Friday, 17 July 2020

In Croatia Public Art Is Destroyed And Replaced With... Nothing

July 17, 2020 – Zagreb's residents have voiced outrage at the removal of a beloved work of art, replaced by nothing. But is this really anything new for Croatia Public Art?

Over the last 24 hours, residents of Zagreb have voiced their outrage at the removal of one of the city's best-loved pieces of street art. 'The Little Prince' had sat in Čulinečka ulica in the Dubrava neighbourhood since 2016. But now it is no more.

Inspired by French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's children's novel - one of the world's best-selling and most-translated books – the mural was placed at the end of a busy underpass. As such, it was a colourful piece of Croatia Public Art, a welcome for motorists entering the drab, grey concrete of the city, stuck in traffic, on their way to another grueling day of work.

Updates to the story have revealed the culprits to be fans of the local football team, Dinamo Zagreb. They had been given permission to paint yet more murals of their logos and slogans on the rest of the underpass, under the provision – according to neighbourhood authorities who granted it – they did not touch the existing artwork. But they did. Where once was placed an inspiring and cheering mural, there now sits nothing.

Representatives of the largest organised group of Dinamo supporters – known as Bad Blue Boys – have, at the time of writing, failed to comment on the affair. Perhaps they weren't aware of the Dubrava sect's actions? They certainly don't appear capable of reprimanding their own members. So much for claiming to be 'organised'. Or perhaps they're just exhausted by all the bad press?

In recent memory, the Bad Blue Boys have repeatedly hit the headlines and, to be fair, not always for such reprehensible, thoughtless behaviour. Following Zagreb's 2020 earthquake, supporters came together as some of the first responders at the scene of a hospital, where they assisted in removing infants from the damaged wards. Bravo! But, then young supporters were pictured with a banner bearing the scandalous words “We will f*ck Serbian women and children”

Representatives from the Bad Blue Boys were quick to denounce the disgusting banner. Bravo! However, they implied the wording was only problematic as it pertained to pedophilia. Eek. And, within 24 hours, the same voices were raging about anti-Croat slogans used by Serbian football fans, in that classically Balkan method of argument where you ignore the issue at hand, point somewhere else and say “But, they are much worse!”

With the removal of 'The Little Prince', this time they seem to have gone too far. All but the most insecure and ardent of supporters have turned on the Bad Blue Boys, labelling them hooligans, idiots and selfish. Comments under news items covering the story are filled with angry criticism for the football fans.

“They like to paint themselves as hooligans who we should all fear,” one angry Zagreb resident who wished to remain anonymous, told TCN, “but really they can only paint their retarded logos. They piss all over the city like feral dogs marking their territory. Their murals are already on walls everywhere, why destroy this art? Everyone loved it! They are not even real football fans, let alone hooligans. They boycotted (attending) because of the club's (allegedly) corrupt management, but as soon as the club released 1 Euro tickets, stadium was again full. For 20 years they shout and spray (paint) fake anger over corruption at the club, but they don't do a thing about it. The same people are still in charge and the stadium is full of these so-called fans. Can you imagine that happening in a football club in your country, in Spain, in Argentina, in Brazil? No. Impossible. Such corruption would not last a year before fans removed them. The corrupt would be assassinated if that's what is needed (to remove them). They are not Bad Blue Boys, they are Big Blue Babies. They are dogs with loud voice but absolutely no teeth”

The anger of Zagreb residents is palpable. But, can we blame the pointless and saddening idiocy of this affair on the Bad Blue Boys? Like the disgusting slogan on the teenage supporters' banner, such rhetoric does not appear out of thin air. Actions like these are sadly learned. And the country has an established history of needlessly destroying Croatia Public Art and replacing it with... nothing.

