National Museum Belgrade – Yugoslav Modern Art
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National Museum Belgrade – Yugoslav Modern Art

There is one more important section in the National Museum in Belgrade that I would like to write about, which wasn’t there in the past. I saw it for the first time ever during my latest visit to the museum. The section that I am talking about is on Yugoslav modern art.

In fact, it makes sense to add these paintings to the permanent collection. Thus, you can see the progression of Serbian art from medieval times, through the 18th and the 19th century paintings. You can also see the Serbian Impressionists and the Yugoslav 20th century art.

Certainly, the story wouldn’t be complete without, at least, a mention of trends and achievements in the field of modern art.





Until the year 1950, periodical individual shows and short-lived activity of the Zadar Group (1947) were the only symbolic signs of the discontinuation with the dominant ideological themes of the post-war socialist realism.

Petar Lubarda’s exhibition in 1951 signified the institutional end of this policy and the future affirmation of Serbian art. Within the new cultural politics of the country, the protagonists of the December Group had an important influence on the process of modernisation and also the spreading of artistic internationalism.


Yugoslav Modern Art
Vertical Frieze – Zoran Petrović (1960)



Yugoslav Modern Art
A Street in Rovinj – Miodrag B. Protić (1955)





The December Group (1955-1960) won the battle for the emancipation of the artistic expression, for high aestheticization of art based on abstraction, expressionism and also post-cubist tradition of Picasso.

The artistic expression of the Group is a continuity of inter-war art. The painting is based on traditional values, but at the same time, purified in the narrative and linguistic sense. It’s turned towards solving of plastic and pictorial problems.

The painting remains related to objective world as its direct motif, even if the object is transformed to organic forms, geometrically reduced to the allusive and abstract sign or sometimes to stylised ornaments taken over from medieval and Byzantine legacies.


Yugoslav Modern Art
Mother of the Jugović Heroes – Lazar Vozarević (1957)



Yugoslav Modern Art
Horizon V – Stojan Ćelić (1964)



Yugoslav Modern Art
Association of the Sunken City – Radomir Damnjanović Damnjan (1959)





The dominant modernist climate of the 1960s was confronted by the critically oriented developments, primarily on the art scene in Belgrade. This opposition was manifested in diversely committed, strategic activities as resistance towards the political and cultural milieu of elitism and aestheticism.


Yugoslav Modern Art
A Nun – Petar Omčikus (1964)



Yugoslav Modern Art
Unmarked Painting





Informel Painting appeared on the Belgrade art scene at the end of the 1950s, as a double negation of the state of Yugoslav art. On one side, it negated the past of socialist realism and, on the other, the dominant aestheticism of post-war modernism.

The foundation was a projection of anti-art, aiming to resist traditionalism. It negated the painting as the carrier of the scene. In other words, it established the image as a consequence of the process of realisation.

Action and gesture function as destroyers of form and total elimination of the concrete object.


Yugoslav Modern Art
K 395 – Branislav Protić (1966)



Yugoslav Modern Art
Composition I – Zoran Pavlović (1962)



Yugoslav Modern Art
Synthetic Landscape – Miodrag Mića Popović (1968)





Mediala, founded in 1957 as an alternative group of artists, opposed socialist and modernist conventions in painting. With their works and public shows, it propagated the concept of an integral picture and philosophy of non-acceptance and negation. It emphasised figurative narrative. It related the object to tradition and literature with the so-called “aesthetic of the ugly and apocalyptic”.

Eclecticism and quotations are frequent and, within the numerous historic artefacts, Renaissance models are dominant, together with elements of surreal, metaphysical and also fantastic.

The leading ideologue of Mediala was Leonid Šejka.


Yugoslav Modern Art
Trochaic Symbol – Živojin Turinski (1967)



Yugoslav Modern Art
Room without a Face – Siniša Vuković (1959)



Yugoslav Modern Art
Frontal Arrangement – Leonid Šejka (1955)





New (Belgrade) figuration/new objectness evolved in the early 1960s into yet another model of reaction to the legacy of modernism, analogue to the all-European tendency of renewed figuration.

The painting is in the form of a critical narrative directed towards the realities of contemporary civilisation. It’s in a dialogue with the society through irony, humour, allusion, sarcasm, parody, grotesque. It’s toying with the kitsch and banality of everyday politics.

The object has a function of a moral act. It is close to the critical ideology of the European pop-art. Thus, the subject matters, as representations, are related to mass-media (film, photography, cartoons).


Yugoslav Modern Art
Portrait of an Unknown Man – Vladimir Veličković (1963)



Yugoslav Modern Art
A Rocket – Predrag Peđa Nešković (1966)



Yugoslav Modern Art
Missus of the Inscribed Black Rhinoceros – Radomir Džoni Reljić (1968)





Undoubtedly, all this is very interesting to see. Personally, I am not a big fan of the modern art. But at the same time, just because I don’t like it very much, I can’t deny its existence.

It also makes no sense to ignore it. Rather, it makes sense to get familiar with it at least in the broadest sense. After all, modern art is art of an era in which we live. Artists are trying to tell us something, in the way they see the world around us.

So, if you visit the National Museum, make sure to see the section on the Yugoslav modern art too. It’s interesting and also it completes the story of this museum.



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