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We invited curators Boyana Djikova, Martina Yordanova, Vladiya Mihaylova, and Vessela Nozharova to reflect the past year in the Bulgarian art. Following three years of substantial funding in the field, we observe a surge in overproduction, yet simultaneously witness the emergence of new directions in subjects and techniques. What transpired in 2023, and what anticipations can we have for the upcoming year?  Viktoria Draganova, editor-in-chief of the Journal for Social Vision, asked the questions.

What are the big topics of the passing year in Bulgaria?

Vessela Nozharova It seems like there is not one big theme, but many small ones. There is also a large amount of production – events and artworks that have been funded in the last two years. You could say that there is already an accumulation of new experiences and bringing out topics that lead to new trends. 

Vladiya Mihaylova I think there is reason to say that 2023 is the year of the National Culture Fund. We have witnessed a turn in the Fund’s policy, compared to the course taken in 2020, when new long-awaited programmes were introduced. Then, through the Covid measures, missing links in public support, such as the One-year Grant program or individual creative fellowships, were created as an occasion. The independent scene received recognition and support on a larger scale, a scale that has long existed in other European countries. However, instead of stability in policy, this year we have seen major fluctuations in the Fund – lawsuits against organisations, changing the meaning of the one-year support, and stopping the small individual grants to create works. I fear that we are going backwards, and backwards when the change in funding has already borne fruit. Let’s see how these processes develop...

Beyond that, in 2023 we find ourselves in a very different visual arts scene as a production, one that I frankly enjoy. It’s on the set. There is an opportunity to create an entire ecosystem, and the field of contemporary arts and culture is no longer exclusive. 

Boyana Djikova For me, this is the first year that we are starting to seriously criticise the funding that has led to the overproduction of exhibitions. When we talk about art in Bulgaria, the convention is to think through the gaps – usually defining what makes the Bulgarian scene stand out through what it doesn’t have. And now a new theme is emerging, we are moving from lack to oversaturation. This would still be useful for reassessing this type of funding and making sense of what responsibility we take for the development of artistic life.

It is widely commented that exhibitions are on a conveyor belt, that everything happens to fulfil programmes.

At the same time, I think it’s positive that this year the requirement for educational programs and socially engaged initiatives was dropped from the Creation (Suzdavane) program, because they were not necessarily in the interest or spectrum of activity of a lot of organizations that were making things up just to get funding, without the product itself being qualitative or educational.

Martina Yordanova I also see an oversaturation, but I also see that the organisations themselves are aware of this and now the dialogue is going in the direction of how to reduce and deepen the program in the next programming period, how to come to a more meaningful dialogue and attitude towards the exhibitions, and most of all not to be so many and so dense. Fundamentally, there remains a need to work towards engaging new audiences and to think of models and strategies to attract as well as expand the field. A good example is the collaboration between scientists and artists, a project that Aksiniya Peycheva is developing in the Project Room of Structura Gallery. Swimming Pool’s projects also have this focus and we often see interactions between different cultural actors. 

Vladiya Mihaylova Sustainable in-depth programming is very important and it goes with sustainable, wise funding. It is also important to decentralise cultural provision. At the moment, the centre of artistic life is between Dondukov St. and Slaveykov Sq. in Sofia. From the position of the RCCA Toplocentrala, I feel this very clearly, even though there are two museums nearby. Unfortunately, the Sofia Arsenal – Museum of Contemporary Art is rather deaf in the park next to Toplocentrala.

Martina Yordanova The National Gallery and the museum institutions should be the places that attract the mass public, which then has the opportunity to distinguish the content of the different actors in this ecosystem. At the moment, my observations are that people largely don’t make a difference between exhibitions that happen institutionally, in private galleries, commercial spaces, independent ones or in artist-run spaces. I think there is a need for better communication in this direction, which will also produce results in terms of the art market.   

Is there an exchange between institutions and the independent sector, between centre and periphery, in the city or nationally? Can we talk about an ecosystem in which experience, energy, and funding are transferred?

Martina Yordanova In my opinion, there are still missing essential links for the existence of such an ecosystem. On the one hand, there is no art market. On the other hand, the National Gallery is a problematic institution on many levels, both in terms of the museum’s program, in terms of funding, and in terms of management (here I am referring to the fact that one person, in this case, Ms Boubnova, is in charge of the administrative and creative management of as many as nine branches, all part of the National Gallery’s structure) and what kind of policy and vision it has. Due to a lack of funds, many externally generated projects have happened and continue to happen that simply guest the gallery. Here we see some development in this regard and formats taking shape that are successful for all involved. For example, the Masters of Photography or the International Biennale of Glass, as well as the collaboration with the Bulgarian Fund for Women, all these formats have been going on for several years and have a permanent audience. In terms of the permanent exhibition, there is also a lot of work to be done and a need for rethinking and a complete reformulation. There are very competent colleagues who I believe can do this work and I hope that we will have a possible new reading for the anniversary of the institution’s opening in 2025.