A photograph of a small section of Ivan Joko Knežević's mosaic in Omiš, the only record in colour remaining of this piece of Croatia Public Art © Knežević family archives

The long-cursed bottleneck on the Jadranska magistrala (Adriatic highway), the Dalmatian town of Omiš, is now fighting to attract the kind of footfall that its neighbours Makarska and Split experience during summer. And, sitting at the mouth of the Cetina river, it sure does have a lot to offer. However, one thing it no longer has to offer is the amazing mosaic created by renowned local artist Ivan Joko Knežević on one of the town's most prominent squares. Today, the square is known as Trg Franje Tuđmana (but, of course it is – it's probably very close to a street called Ante Starčevića too) and where the beautiful mosaic once stood, there sits a blank wall. This piece of Croatia Public Art was removed under a wave of nationalist sentiment following Croatia's war of independence, solely because one of the local scenes it contained depicted Partizan soldiers (who fought to recapture for its inhabitants this very area from the Nazi-allied Italians it had been gifted to). Now, there is no reason for tourists to come to this square other than the drinks on offer. They sit and sip and look at nothing.

The wife of Ivan Joko Knežević and friends, standing in front of the mosaic in Omiš after the unveiling of this work of Croatia Public Art © Knežević family archives

This is not the only time the work of the rather brilliant Ivan Joko Knežević has undergone such a fate. Croatia's only true master of mosaic operating in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, his incredible 'Narod u svojoj težnji k stalnom napretku' mosaic was a proud feature adorning the walls of the former military hospital in Križine, Split until Croatian independence. Thereafter, it sat behind a closed curtain for 15 years until some of the city's more enlightened residents insisted the curtain be removed. Happily, this work of Croatia Public Art is now back on display.

Ivan Joko Knežević standing in front of his Croatia Public Art mosaic at the former military hospital in Split © Knežević family archives

Spomenik narodu-heroju Slavonije (Monument to the hero people of Slavonia) was a former World War II memorial by Vojin Bakić. So gigantic was this stainless steel monolith of gratitude that it took over a decade to build. After completion, it was the largest postmodern sculpture in the world. It took a concerted but incomparable five-day effort by bored soldiers with leftover explosives to destroy it following the end of Croatia's war of independence. Today, such structures of art are recognised and hugely appreciated by many. Fans from all over the world travel to see them. Located in Kamenska, Brestovac, one of the most deprived areas of Slavonia, there is now nothing for the tourists to come and see except the lubenica (watermelon) growing slowly. So, they do not come.

Spomenik narodu-heroju Slavonije (Monument to the hero people of Slavonia) by Vojin Bakić. Built over 10 years, it was the largest postmodern sculpture in the world. It took five days to destroy with explosives © Public domain

Of course, the removal of the latter examples are rooted in a change of regime and political climate. Whether you approve of the recent removal of statues of slave traders in England in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the famous toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue following the liberation of Baghdad or the destruction of world heritage sites like Palmyra by Isis depends only on your personal perspective and politics. It is all the same thing. The removal of Zagreb's 'Little Prince' just seems like thoughtless vandalism in comparison.

Neighbourhood authorities in Dubrava have promised the return of the much-loved mural, a feat complicated by travel restrictions as its author lives in Novi Sad, Serbia. For now, city residents will look at nothing and curse the shortsightedness of the 'Big Blue Babies' who removed it. But, can they really be so harshly blamed in a country with a history for such wanton destruction of art that is never replaced?

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Galleries in Croatia - Butterfly Cycle by Danijel Jaman

Meet the Butterfly Cycle by Danijel Jaman. 

There are many galleries in Croatia just waiting to be discovered.

I remember, it happened a few years ago. I walked through the narrow stone streets of my beautiful Dalmatian City of Split when I noticed a lively, spacious place. It immediately attracted my attention.

I had no choice but to go in and ask what all this was about. I was told that this is the art gallery of the well-known artist Danijel Jaman. Since the moment I set foot in the gallery until this day, I remained fascinated by every detail of his work – and now, years later, I finally got to meet him personally.

All TCN readers already had a chance to meet the artist through an interview that you can read by clicking here. Since this interview, Danijel Jaman has realised some new artistic ideas which I find very interesting, so this was the perfect opportunity to find out everything about his latest work: ''Butterflies Cycle''.

The "Butterflies Cycle” represents a true optical sensation. It was inspired by his previous painting called ''I <3 U 2''. This painting was created exclusively for the oldest brewery in Norway - ''AASS''. He visited ''AASS'' once and familiarised himself with the entire beer production process.

