3 in 1 : Restoration Exhibitions

Years of neglecting arts and culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina has resulted in massive destruction of cultural heritage. For art, the war is still going on, but its changed form sometimes blurs our eyes facing great suffering: Bosnian and Herzegovinian art collections in the museums, as well as a large number of monuments are now in very poor condition. The History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, pointed to “unhealed wounds” of a part of their collections through the project Restauro, which officially opened on 30th October.

Project Restauro has begun with the opening of three shows: Restoration in process made by History Museum of BiH, Restoration of heritage from the Commission to Preserve National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Restoration in Italy : Art and Technology which presented the Central Institute of Conservation and Restoration in Rome. The Commision to Perserve National Monuments showed the process of restoration of BiH heritage, while 25 large panels illustrate the conservation interventions on art and architecture masterpieces such as St. Francis’ Basilica in Assisi, the Riace Bronzes, the Domus Aurea, the leaning Tower of Pisa, as well as Caravaggio’s and Francesco Lotto’s paintings. Both exhibitions indicate the complexity of the restoration through the panels, whether it comes to domestic or foreign works of art. On the other hand, an excellent parallel between Italian and Bosnian “restoration” is well-rounded as a unit in exhibition Restoration in process. Restoration in process is the “embodiment” of what panels are talcing about because it shows direct result, the process and art.

Restoration in process is made from portraits of national heroes. According to report of Ministry of Education (People’s Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina) from 1948, they entrusted the Association of the Visual Artists BiH the production of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national heroes portraits, and thereby created a collection which was presented and preserved in History Museum of BiH. Time and war have left enough clues on the portraits, and it was also helped by bad financial situation of cultural institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Restoration in process, as the title suggests, evolved over time, changed and matured to the final presentation to the public.

Sanjin Lugić, the restorer, offered to History Museum to assess and review images from the stores. Once they collected the first monies, Lugić began the restoration, and more and more visitors peered into the “restoration workshop.” Pleasantly surprised, the staff of the History Museum decided to open the door for future audience. With this act, more and more people got interested for the project, so the collection of the History Museum (for which until recently we were not sure if it still works), slightly updated thanks to modern patrons and art lovers. The renovation of one portrait requires 400 KM, and the scenario designed by Svjetlana Hadžirović shows that the reconstruction process is still not completed: paintings are partially scattered on workshop and restorer’s corner is waiting for new material to start another revival (perhaps just You can help to end the restoration of this art collection). Portraits commissioned are the same size and was made in same technique – oil on canvas. Featured portraits reflect the photographic accuracy so that thecharacter is visually compelling, and psychologically as well, in the minds of the audience.

Art thus becomes what Alexander Gerasimov, Russian socialist realist artist, meant by “realistic in form and socialist in content.” In addition to copying nature and non-experimenting in artistic expression, the portraits present visual idealization of the body that should serve as a model for identification. The portraits are characterized by the imitation of real shapes and forms from the faces of portrayed and their faithful transmission to the canvas. On one wall of the room are cleaned canvas, on the other partially cleaned, and the third (near restorer’s table) are paintings that need to be renewed. Canvases are accompanied by appropriate photographic material, which in this case served as a diagnosis. Near one portrait is exposed a bullet that Lugić pulled out from the canvas. Restoration in process is challenging because it combines three very important aspects under a single framework.

First of all, it is in the exhibition space are shown the portraits we have long been neglected, which are an essential part of the past. In addition to national heroes, it is interesting that their production was entrusted with leading Bosnian artists who were active in the Yugoslav art scene (Ismet Mujezinovic Vojo Dimitrijevic, Ljubo Lah, Mario Mikulic, Hakija Kulenović, Petar Tiješić, Ivo Šeremet, Nada Novakovic …). The third important segment is definitely the process of restoration which is introduced to audience thanks to photographs and a video work by Edin Hadžimusić, set just above restorer’s table. Svjetlana Hadžirović devoted enough attention to each segment, and this is noted in a sufficient amount of information about heroes, artists and restoration, so the exhibition looked compact and clear.

Restoration in process could be studied from many other aspects. What as a future might be interesting is the participation of national female heroes and women painters in the creation of history; detection of layers and text messages writen by the artists under existing layers; or even restoring an entire picture of time that we incredibly much averse now. The project Restrauro was completed with a discussion in History Museum, and exhibitions are still open to the public. Since half of the collection is waiting for restoration, Restoration in progress is still not finished and this is not its final form.

Elma Hodžić

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