Vladiya Mihaylova Besides the lack of an art market, there is also a lack of criticism. It follows the contemporary theory of art, but there is none. There are no new and commonly shared concepts of art to be brought to a theoretical level, so there is nothing for criticism to stand on. Yes, there is operative writing, for example, the wonderful column of the Cultural Centre of Sofia University “Critique x3”, but a critique that starts from a vision of the function of art or a shared horizon of understanding of modernity simply does not exist. There is also a third important thing missing – communication with the audience, which requires a lot of social work.

Institutions have a responsibility to create a shared theoretical, visionary and value horizon, but also to engage and dialogue with audiences.

We complain of a glut of the scene because we now see the limit and constraint of people following, attending and caring. The general public is the great challenge of institutions – not following mass taste, but educating and attracting it, because for too long they have been comfortable with having no face, with being mere containers for exhibitions. The National Gallery, for example, should be building an identity, talking about the issues that unite society, and communicating Bulgarian artists outside Bulgaria, but it does absolutely none of that.

We face the challenge of individual institutions putting their own face forward so that there can be diversity. In the private sector we are seeing exactly that. Even new spaces like Depoo Gallery, Little Bird Place and Doza are charting out fields and creating attitudes and expectations, working with and supporting a range of artists and subjects rather than one artist being shown in five places at once. 

1. Alla Georgieva, Sleep, Dearie, Sleep, exhibition view (19–31.10.2023), Doza Gallery; 2. Dinko Stoev. Paintings (10–28.11.2023), Rayko Alexiev Hall, Union of Bulgarian Artists; 3. Tour for retired people from the program Looking with Understanding in the exhibition Documents. Painting after Photography in Bulgaria in the 1970s and 1980s (02.03.–04.06.2023), Sofia City Art Gallery.

Boyana Djikova In my opinion, the Union of Bulgarian Artists is very interesting, like a separate ecosystem, because it maintains a scene that functions absolutely for itself, we are not aware of them and they are not aware of us. They have their own infrastructure, they have funding, they have facilities, they have an award for sculpture and painting. But I can’t think of another country where the artists’ union and the Academy are so separate from the scene. I don’t see a purposeful connection of the Academy with the outside world and I don’t know how much that can be fixed as long as the faculty has ideological preferences.

Vladiya Mihaylova I don’t think that the Union of Bulgarian Artists is so ignorant. The union started to do big and serious exhibitions, that of Nikolai Maistorov, Dinko Stoev, and Youlian Tabakov. The Union is a more open institution than the Academy, and the Academy participates in artistic life through its teachers. This year, they made an effort to bring the graduates’ exhibition to institutions that are different from the Union’s spaces. Such was the textile exhibition at Toplocentrala in 2022. It would be great to have the art students’ thesis defenses at Toplocentrala, too. I’m sure the change of venue will change the focus of their work.

Vessela Nozharova In all these large institutions dealing with art, there should be an administrative reform that would divide the functions in management. Administrative from artistic. Apparently all state institutions are choking on an uneasy combination of the two.  

Vladiya Mihailova But we don’t have a separation of the directorial figure into administrative and artistic anywhere in Bulgaria, and that’s a problem. Few people can combine both well, and even fewer can leave room for leading a creative team based on self-initiative and creative participation. The focus on the singularity of the director’s figure, as well as outdated notions of hierarchical team structure, effectively feudalise institutions and hinder their modern functioning because they do not take into account the individual contribution, initiative and creative thinking of those working in institutions.

The real status quo that this situation reproduces replaces the principles of publicity, participation and access and keeps the system closed. Another problem is the vicious practice of public institutions (e.g. the Plovdiv City Gallery) taking rent for exhibitions from artists or “external” organisations – where in this case is the expert work, the symbolism, the directing of the public’s attention that constitutes artistic politics? They are absent. Such practices corrupt and replace the principles of public space and access to culture in an environmentally destructive way. 