Danijel claims that this painting was very important for his artistic work because it was the inspiration for the creation of several other paintings, including "Charlie" and "Bang Bang". The ''Bang Bang'' piece has butterfly installations with LED lights attached to the back of each butterfly in such a fashion that they reflect upon the painted surface emphasising the colours. ''Bang Bang'' and ''I<3 U 2'' were the inspiration for the ''Butterflies Cycle''.

The artist claims that butterflies are powerful symbols for transmitting messages and ideas so to convey these messages he has created 13 different butterfly sculptures, each of them incredible and colourful. Most of the butterflies are portrayed with a microphone between the wings – so that you can hear the artist’s messages loud and clear. Also, every butterfly sculpture has a cap, hat or other headgear as a symbol of pop art and popular culture.

All the sculptures are made of Plexiglas and they include the stand with the artist’s signature. There are few phases in the production of these unique sculptures: first, the artist makes the design and drawings after which the companies from Split and Zagreb realise his ideas.

1) Love Butterfly - Danijel Jaman

This playful butterfly sculpture represents the contrast between love and anger, peace and war. Peace and love are represented through love inscriptions and symbols on the butterfly’s wings while the smoking gun in the middle stands as a representation of anger and war. The contrast between these emotions deepens even further once you notice that the soldier, otherwise tough character, has heart-shaped glasses as a symbol of love. This butterfly also has on the popular NYC cap which again represents popular culture.

2) No. 5 Butterfly by Danijela Jaman

This sculpture is inspired by the famous Van Gogh’s piece called “Starry Night” but it represents a pop-art take on this imagery. Instead of the stars, there are turquoise dots and yellow bananas instead of the moon. A banana is the artist’s signature and it’s present on almost every painting as a symbol of humor, irony, and sarcasm.

3) ECG Butterfly by Danijela Jaman

The butterfly has a colourful cap with a heart motif, heart-shaped glasses and a face mask (like the ones doctors use) with the heart-love motif. On its wings, you can notice the ECG graph – the rhythm of the heart. The symbolism here is deeply rooted in the idea that everything revolves around love (the heart) - physically and emotionally. The artist also wanted to show something as serious as an ECG in a playful way. This butterfly sculpture was designed in pink and blue colour.

4) Hibiscus Butterfly by Danijel Jaman

This butterfly is inspired by the important painting called "BubbleGum Girl" which we’ve mentioned earlier. The hibiscus flower appears as an important part of the painting and here, within the butterfly sculpture, it has an even greater significance. The hibiscus motif is intertwined here with several symbols of pop culture: the banana again as a symbol of humour, irony, and sarcasm; the British military cap as another powerful and remarkable symbol of pop art and culture; deep turquoise manga eyes which represent the reflection of our souls.

5) Banana Butterfly by Danijel Jaman

This sculpture is specifically devoted to bananas – the artist’s famous signature and a symbol of humour. He presents two bananas from two paintings: one from the famous "NY" painting where the banana is dressed as a sheriff and another one from the "Revolution" painting – where it is holding a love banner. The paintings, as well as a butterfly sculpture, are representations of a modern lifestyle – of which the business and consumerism are a large part. By placing bananas in this context, the artist wanted to show the sarcastic and ridiculous side of modern lifestyle.

6) Bubblegum Girl Butterfly by Danijel Jaman

Bubblegum Girl Butterfly is inspired by the painting "Bubblegum Girl". Both the sculpture and the painting show a strong contrast between the good and the bad. Good is represented by a sweet girl with blonde hair who blows soap bubbles from a toy while bad is shown in a character of a girl with messy, colourful hair who is blowing bubblegum bubbles.

7) Graffiti Butterfly by Danijel Jaman

Graffiti Butterfly is inspired by his famous painting “Graffiti”. The interesting image portrayed here is that of a British police officer who is carrying a gift behind his back while at the same time kicking a teddy bear with his foot. The metaphor hiding here is that things are not always what they appear at first sight and yet again the artist is stressing the contrast between good and bad in life. Graffiti sculpture also represents a contrast between graffiti artists as representatives of urban art and stencil artist as a different stream of graffiti art. There is an inscription on this sculpture ''be inspired'' which is also part of Danijel Jaman brand logo.

