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Conversation with Dimitrije Tadić

Standards of practice and profiles of galleries in Serbia

The conversation addressed the topics of establishing a system of reference in art acquisition, systematic enhancement of the collections of public institutions and strengthening gallery collections. These issues were considered in the context of uncertain working conditions for galleries that operate under constant risk of cease , with inadequate infrastructure, high costs of business and production and economic uncertainty. The differences were noted in the practices of gallery spaces directly subsidized by their founders that are national or local authorities to those of exhibition spaces of independent organisations and private galleries, entrepreneurial cultural institutions, and new protagonists in culture – informal, self-organized, networked organizations who operate “in between” the institutions under uncertain and oscillating conditions.

What is the way for the Ministry of Culture to address the domain of the gallery system?

The Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia uses the system of open competitions for grants for visual arts and multimedia, aiming to improve the situation in contemporary creative practice. Galleries and exhibition spaces play their specific part in that process.

To implement the competitions in an adequate and purposeful way, it was necessary to precisely define the criteria upon which to decide on financing visual arts and multimedia projects.

In the circumstances where there are few foundations and institutions that finance cultural activities so the culture professionals could address them, the Ministry tends to be sufficiently flexible. That means assessing the situation in which the culture professionals and institutions operate, understanding their real needs and acknowledging the real problems they face in their work.

On the other hand, in parallel with the Ministry’s gradual de-etatization and progressive change within, the leading gallery and culture professionals are expected to bring changes pertinent to contemporary trends in culture. We established a balanced and optimized support to the public and civil sectors (including the private sector, due to overlap between functions of gallery and exhibition spaces common to Serbia).

It is necessary to further strengthen our gallery system. An important instrument of that process is to increase the participation of the scene protagonists in regional, international and, most importantly, European projects that include cooperation, co-productions and networking. One of the most important instruments to that end is the European Union’s main programme for culture – Creative Europe.

In the course of years, the competitions established unquestionable requirements for high artistic quality and professional demeanor, promotion of contemporary art forms, better understanding of concepts and language of contemporary art and supported innovative and experimental projects, new initiatives and new artistic production, well-conceived individual authorial projects etc.

Which are the criteria for assessing the gallery system in our country?

Based on committee evaluations of the proposals participating in the Ministry’s Competition for co-financing of projects in contemporary creative practice, the specific criteria worth mentioning have crystallized: the concept of the programme that is articulated and conceived in a contemporary manner, the quality and the method of selection of artists and other culture professionals included in annual programmes, variety of an annual programme etc. Moreover, financing production of exhibitions and the artistic production of the exhibiting artist is a very important item, then how much a gallery/exhibition space is visited, the number of exhibitions/activities in the annual programme, the quality of the design of print materials (catalogue, poster, invitations etc), a well-conceived side programme… With equal attention we consider if the technical equipment of a space is adequate, the standard of exhibiting/displaying, whether the concept of art presentation and storage is up to date. Attention is also given to an even geographical distribution of galleries and exhibition spaces and their contribution to development of the art market.

Participation of representatives of gallery system of Serbia in Creative Europe programme

Each successive year there is a growing number of institutions and organizations from visual arts taking part in the programme. The European cooperation programmes involve large cultural institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, which completed several projects, or the Gallery of Matica Srpska that entered into a partnership with the Art History Museum in Vienna, as well as smaller organization still positioning themselves on the map of exhibition spaces of Serbia and Europe, such as Hestia exhibition space from Belgrade. As for the applied arts, we note the participation of the Museum of Applied Arts from Belgrade in the project Ceramics and Its Dimensions and that of the Mixer House in the project Balkan Design Network, a platform that stimulates and supports Balkan design production and presentation in the region and internationally.

Dimitrije Tadić (1973, Beograd), Advisor for Visual Arts and Multimedia at Ministry of Culture and Information of Republic of Serbia, Head of Creative Europe Desk Serbia