Boyana Djikova I don’t feel that the public of the larger institutions does not recognize our spaces. I don’t feel confrontation but the opposite – more support. The fact is that we are all in a narrow geographical centre, which helps this proximity. The openings often coincide, and the audiences mix. For me, the main problem is that institutions and the private/independent sector compete for funding in the same programs of the National Culture Fund and the Ministry of Culture.

Talking about exchanges between different actors in the field, we see again that independent organisations are doing quite good work in state institutions – I think for example of the Looking with Understanding educational format. But what happens with these formats?

Vessela Nozharova Yes, this format has been very successful and well attended by the public. It was organized by Stefka Tsaneva, who also expanded it in the direction of Listening with Understanding – museum podcasts that could be permanently present in the halls. The last thing they did with Martina Novakova was the museum theatre The Rambler’s Daughter, which with only four or five performances brought over 200 visitors. It’s been economically viable for the institution. The museum can, with little effort, use these productions and they can continue to exist as long as there are audiences. But for now, we see no interest on the part of the National Gallery to take on this project made specifically for the permanent exhibition and secure its life. It is high time that these institutions stop behaving like obnoxious landlords and realize their role as partners and creators.

Vladiya Mihaylova This is a huge problem – the institutions that act as a bastion of institutional life, unlike the so-called independent sector. Actually, I am not a supporter of the wording ‘independent sector’ because it is very much speculated. By this combination I don’t mean organisations that don’t need support and are completely independent, but organisations, groups and individual artists who work on a freelance basis, based on projects and grants, and represent a new way of functioning, more mobile and flexible in the general cultural environment. If institutions do not benefit from this enormous resource, they outline a fortress that is slowly dying within itself – it is getting old, outdated, and far from cultural life. I say this as someone who works in an institution, and I want to work with the independent sector, but that doesn’t mean functioning as an open stage (or container) and just offering space. On the contrary, it means entering into meaningful communication and being a partner.

Boyana Djikova I imagine the most important thing is the presentation of internationally recognized authors. Is there a chance for an Isa Genzken exhibition in Bulgaria? Although we don’t face the same problems as in the 1990s – travel is much easier and art is accessible, including via the internet, international artists need to be integrated into the Bulgarian scene and information about them brought to a much wider audience.

Vladiya Mihaylova This year at the Topocentrala we were able to co-produce with Viennese space (Franz Josefs Kai 3) the exhibition Shelter by Liesl Raff. The whole process that this requires is extremely complicated because it is atypical for Bulgarian administration. I am convinced that we should actively work in this way, and vice versa – Bulgarian artists, curators, exhibitions should be presented outside Bulgaria. Our scene will be really involved when not only obviously recognizable names, but also emerging artists, mature projects that are gaining strength and attention actively start to show and create a conversation about them.

Martina Yordanova And let’s talk about the so-called ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions, but also the production in the National Gallery, which we can exhibit and have cooperation with other European institutions. As well as to work on topics that don’t just stay here, but are ‘exported’ abroad. 

Vladiya Mihaylova In Bulgaria we still rely on the most conservative model of art presentation – through the figure of the artist, his biography and the completeness of his works, or through the chronology of art history with the established notions of stages and processes that are not questioned. There is no anthropology, no social or cultural point of view, and no strong curation that stands behind ideas and creates new connections and re-readings.

This kind of exhibitions cannot be interesting for international institutions and, in my opinion, they deeply provincialize and marginalize Bulgarian art.

And while the modern art narrative is one of achievement, the postmodern and contemporary one is not necessarily so – it is not necessarily oriented around the novelty and invention of the masterpiece but is a narrative of cultural difference in terms of social processes and cultural contexts. Such a perspective is absent. Here, the official narrative is still ‘who is good, better and the best, who is included, who is secondary, etc.’

Liesl Raff, Shelter (19.10.–26.11.2023), Toplocentrala Gallery – Cube. Photo: Kalin Serapionov
Liesl Raff, Shelter (19.10.–26.11.2023), Toplocentrala Gallery – Cube. Photo: Kalin Serapionov

And what are the topics that you think are meaningful and necessary to raise? We’re working on two in particular – one is ecology, the other is relating to communities. These themes put interactions at the centre and so change the concept of art. But the question is also to what extent artists are asking or responding to given problems.

