This year marks 110 years since the birth of Petar Lubarda, one of the most accomplished Yugoslav artists. Lubarda’s colourful, raw works, reminiscent of the barren and dramatic landscapes of his native Montenegro, achieved international recognition during the 1950s and 60s. His career peaked when he beat Picasso and Dali for a Grand Prix at Sao Paolo Art Biennial in 1953.
A stone’s throw away from the Yugoslav History Museum Complex, the Legacy of Petar Lubarda (Iliciceva 1, Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm) displays 24 of his paintings in his former family home. His life was as dramatic as his colourful, expressionist works. Born in Montenegro in 1907, Lubarda went to Belgrade and then Paris to pursue art studies. After roaming Europe and spending WWII in German and Italian captivity, Lubarda returned to Yugoslavia where the victorious Partisans executed his father, a retired royal army officer.
After spending the latter part of the 1940s in semi-exile, travelling across Montenegro, his distinctive powerful style caught the eye of the Yugoslav art establishment. He then rose to prominence, with works commissioned to decorate major public buildings, including the Palace of the Executive (aka SIV, now Palace of Serbia) and Dom Sindikata (House of the Unions) in Belgrade. The large public painting in Dom Sindikata, “Grad” (City), which was commissioned for the grandiose atrium, will unfortunately be replaced by a nondescript clock in the plans for the renovation of Dom Sindikata by MCF MegacomFilm.
Besides the paintings, Lubarda’s Legacy displays , several hundred drawings and personal possessions, including a series of family photos taken in 1920s Montenegro. Look out for a door with panels that still bear Lubarda’s sketches.
The story of the building is also remarkable. Originally a holiday home for a wealthy Belgrade family before WWII and later nationalised, it was given to Lubarda only when he was supposed to be visited by a foreign delegation. Although the Legacy was formed after his death, Lubarda’s wife denied access to it, which led it to fall into disrepair, and it was only rennovated recently and opened in 2014.
Apart from Lubarda’s Legacy, this year will be a series of exhibitions celebrating his work. “Canvas” gallery (Kosovska 16) is exhibiting his smaller works held in private collections from his most prolific and acclaimed period in late 1950s. “Nacionalna galerija” (Dositejeva 1) is also put up an exhibition due to open on 20 May for “Noć Muzeja”.
Like any city that has been around for about two millennia, Belgrade is filled with fantastic stories of people and places that have made it what it is . Unfortunately, due to its turbulent past, frequent destructions and mass migrations, many of these stories are precariously close to perishing. In the time when even the most beautiful old house can fall prey to a sledgehammer or a “modernisation” and when politics can change histories of our predecessors, it is especially important to try to remember and appreciate.
That is why, though this series I want to tell stories about lesser known people and places, some of which are disappearing in front of our eyes. The focus will be more on the tangible and (relatively) easily accessible: buildings, ornaments and objects, less on simple history. The only criteria for inclusion is that it managed to astonish me.
I decided to write in English so that even visitors to our fair city can learn from it, however to make the text flow, I will assume prior knowledge of Serbian history, but will try to link with additional explanatory material. I am also very grateful for any pointers and corrections, as I mostly work with easily available information.
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