Romanian artists in public collections from Romania and abroad
Simona Vilau and Valentina Iancu: Art Collecting in Romania
It is very important to notice that private collectors waited for the new politic environment to settle down, because the first part of the 90s seemed transitional, and in the same time, uncertain, after almost 50 years of Communism. Thus, the 90s were dominated by public acquisitions and private investment that came from abroad. We have a few major episodes from the 90s, that are very important for this kind of historical approach of the subject.
First, the Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst from Aachen organized a very important exhibition – Bukarest nach '89. Kunst in Rumänien Heute (Bucharest since '89. Art in Romania Today), that ended with acquisitions for the collection. Peter Ludwig and, then, Wolfgang Becker, came to Bucharest (Peter Ludwig in 1994), both being interested in the development of Romanian contemporary art, after the sudden changes of the social and political environment in 1989. The linkage between Aachen and Bucharest was made by prof. Wolfgang Becker (the director of Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, between 1970 and 2001) and the Romanian architect Radu Dobre-Sima, who is also a collector and art investor, based in Germany. The officials of Ludwig Forum first met Radu Dobre-Sima in Bucharest, in 1988, and with this occasion, they have met the Romanian art scene for the first time and became interested in it. They had also offered a series of fellowships for Romanian artists at the Ludwig Forum, starting with 1988. Among the fellows, we can find painters as Paula Ribariu (b. 1938), Bogdan Vladuta (b. 1971), or sculptor Marian Zidaru (b. 1956). The foreign interest in Romanian art after 1989 had been rising, and from this exhibition, several artworks became part of Ludwig Foundation collection. The artists featured in this exhibition were Ioana Batranu (b. 1960), Mihai Buculei (b. 1940), Sorin Dumitrescu (b.1946), Laurentiu Mogosanu (b. 1958), Dan Perjovschi (b. 1961), Romelo Pervolovici (b. 1956), Marilena Preda-Sanc (b. 1955), Paula Ribariu, Mihai Sarbulescu (b. 1957), Mircea Spataru (1937-2011), subREAL (Calin Dan (b. 1955), Dan Mihaltianu (b. 1954) and Iosif Kiraly (b. 1957)), Aurel Vlad (b. 1954), Marian Zidaru, Victoria Zidaru (b. 1956). We can notice here various artists’ names, with ages between 35 and 55 at that time, who were practiced in art of various genres, from high-scale painting or sculpture, to raw installations, or multimedia works. When it comes to describing a collection, or to emphasize its conceptual content, it is often very difficult to find the right path, because one can easily find, simultaneously, different 'grand' themes, different kinds of media, and also various artistic discourses, in a way that one cannot realize if it is about the quality of the artistic object, or, maybe, about the necessity of that kind of object in a collection, may it be public, or private.
In this selection, one can notice that they invited several of the most active Romanian artists of that time, names mentioned above, artists from various fields, starting with ‘neo-Orthodox’ artists and continuing with neo-Expressionist artists, as painter Ioana Batranu or sculptors Mircea Spataru and Aurel Vlad, and many more.
Recently, in 2011, Ludwig Museum from Budapest organized an exhibition entitled Kind of Change-New Acquisitions 2009-2011, in which one can notice the presence of the Romanian young artist Ciprian Muresan (b. 1977), with his controversial work entitled Communism never happened, or the presence of the artistic duet Mona Vatamanu & Florin Tudor (b. 1968, 1974).
Several Romanian artists are also present in public art collections from abroad. Tate Modern UK has in its collection several pieces, especially sculptures, by Romanian artists Paul Neagu (1938-2004) or Ovidiu Maitec (1925-2007).
In 2012, for example, MoMA New York organized a retrospective of Romanian film director Lucian Pintilie (b. 1933) and shortlisted, for the permanent collection, the film Reconstituirea (1968).
MUMOK Vienna (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien) organized, in 2011/12, an exhibition entitled Museum of Desires, showing an important part of 20th century artwork samples, artworks that were proposed for the museum’s modern and contemporary art collection. Among the artists presented in this exhibition was, for example, Geta Bratescu (b. 1926), one of the most active and important Romanian artists of the neo-avant-garde.
Along with Paul Neagu, Ion Grigorescu, subREAL, Lia Perjovschi (b. 1961) or Dan Perjovschi, Geta Bratescu is present in the collection entitled 2000+ ArtEast Collection, developed by Moderna Galerija, in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Going back to the 90s in Romania, the opening of Soros Centre for Contemporary Art in Bucharest had been another important step in the development of the post-Communist Romanian art scene. This initiative lasted for almost six years (1993-1999) under the patronage of Soros, and afterwards, it became ICCA (International Centre for Contemporary Art).
This initiative was dedicated to new media, in particular, and to the artists that emerged at the beginnings of the 90s, or to the late avant-garde and experimental branch of the 80s, in Romania.