Vessela Nozharova Next year ecology will be one of the top themes for us because, as you rightly mentioned, it is also the important idea of the interactions between different elements, it includes communication between these elements and mutual influence. We want to deal with socially significant issues, not so much with formal ones or those related to narrow aesthetic discourse. But I don’t think artists are fully responding. Even those born in the 1990s and the beginning of this century. I still don’t see the fundamental themes of the world being present in many artistic practices. However, this generation has been strongly shaped by access to media, which has also changed the way Bulgarian artists handle visual material and transform it into their work. This can be seen in painting, often in a collage genre influenced by new media.

Regardless of how they work, artists deal with their personal dilemmas. Capitalism, the economics of art, ecology, etc. rarely appear as a line in their creative explorations. These themes are more present as a curatorial quest and less inherent to the artists. Yet ecology is permanently important for people such as Nevena Ekimova, Maria Nalbantova. Comments on economy, gender and identity, contemporary social system in the past year also can be seen in the works of Teodor Genov, Sofia Dimova, Tsvetomira Borisova, Alina Papazova, Kalin Serapionov, etc. The emergence of painting posing important political and social issues was also remarkable. The exhibitions of Dina Stoev, Dumisani Karamanski, Elena Nazarova, Alla Georgieva are a visible trend in this direction, which I believe will have followers. In general, painting has come back into the game. It is now a leading medium in contemporary art, something that was forgotten and unconvincing in our country because of our specific fine art tradition. I keep thinking about Ivo Bistrichki’s ongoing exhibition Colossus, which visualizes this transition impressively.

Without a doubt, this year is also the year of discovery. Forgotten or completely unknown authors come into circulation with new force. They are becoming the foundation for future development for generations to come. In this sense, the exhibitions of Evgenia Vodenicharova, Yanaki Manasiev and Stanka Tsonkova-Usha, all at the Sofia City Art Gallery, Magda Abazova at Kvadrat 500, Nikolai Maistorov and Stanislav Pamukchiev at the Union of Bulgarian Artists are remarkable. The works in Usha’s exhibition are a real discovery, opening the doors to a whole period in art about which, it turns out, we know very little. What influences, what interactions took place among artists, photographers, and theorists in the 1980s and 1990s? It seems to me that the findings are yet to come.

Boyana Djikova It impresses me that young artists decide to work with archives and industrial heritage. Such were the exhibitions Nature Morte by Nikola Stoyanov curated by Hristo Kaloyanov at the Goethe-Institut, Ore by Slava Savova at KO-OP, Crystal Factory by Nevena Georgieva at Depoo, and the practice of Yana Abrasheva. This may be due to the presence of a certain distance of time that allows these themes to be viewed critically, but also to the saturation of all art with subjects of a general nature, which leads to a desire to deal with concrete and authentic cases relevant to a given community. I think what’s at stake in these types of exhibitions is the balance between fine art and research – sometimes the visual part gives way to the formal research, and other times it results in a successful synergy where we see an in-depth product. I guess it depends on the artist and the curatorial approach (I should mention the wonderful print edition to Nature Morte).

Vessela Nozharova Maybe the reason is this desire to work with something specific, a need for a case study and working with the visual side of what is being discovered. But what conclusions are reached in the artworks is another matter.

Vladiya Mihaylova Be aware that in Bulgaria nothing keeps memory. It’s maybe some desire to stop somewhere, to have a memory, to connect with something. Bulgarian institutions are not active institutions of memory, which contributes to the self-erasing culture we are witnessing. Turning to the archives is existential, it is compensatory.

Martina Yordanova In the public field itself there might be a lack of dialogue on such big topics. I don’t know how far the topic of ecology reaches us. I also don’t get the political, we see an apoliticisation in the field of art – very rarely do artists deal with political issues. But back to the question of significant themes, I want to develop in the future the idea of care and ecology, but more in the sense of human ecology and what we have as a relationship to ourselves and to the world around us. How we build those relationships and connections and how that reflects in the art world.

Dumisani Karamanski, Mausoleum of Mama’s Boy (28.09.–20.10.2023), Credo Bonum Gallery. Photo: Galya Yotova
Dumisani Karamanski, Mausoleum of Mama’s Boy (28.09.–20.10.2023), Credo Bonum Gallery. Photo: Galya Yotova

