A multimedia project on the renovation and modernisation of the building of the Pavilion, 2001-2013
The Art Pavilion – a Link with Europe
Since long ago in 1898, when it had its grand opening with the celebrated Croatian Salon exhibition, making it the first prestigious exhibition venue in this part of south-east Europe, the Art Pavilion in Zagreb has been an essential place in the collective memory and in the formation of the Croatian cultural identity. Originally built as a temporary structure of the pavilion type, meant for the exhibition of Croatian artists at the Millennial Exhibition in Budapest in 1896, the Pavilion with its then contemporary architectural approach featuring a prefabricated metal structure was taken down after the exhibition and moved to Zagreb, where it was reconstructed after a design by the distinguished Viennese architects F. Helmer and F. Fellner in the central city zone, in what was called “Lenuci’s Green Horseshoe”.
The point of origin and epicentre of all the most important visual and cultural events of our modern history of art, during the one hundred and fifteen years of its exhibition tradition, the Pavilion has played a key role in the development and formation of the cultural awareness of the milieu and has been the central location in the promotion of new values and modern trends in art during the 20th century. With its monumental edifice, from the beginnings used as an exhibition Kunst-Halle (as it is called in the drawings of 1897) the Pavilion soon became one of the hallmark symbols of Zagreb. This was not because it was a unique monument of the pavilion architecture of the end of the 19th century, but mainly because it was a showcase exhibition space of historical importance. It was the space in which, with that very same exhibition of the Croatian Salon, headed by Vlaho Bukovac and including the new generation of young artists trained abroad (in Vienna, Munich and Paris), the foundations of the era of the Croatian Moderne were laid. In this watershed period of our modern history, when a political platform of national determination within the context of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was being formed as a response to the idea of South Slavism, the Pavilion, with its grand building and monumental urban design solution, took upon itself the role of central cultural institution of national significance. Taking its cue from celebrated Kunsthalle in Berlin and Vienna of the time, in its exhibition and cultural events in the coming decades it had an essential effect on the cultural climate and the artworks of the traditional local milieu. It was a key link with the modern currents in Europe, reflecting the modern spirit of the age and accumulating diverse influences and experiences of the art of the time, particularly through the exhibitions of the Spring Salon (from 1916 to 1928) and many later phenomena and trends in social criticism (the Group of Three, Zemlja [Earth]), which set their mark on the art scene in Croatia at the time. Against this broad horizon of historical artistic events, from the influx of new ideas, movements and tendencies, to linguistic and stylistic formations and the artistic trends of later Modernism, which expanded over the European cultural space like seismic waves, the Art Pavilion was and always has been a dynamic scene of events, a relay and a live visual stage on which for more than a century the roles of the main actors have been exchanged, ideas fermented and the artistic oeuvres of the main figures and participants in modern and contemporary art have been promoted, both at the local (I. Meštrović, V. Bukovac, L. Babić, E. Vidović, Z. Šulentić, F. Kršinić, M. Uzelac, V. Gecan and E. Murtić) and at the international (K. Kollwitz, G. Grosz, H. Moore, A. Rodin and K. Kozyra) level; there have also been many exhibitions from leading European museums and galleries. All this shows clearly that through the rich exhibition activity and dynamic history of the Art Pavilion, the history of Croatian modern culture and art has been made visible, turning it into an emblematic site in which epochs have crossed, European influences been accumulated and dispersed, criteria created and permanent values of Croatian cultural and spiritual identity been affirmed. The historical building, its protection and maintenance But this cultural mission of the Pavilion, it would seem, has not always been accompanied by an appropriate vision of its future development in terms of protection and maintenance and of its use according to its main purpose as primarily exhibition venue and first rate monument of culture. This is a problem that has overshadowed the Pavilion the whole of the 20th century and beyond, not only concerning the non-purpose use of the ground floor, which has been put to other purposes, a problem that has lasted down to our days, but also to do with the works on repair and occasional major restoration efforts on the renovation and protection of the building for the whole time it has existed. A vision of the Pavilion for the 21st century Programmes of renovation and modernisation, 2002-2013 At the beginning of the new millennium, by virtue of a series of unforeseen circumstances, a new period in the modern history of the Pavilion began, in terms of both calendar and development. Fortuitously or not, the 2001 exhibition of Andy Warhol, for which, because of the strict technical conditions imposed by a foreign organiser, it was necessary to provide air conditioning, and then the reconstruction of the exhibition lighting (2006) announced the beginning of a great tidying up and one of the biggest capital investments of the city of Zagreb in cultural infrastructure and heritage architecture of the last ten years. These technological operations started the progress of a several-year-long systematic renovation of the building and modernisation of the interior, which with its obsolescent technological infrastructure was no longer capable of satisfying the needs and requirements of the new age. The renovation of the facade completed the major part of a complex and long-term project, the “vision of the pavilion for the 21st century”, the aim of which was to adjust a traditional institution with a 19th century heritage and corresponding technical and organisational