Simultaneously, there was a ‘conservative’, neo-Orthodox wing in contemporary art, represented by Anastasia Foundation and Catacomba gallery (closed in 2001), initiated by the artist and theorist Sorin Dumitrescu.
In 2001, Sorin Dumitrescu initiated the project The Royal Collection of Contemporary Art (patronized by King Michael I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen), a collection that comprises over 70 works of Romanian art (paintings, sculptures, or drawings), signed by artists like Horia Bernea (1938-2000), Henry Mavrodin (b. 1937), Sorin Ilfoveanu (b. 1946), Vladimir Zamfirescu (b. 1936), Sorin Dumitrescu, Bogdan Vladuta, Stefan Caltia (b. 1942), Marian Zidaru, Constantin Flondor (b. 1936), Ovidiu Maitec etc. All the artworks were donations, made by the artists to the Royal Collection, which functions as a private collection, showed in Elisabeta Palace and Savarsin Castle.
The richest public collection of contemporary art in Romania, that is, unfortunately, kept closed to the public (until now) is the MNAC collection (The National Museum of Contemporary Art). MNAC was founded in 2004 in Ceausescu’s House of the People and it functions more like a ‘kunsthalle’, bringing foreign exhibitions and projects, or organizing internal exhibitions, featuring Romanian contemporary artists. Sometimes, these artists can also be found in the museum’s collection. In the 90s, the National Museum of Art had a Department of Contemporary Art, which organized solo-shows and retrospectives for living artists, altogether with Kalinderu MediaLab. While the Contemporary Art Department from the National Museum of Art was focusing on somehow ‘traditional’ artists, as Radu Dragomirescu (b. 1944, living in Italy since 1973), Paul Neagu, Sorin Ilfoveanu etc., Kalinderu MediaLab had the role of a multimedia ‘satellite’, that was positively, and compulsory completing the ICCA’s activities.
The latest MNAC public acquisitions program was in 2007, when the museum (through funding from the Romanian Ministry of Culture) bought artworks with an approximate budget of 600,000 euros, 197 artworks from 141 Romanian artists. This selection was made from over 500 applications, most of them being registered directly from living artists. At the beginning of 2008, MNAC hosted an exhibition, Achizitii MNAC, with several pieces from these new entries, by Ion Bitzan (1924-1997), Florin Mitroi (1938-2002), Roman Cotosman (1935-2006), Vasile Gorduz (1931-2008), Gheorghe Ilea (b. 1958), Peter Jacobi (b. 1935), Daniel Spoerri (b. 1930), Napoleon Tiron (b. 1935), Ecaterina Vrana (b. 1969) etc.
Also in 2004, another private collection was opened to the public, in Bucharest – Vasile Grigore collection, in the framework of a private museum. The collection comprises artworks and decorative objects bought by the artist along his career. Vasile Grigore (1935 -2012) was a Romanian painter and professor at the Academy of Arts in Bucharest. His collection comprises paintings, sculptures, small graphic works, wooden icons, folk decorative art (carpets and ceramics), Japanese prints, and decorative arts (both European and Oriental). His paintings, showed in this collection, are mostly modern and contemporary.
Another institution that is unique in this kind of review is The Comparative Art Museum of Sangeorz-Bai (Bistrita district, located in the center of Transylvania), a private museum founded by sculptor Maxim Dumitras in 2006, after research and work of over 15 years. The collection comprises artworks from the symposia that had been held there since 1990, mostly sculpture and installation (but painting is also present), from artists like Florin Ciubotaru (b. 1939), Ilie Pavel (1927-1995), Ion Dumitriu (1943-1998), Ion Salisteanu (1929-2011), Teodor Moraru (1938-2011), Suzana Fantanariu (b. 1947), Alexandru Chira (1949-2011) etc. The novelty that this institution brings is the association of contemporary art with vernacular objects from that geographical area, and also the success of an artist’s initiative ahead local authorities.
A few Romanian art collections were also presented within a program, initiated by Dialog gallery in Bucharest, entitled Collections and collectors, starting with 2006. In these series of exhibitions, one could see a selection from various art collections, like Mia and Mihai Nazarie collection (approx. 300 pieces, from David Teniers II to Surrealism and contemporary art, with an emphasis on sculptor Vasile Gorduz, or Ion Bitzan), Damian Florea collection, a well-tempered collection of paintings, from Horia Bernea, Wanda Sachelarie-Vladimirescu (1916-2008), Ion Pacea (1924-1999), and many others.
Another specific detail, in the Romanian collectors’ field, is SCAR/SRAC (Societatea Colectionarilor de Arta din Romania / The Society of Romanian Art Collectors), a non-profit organization based in Bucharest, initiated in 1989. The founder, and also president of the society is the painter, writer, and collector Vasile Parizescu (b. 1925), the son of a well-known book collector from the inter-War period. SCAR gathered, until now, 300 active members, from all around the country, and it comprises all kinds of collectors, from classical to modern art. Only few members collect, also, contemporary art.