Vladiya Mihaylova I think we have very strong female authors. There is a theme of community that comes through. It is present in a way in the work of Iskra Blagoeva and Valentina Sciarra, where community is thought of including at the level of bodily co-existence. In another way it is placed in the projects of the Center for Social Vision, where we speak rather of a social community that is addressed and on this depends the artistic research and ultimately the artistic result. The two exhibitions of Dina Stoev and Dumisani Karamanski showed a different type of interaction, and the queer element in them is very interesting. Years ago, when I curated the exhibition Shifting Layers at the Sofia City Art Gallery, I realized that there were not many new subjects after 2004–2005. It seems as if the only fundamentally new field is the queer field – and not in terms of its LGBTQ political dimension and politics of difference, but also as a way of living outside of existing oppositions and fields, outside of the status quo of our understandings according to which we make sense of living. I’d like to believe that the relevant topics today would be those of caring, of relationships with each other, of existential experiences such as loneliness, alienation, connecting with ourselves. We are at the stage where living is the theme and not the mind games and speculations, the communities and not the heroic individual, which is wonderful because there is an opportunity to change the conventions of Bulgarian artistic life towards different networks and horizontality.

Boyana Djikova If we go back to women’s issues, I personally would be interested in what young female artists who are doing this, like Sofia Dimova for example, would contribute. In my opinion, this year there was no serious treatment of ideas from the third and fourth waves of feminism, such as women’s sexual pleasure and women’s economic independence and career equality. For me, the woman’s freedom to have sex and not bear children was somewhat missing from the exhibition Needles in a Haystack curated by Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva, perhaps one of the most important exhibitions of the year. For me personally it would have been meaningful to touch on ideas such as ecofeminism, feminism and technology (such as the work of Natalia Jordanova), but also for a wider group of women to gain representation.

From the opening of Needles in a Haystack (30.05.–16.07.2023) with works by Oksana Kazmina (Pic. 1), Rayna Teneva (Pic. 2), and Sophia Grancharova (Pic. 3). Photos: Rosina Pencheva

Vladiya Mihaylova I think it’s very valuable that the Bulgarian Fund for Women doesn’t functionally try to find the messages of feminism in every work in order to support it. On the contrary, they are opening up a field of understanding that is also a field in its own right for artists to express themselves without necessarily becoming tools to prove those points.

And how are the artists doing and what are their strategies for survival, especially after the National Culture Fund’s Creative Initiatives programme was abandoned?

Boyana Djikova The Collective Foundation did something very important – to provide artists with studios in the Business Park in Sofia, even if it is office space and it is not clear how long they will be available for these purposes. Until now, there were similar studios in Plovdiv. 

Vladiya Mihaylova The studios in Plovdiv are indeed a very interesting place, but it is so because there is a donation behind the initiative – the building itself is of the Zograf Monastery in Mount Athos and is run by the monks of the Bulgarian monastery. 

Vessela Nozharova Most artists work from their rooms. And the truth is that the situation is affecting the scale of production. 

Vladiya Mihaylova Yes, we are masters of the small format.

Vessela Nozharova It was a big leap for Dumisani to do these formats. The paintings took up exactly one wall in his studio and he couldn’t make even five centimetres on top. All the canvases are also unframed because he can neither leave nor re-enter the studio. It’s massive. 

Boyana Djikova It affects the continuity of the work because many artists work for one project, then they don’t have funding and they don’t do anything for a long time. This fragments their work and perhaps somewhat prevents a consistent build-up of their artistic practice.

Vladiya Mihaylova Because of the lack of space and conditions for storage (or collecting by institutions, for example) there are works that have already been destroyed and that is very unfortunate.

Martina Yordanova I’ve noticed a lot of interest in the IATRUS residency in Veliko Tarnovo since its creation, which I attribute to something artists need – to belong to a certain community. Here we get a really important interaction between the artists and the local scene, which is very positive. The participants themselves are quickly finding their place in the Tarnovo’s art environment, collaborations are happening between the different spaces and galleries, which are no longer few at all for the scale of the city. We have a rich cultural landscape, which the IATRUS residency programme complements in a good way. 

View with a Room, exhibition view (15–21.09.2023), Berlin. Photo: Punta and Posta
View with a Room, exhibition view (15–21.09.2023), Berlin. Photo: Punta and Posta

What has been the presence of Bulgarian artists on the international scene? Perhaps alongside the funding in the last two years, we have turned a lot to local scenes and encouraging production.

Vessela Nozharova Quite modest. Vladimir Iliev has a gallery in Istanbul and participates in the fair in the city. Vesselina Sarieva showed a very new and different Rudy Ninov at Art Brussels. Dessislava Terzieva had an exhibition in Berlin during Gallery Weekend, and again there in October, Boyana participated with Posta. But also look at the opposite – the presentation of artists in Bulgaria. I think of the exhibition curated by Teodora Kotseva at Credo Bonum with artists from Berlin, which was received with great enthusiasm. Also, the exhibition of the Kosovar artist Artan Hajrullahu at Sarieva. The already permanent presence of foreigners in the Bulgarian scene is also a very good sign. Valentina Sciarra, Mitch Brezounek, Aaron Roth, Cédric van Parys, etc. We have not thought of them as foreigners for a long time.