capacities as well as programmes, to the contemporary needs of the general public and to the stringent requirements of the discipline, as well as to create the best technical conditions for the exhibition activity to be conducted qualitatively and in accordance with contemporary museological standards. Modernisation of the exhibition space Thanks to financial support from the city of Zagreb during the last decade a number of major investment operations were carried out on the reconstruction and general modernisation of the whole of the technical infrastructure of the exhibition space and equipping it for the most demanding and most complex exhibition projects, in both the presentation of classic museum material and the hosting of recent artistic production. From this point of view, as well as the already mentioned air conditioning and remodelling of the existing heating system (2002) a plan for the reconstruction of lighting in the exhibition space was completed, and programmed decorative RGB lighting was installed in the glazed dome and in the roof (2006), in accordance with state-of-the-art technologies (architect Željko Kovačić). As part of this plan, the rehabilitation and replacement of the glazed roofing was carried out, with special foils incorporated and moving horizontal awnings providing the ability to blackout the ceiling. In this way the problem of protecting the exhibition material from sunlight and UV radiation as well as climatic impacts that had for decades burdened the exhibition activity of the Pavilion was solved. The decorative night-time lighting of the glass of and the central dome set up an alternative form of communication with the public and the urban environment. Thanks to the donation of a sponsor, in 2005 a video surveillance system of the building was installed. This, in combination with systematically conducted computerisation of the museum and the modernisation of the whole of the technical and security system and the wiring of the exhibition space for sound (2012), which finally resolved the problems of acoustics and the set up of sound installations, opened up an entirely new possibility for the exhibition activity to be carried out in accordance with the most contemporary requirements for the professional presentation of art. The historical space of the Pavilion, with its particular environmental and now its contemporary technical capacities was at last able to become an attractive destination for contemporary multimedia projects, environmental set-ups and new forms of media communication that until yesterday had been inconceivable in the traditional gallery space. The new programme conception: the traditional and the contemporary In accordance with the new technical conditions and contemporary approaches, suitable changes were made in the programme conception and the profiling of the Pavilion, in a broad range of traditional and contemporary, repositioning it as a modern museum-gallery institution of particular public, cultural and social interest in a broader regional context. Paying due respect to the exhibition tradition of organising large and important exhibitions in collaboration with distinguished art historians and scholarly and museum-gallery institutions from both home and abroad, in the spirit of its historical mission, the Pavilion set off a new cycle of retrospective exhibitions of some of the key figures of modern and contemporary art, both from the world at large (Warhol, Rotella, Richter and others) and those who shifted the borders of language and stylistic barriers and had an essential impact on the course of development of Croatian modern art (V. Gecan, M. Uzelac, M. Trepše, O. Mujadžić, R. Goldoni, E .Murtić, I. Kožarić, V. Kristl and others) and then thematic and dossier exhibitions, as well as historical and critical shows (I. Kraševac- Zagreb-Munich – Croatian Painting and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich; Z. Maković, The Prague Four / Uzelac, Trepše,Gecan, Varlaj and others) as well as important international projects (One hundred supreme works of Croatian artists 1850-1950 from the collections of the National Museum in Belgrade; Kineticism since the beginnings, in collaboration with the Instituto Nazonale d’arte Contemporaneo in Rome; Spanish art at the turn of the century from the National Museum of Queen Sofia in Madrid, and others), which with the scope of choice of authors and works, the innovativeness of the set-ups and the reactions and numbers of public and media are on the whole categorised among the most important cultural events. However, it is the more radical opening up to the new media and artistic practices and current goings-on in art on the domestic and international scenes that constitutes the key determinant of the programme as part of the new vision of the Pavilion. This relates above all to the presentation of contemporary art production from conceptual and relational art, of spatial installations and site-specific performance interventions. Thanks to the modern infrastructure and the technical capacities of the exhibition space, and the attention paid to the specific environmental possibilities, in line with the curatorial strategy and authorial concept, the Pavilion has been able to launch a new cycle of multimedia and site specific exhibition projects of sculptural, painting and video installation environmental characters by leading artists of the middling and younger generations (M. Šutej, S. Majkus, D. Sokić, M. Vekić, M. Zrinšćak, P. Barišić, T. Buntak, D. Jurić, D.Lošić, I. Franke, A. Rašić, Ž. Kipke) as well as authorial conceptions and video installations of an international character (I. R. Janković, Looking at Others; Snoring in America, K.Leko & R. Smithson). In these, innovative forms of exhibition practice, the artistic interventions into the historical and historicist setting of the Pavilion were set up. Almost all of these projects from the series were nominated for and mostly won valuable prizes and recognitions. This speaks volumes for the expert reception and the innovativeness of the media presentation of the most successful productions in Croatian contemporary art, a specific feature of the new brand of the Art Pavilion on a national scale. In line with the programmatic and technical innovations, changes