Imago Montenegrina 

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from Montenegro

“If we were to leave aside all the historical and geo-political memories, all the political goals, coalitions, local antagonisms, conflicts, wars (...) the culture of Central Europe seems today mostly a longing for Europe (...) a quest for legitimacy in the context of a virtual Europe, the desire to be adopted or that we ourselves adopt the virtual Europe, who has refused to recognize our language, culture and literature”1. It was during the Communist era that Danilo Kiš – the half-Hungarian and half-Serbian-Montenegrin writer, “the greatest and the most invisible”, as Milan Kundera called him – argued on the question of the multi-cultural enclave of the former Yugoslavian countries, foreseeing a fractured and decomposed future to come: “the differences between the various national cultures in this part of the world are more important than their similarities, their antagonisms are more vital than any closeness and understanding, while all points of convergence date back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.”

Milovan Kadovic - Pessimist, Stoic (2015)


Even more vital, in fact, proved to be the differences between the nationalities of the former Yugoslavia: had Danilo Kiš not passed away in 1989, he would certainly have been surprised to see how immediate, compelling and prophetic his words were to prove.

Teodora Nikčevic - More than you, Empathy Sympaty (2015)

Zdravko Delibašić Beli - Untitled, No vs Yes (2015)

Zoran Petrušic - See, buy, run I, II (2015)

Tijana Gordic - Something about the Sun I, II (2015)


The dynamics leading to the national emergence of the States born out of the progressive disintegration of the former Yugoslavia in a more or less “virtual” Europe – whose boundaries are defined by the common goal of eventually joining the European Union – have been characterized by a double specificity: liberation from Communism, on the one hand, and from the Federalist dimension, on the other, to allow the affirmation of different identities, languages and territories. Thus were born the newest European Countries: among them Montenegro, the smallest and among the most recently formed, a country in progress, where, as for others, the syndrome of encirclement and local nationalism describe a rather common state of mind, generated
by the implosion of identities and “borders”. The reasons can be found, on the internal front, in the draining and reconfiguration of the communicating vessels between the ethnic groups scattered across the former Yugoslavia in the Communist period – firstly for the purpose of weakening individual identities, then painfully reworked and recomposed into large-scale conflicts, together with the return to each group’s linguistic and religious roots. There is little doubt, however, that the two-speed Europe has had a hand in it as well.

Adela Zejnilovic - Typespace, Type Expansion (2015)

Mirjana Marsenic - Fall, Tears (2015)

And yet, instead of feeling encircled,Montenegro has mainly acquired the characteristics of insularity together with an inclination to disseminate and to redefine permanently the concepts of center and periphery, depending on perspective. Significantly, the cultural and artistic capital of the country is Cetinje, a historical town and home to the most important cultural and artistic institutions of Montenegro. Located in proximity of the Country’s political capital, Podgorica, to which is it connected by a white mountain as if carved in stone, Cetinje is a small gem that stands like a cultural and artistic beacon, an oasis of human value concentrated in such a small space as to appear like a rarefied artefact, a cultural relic of the early 19th century. It is on this island of art – which sets the tone for the lush and sometimes tormented beauty of the Adriatic coast, not far from the spectacular gorges that inspired the love of Lord Byron and Marguerite Yourcenar – that the Imago Mundi collection has taken shape.

Nina Vukčevic - Blue Moon, Untitled (2015)

Nada Kažic - Mini Flexy Venus I, I (2015)

An Imago Mundi Montenegrina – described as such by the curator Mirjana Dabović Pejović – different and unique from the very beginning, featuring 65 artists each taking two 10x12cm snapshots and opening a double window, in a magnetic kaleidoscope where abstraction and figuration are entwined in equal measure. The result is a stylistically balanced collection, dominated by painting, which could serve as a sort of textbook for those wishing to investigate the Montenegrin artistic laboratory of recent decades. An analysis of the collection’s narrative
and artistic specificities reveals the abstract and objective approaches of contemporary Montenegrin art, able to pave the way to a balanced abstraction and to return to a refurbishment of the figurative, without forcing the hand towards the cognitive dissonance of genres, in a (self-)referential cycle to which we may no longer be accustomed, due to the excessive proliferation of such experiments in the late 20th century.