We need more courage and lightness in showing ourselves on the foreign stage and we should not always think of big names, but communicate on a personal level and have this dialogue much more often.

Structura Gallery has a very strong international programme, which puts international collaborations on the agenda and invites foreign curators to work with Bulgarian artists. Mention should be made of Beyond All Reason. In the Mirror of Surrealist Times curated by Gregor Jansen, the exhibition Happy curated by Johan Gustavsson. In Plovdiv this year there was an excellent exhibition, Places of Sorrow, curated by Domenico de Chirico and Velizar Dimchev. It was in Cu29 gallery, but also in a parking lot under an apartment block in the centre. This exchange seems to me extremely productive, but still not quite enough.

Vladiya Mihaylova For me it was very constructive to work with Liesl Raff. During the exhibition in Sofia, she was chosen to represent Austrian at the Biennale in Quanzhou. But thinking about the art scene, Voin de Voin continues to work internationally, especially in collaboration with Doza Gallery, who are developing a very interesting programme. Structura Gallery also has an international presence.

Vessela Nozharova has already mentioned several artists and exhibitions and I, as someone involved in Sofia Art Map, can’t help but share the many new spaces that have appeared in the last year – DOT, Octopus Art Space, Gallery, Hostgallery, etc. Would you like to add any artists or exhibitions that made an impression on you over the year?

Vladiya Mihaylova We should certainly mention Youlian Tabakov’s exhibitions at Rayko Alexiev Gallery and in several cities outside Sofia, the studios in Gabrovo of Nevena Ekimova, Valentina Traïanova, the exhibitions of Alla Georgieva, Ivo Dimchev, etc. The year was very active.

Martina Yordanova I would mention the exhibition Happy by Johan Gustavsson, too. In this exhibition there was a very strong curatorial work, I would say direct artistic intervention even, which I personally quite like. The other one that happened there along the same lines, by Gregor Jansen, also gave a different perspective in terms of artists and choice of works. Nevena Ekimova’s exhibition Tchotchke in the office space of foryouandyourcustomers is also my favourite. Maria Nalbantova’s Foxtale at the KO-OP Gallery, Needle in a Haystack at the National Gallery, but we’ve already mentioned it.

Happy, exhibition view (21.09. – 28.10.2023), Iskra Blagoeva, Spartak Dermendjiev, Nedko Solakov, Kosta Tonev, curator: Johan Gustavsson, Structura Gallery. Photo: Kalin Serapionov
Happy, exhibition view (21.09. – 28.10.2023), Iskra Blagoeva, Spartak Dermendjiev, Nedko Solakov, Kosta Tonev, curator: Johan Gustavsson, Structura Gallery. Photo: Kalin Serapionov

Boyana Djikova It’s hard for me to approach this without mentioning projects by friends of mine or artists I’ve worked with, but I think it would be more ethical to do so, so: in addition to the exhibitions I’ve already mentioned, this year’s BAZA nominations introduced interesting new (or at least to me) names like Veronika Desova and Viktor Petrov. Sofia Underground’s programme, which was quite intense, offered a good selection of artists through exhibitions, performances and side events, as well as an international presence and had the decentralisation that is needed. It also seems to me that the festival managed to achieve a specific spirit or aura that was different from other events in Sofia.

On an institutional level, significant I think was the exhibition Documents. Painting after Photography in Bulgaria in the 1970s and 1980s curated by Daniela Radeva and Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva at the Sofia City Art Gallery, because it covers a period in the history of Bulgarian contemporary art that is distinguished by a particular curiosity (in this case, towards the documentary). The curators had made a great effort to contextualize the works. From the recent, I can mention Nikola Grozdanov’s exhibition at Structura Project Room as an interesting exploration of working with matter and the potential of glass, which doesn’t seem to be as widespread in the Bulgarian scene.

BOYANA DJIKOVA is curator of the galleries Punta and Posta.

MARTINA YORDANOVA is curator at the National Gallery and founder of IATRUS residency in Veliko Turnovo.

VLADIYA MIHAYLOVA is at RCCA Toplocentrala.

VESSELA NOZHAROVA is curator at Credo Bonum Gallery and co-founder of Art Affairs and Documents Association.



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