in the visual identity of the Pavilion were carried out (a trademark and logo according to a solution by I. Dorogy) adjusted to the needs of contemporary media and market communications, one of the essential factors in the process of the visualisation and the new programme orientation of the Pavilion. Development programmes and the introduction of new activities At the level of achieved priorities related to development programmes and the further expert, programme and personnel profiling of the establishment, a particular part relates to the expansion of existing and the opening of new activities. In this framework an archival and documentation department was formed and a programme for the computer processing of data was put into operation. A new museum library was opened and started working; of the semi-open type (meant for the preservation of tehnical literatures, catalogues and published materials), it is linked with the archival and documentation department into a single information system within which a position for a documentalist was created. Also involved is a well organised library programme of exchange of publications with all relevant museums and galleries in Croatia. Back in 2004, in the context of the documentation department, the Pavilion launched and put into museum-gallery practice CD interactive virtual strolls through the annual exhibition programmes, which the discipline assessed as an innovative contribution to the professional presentation and popularisation of visual culture. In accordance with the new Strategic Plan of Development of the establishment of 2008, the complete reorganization of the work and internal organisation in a professional, organisation and personnel sense was devised and for the most part put into practice, which was the basic point of departure for long-term planning and the further development of the institution. Programmes of a vision of future development Architecturally and technically speaking, the priority part of the programme relates to the completion of the final phase of “Vision of the Pavilion for the 21st century” with the creation of new spatial and programme facilities in the ground floor of the Pavilion and finally restoring it to the function of a single and integrated museum-gallery complex, for the first time in its history. According to the preliminary plan and the overall architectural solution of Željko Kovačić, the architect, the complete reorganisation and remodelling of the internal space of the Pavilion is envisaged, including the linkage of the ground floor and the upper storey in a functional, communicational and programmatic sense into a single architectural unit. It is planned to build in an electric lift, with a remodelled information point and ticket office, which would at long last settle the problem of access to the exhibition venue for the elderly and other persons with mobility problems, and install inter-floor communications at all levels. Together with the final phase of the reconstructing of the lighting by remodelling the exhibition space (replacement of the flooring, removal of the wall masks and introducing underfloor heating) the plan also foresees the opening of a museum shop and souvenir shop and once again setting to work the museum cafe on the ground floor, which, along with changing the purpose of the storage space and turning it into a creative workshop and educational activity area, will additionally motivate the public and step up work in concert with educational and other cultural institutions.
By linking and much enlarging the exhibition-gallery space to two floors (first floor and ground floor), in the complex of exhibition activity complementary possibilities of programme activities also arise: from the production of large and important exhibition projects of a retrospective and thematic or dossier nature that deal with historical or contemporary visual themes and cultural phenomena in the main exhibition area, at the domestic or international level, or the organisation of diverse cultural and creative programmes in the multi-purpose gallery space of the ground floor, which will additionally step up the activity of the Pavilion and make it a dynamic and lively scene for everyday, current, social, cultural and artistic events (film and video projections, art installations, exhibitions of industrial design and fashion, panel discussions, lectures, professional and academic symposia, marketing events, creative workshops, literary, theatrical and music-theatre presentations and the like).
Along with maintaining the already noted practice of successful innovative presentation of the productions and artistic concepts of contemporary artistic work, through multimedia and site specific projects of relational art, of painting, sculptural, video and light installations, as well as photographic exhibitions and conceptual, in situ spatial interventions by interesting artists of the younger and middling generation, the ultimate aim is to position the Art Pavilion as a socially open institution, open to those in the profession, and all visitors, of all ages and statuses, and artists of other creative areas. To endorse it as a place where the creation of art and culture takes place, not just as a place for representation.
These are some of the strategic goals the achievement of which should, in the coming period, along with the planned creation of new jobs and strengthened collaboration on co-productions and programme exchange with some nearby regional and European cultural institutions and with the Structural Funds when Croatia joins the European Union, strengthen the position of the Art Pavilion as a modern and one of the leading museum-gallery institutions in Croatia and the general region.
Along these lines, with this multimedia project, to the original exhibition design of Studio Rašić (Ante Rašić, Marko Rašić and Vesna Vrabec), in a contemporary manner and with an interesting use of media, employing video and photography, interventions and spatial installations, archival documentation and fragments of architectural decoration, we tell the story in the historical and modern context of the renovation and modernisation of the Art Pavilion, important cultural institution as it is at the turn of the millennium.
Acting Director, Art Pavilion