Jelena Toškovic - This is Longing I, II (2015)

Olivija Ivanović Strugar - Garden, Untitled (2015)


In this context, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate the originality of form and content of the three main strands of Montenegrin art – neo-figurative, abstract informal and post-expressionist – that have covered the same distance from their departure point. The miniature canvases of Imago Mundi
also indicate a negligible impact of pop culture as well as a clear distance from the urban melodrama that runs through the capital cities of former Socialist Countries, where the inflation of (post-) communist symbols and disillusionment and the issue of transition continue to be extensively explored today, while the artistic and political discourses
have ended up orienting the artistic production towards conceptualism and the new media.

Tijana Dujović Liščevic - Restlessness, Serenity (2015)

Jovan Miloševic - Mindscape No 1, No 2 (2015)

Montenegrin art has taken a different path, whose milestones seem linked to a fairly healthy insular mentality and to a vocation for group experimentation and exercises in academic referencing as well. In addition to the National Art Museum – whose grandiose headquarters have hosted the beautiful and enduring experience of Atelje
DADO and the Miodrag Dado Đurić Contemporary Art Gallery, animated, among others, by the curator of this collection – Cetinje is home to the largest academic institution in the Country: the Faculty of Fine Arts, quoted in the biographies of the artists featured here like an imprint of excellence,
often accompanied by the seal of their Professor’s names. The mention of the “master”, especially if referred to the Communist period when the post- war generation of artists studied in Belgrade, Ljubljana, Zagreb or Sarajevo, recalls the role of the Professor as a coagulating factor. The figure of the Professor – sometimes subversive or counter-revolutionary with regard to the former regime, or simply an icon,
an irrefutable reference of mastery for the entire area – recalls the dialogue between master and disciples, making more visible the bonds between student–artists and teacher–artists. Looking at the biographies, the same Faculty is often quoted next to the profession of the artists. In the entire region of former Communist Countries, being an artist rarely provides enough to live on: teaching often ensures one’s survival, while, in practice, the Faculty
is still perceived as a sort of symbolic 18th century Academy, a “workshop” of artistic trends and a guarantee of quality, and the source of the interesting and original trans-individual evolution of contemporary art in Montenegro.

Ivanka – Vana Prelevic - Concreting Of The Landscape I, II (2015)

Ana Kneževic - Shelf life I, II (2015)


From this perspective, Montenegrin art appears to be walking down a collective path – possibly linked to the sublimation of an individual identity, in a process of (re)configuration, rediscovery and reassertion. Hence the image of the Country’s artistic scene as a colony – also in academic terms – that fosters breakthroughs in the development of local contemporary art which, in line with this path, remains tied to the legitimacy and authority of art and not to its delegitimization or denial.

Bojana Bogavac - Food, Life (2015)


The 130 artworks created by 65 artists are tokens of the iconostasis of a collection which illustrates – by means of different yet strongly converging approaches – various techniques and styles, the manifestation in progress of an identity that still requires all its voices to make itself heard. This collection is the stage of a well-defined individual evolution still to come. Which is the common thread that holds together the Imago Mundi Montenegro collection.


Claudio Scorretti

Credits: Story

Project Manager
Claudio Scorretti

Curator and selector
Mirjana Dabović Pejović

Project Coordination
Irina Ungureanu

Organization
Valentina Granzotto

Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan

Texts
Luciano Benetton
Mirjana Dabović Pejović
Claudio Scorretti
Irina Ungureanu

Editing and Translation
Emma Cole
Sarah Cuminetti
Pietro Valdatta
Darja Marija Vuletić

Art direction
Daniele Tonon

Photography
Marco Zanin

Production
Marco Pavan

Cover
Ana Miljkovac - What to tell you that you already don’t know...
Imago Montenegrina

Special thanks to
Ljiljana Karadžić
Ivanka Vana Prelević
Lazar Pejovic

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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