small one for special projects; both halls are fully equipped for showing contemporary art. The place was once used as a TV studio and as a warehouse. The gallery is not limited only to Bulgarian contemporary art, but shows many international projects, as well as events that are not necessarily related to visual arts. The gallery still does not position itself as a commercial place and does not work with a list of certain artists.
Another new place in Sofia is One Monev Gallery at the corner of Ivan Vazov Street and September 6th Street, in the building of the former Military Printing House. This gallery is preceded by the attempt in the field made by Yuzina Gallery at 11 Moskovska Street, created in 2011 by Desislava Moneva. In the new space, she works in partnership with Valentin Monev. The gallery has declared a list of Bulgaran and foreign authors and an office in New York.
A shot from the exhibition "Salt" by Krassimir Krastev - RASSIM, 2018.
- Copyright: Галерия ONE MONEV
The last space from the series of new spaces for art is found in 2018. I am referring to +359 Gallery that is located in the restored water tower of Lozenets Housing Estate, at 21 Galichitsa Street. The hydraulic facility is built in 1929. Main curator of the gallery is Iina Batkova, a manager and curator in the field of visual arts with rich international experience. The projects shown in the gallery up to now bear an emphasized sight-specific element; they actively include and utilize the architectural features of the building.
 Kalinova, E., Baeva, I. Balgarskite prehodi, S., 2010, „9 yanuari 1989 g. – The State-Council passes Decree 56 for business activities that introduces the company organization as the main form of entrepreneurship and supports the market orientation of economy.”
 In those years Veselin Dosev runs the anteroom of the Rayko Aleksiev Gallery of todey, on 125 G.S. Rakovski Street.
 The Gallerist Raymonda Mudova (an interview with Borislav Borisov) – Kultura, br. 45, 12 noemvri 1999.
 D. Radeva, „Hronologiya na savremennoto balgarsko izkustvo 1996 - 2006”, http://bgartchronology.blogspot.com/
 S. Stefanov, Avangard i norma.