8) Pope Butterfly by Danijel Jaman

This sculpture shows a strong contrast between war and peace with elements of humor, sarcasm, and irony. Peace is represented by the character of the pope, but instead of the papal cap, there is a NY police officer's cap - a humouristic symbol of popular culture. On the left side of the butterfly wing, there is a recognisable bar code tag – reminding us of the fact that it is so easy to find a reason for war today, as easy as scanning products in the store. On the right wing of the butterfly, as a contrast to the ''war'' inscription on the left side, there is the ''peace'' inscription.

9) Rap Butterfly by Danijel Jaman

The Rap Butterfly appears tough at first sight – with his gang-style necklace and a hat (which are symbols of pop art and culture), but there is something very soft and touching about him as well. The graffiti on his wings are actual love messages people leave on the wall of Romeo and Juliette’s house in Verona. The insight into his soul reveals a romanticist represented by this eternal Shakespeare's piece. Simply put, in this butterfly we see a tough, gangster-style guy with romantic soul.

10) Thor Butterfly

The butterfly is the representation of the Norwegian god Thor shown in a humoristic way. Thor is the mythological god of storm and light and has always been presented as a great and powerful man. But the artist has created the character in a more humorous manner as a way of saying to every one of us that we should be more like children - enjoy life and stay forever playful instead of being constantly immersed in the rush and business of modern life.

11) Napoleon Butterfly

The sculpture is inspired by one character that is often featuring in Jaman’s paintings – the Admiral. He is an important part of several paintings – two of the distinctive ones being Candy Queen and Il Mondo. In both paintings the Admiral is portrayed in his underwear on top of the globe to remind us to be modest in life, otherwise, our ambition could be the end of us.

12) Mickey Butterfly

Mickey is another powerful and remarkable symbol of popular art and culture. The artist has created the figure of popular Mickey in a completely different way - in his own style: the original was deconstructed to make parts for the unique collage the artist had in mind. The result is an extraordinary visual balance of this vibrant and eye-catching sculpture.

13) Smile Butterfly

The Smiley Butterfly is yet another piece in which the artist is dealing with the sharp contrast between love and war. The butterfly has a soldier’s helmet which instantly evokes thoughts of war and hatred. Nevertheless, the butterfly also conveys the message of love with hearts and smileys on its wings – so the idea of optimism is something that the artist wants to imprint onto the mind of everyone who is observing his art.

Danijel Jaman's work is full of symbolism and humour conveyed through his truly unique style - the main feature of which is the use of very vivid colours. The artist states that colours for him have deep meaning so he uses them to provoke all sorts of different feelings in the observer. With advancement in modern science, especially in colour theory, we have plenty of scientific evidence to support this claim.

Colours affect us, and they cause a very special reaction within us.

Another thing that intrigued me was the "Paradise" subway sign at the very entrance to the Jaman Art Center. The Paradise sign is there so that people could connect with the artwork inside with the Candy Queen painting which features the sign.

The art here is very much alive. It is three-dimensional (with a lot of real-life elements popping out from the canvas) and it has the tendency to go beyond the frames and into the space of the gallery in a form of 3D objects or sculptures.

Keep up with our lifestyle section if you're interested in getting to know what's going on up and down the country, from art to culture, to history and heritage.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

From the Meneghello Collection - Art Exhibition in Hvar until 7th September

A chance to see selected art from the Dagmar Meneghello Collection without taking a boat to Palmižana - although that is in itself a great trip. Visit Hvar before September 7th, 2018 and enjoy this free exhibition of contemporary Croatian art.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Interested in Ceramics? Come to Vrbanj on Hvar

Beautiful exhibition of ceramic sculptures in the Zvijezda Mora (Star of the Sea) gallery in Hvar town till July 16th, plus a chance to learn how to do it yourself.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Art Along the Coast: Rhapsody Art Exhibition by Žana Bajić in Marina Frapa

If you are sailing the Dalmatian coast and in need of a dose of art and culture, from the 2nd – 30th June 2018, you can catch the Rhapsody art exhibition by Žana Bajić at Marina Frapa in Rogoznica.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Peace and All Good: Discovering Košljun Island (Photos)

Croatian islands are nowadays mostly known as booming tourist destinations, but if you look closely, you'll find an occasional gem which managed to escape the grind and retain its distinctive cultural microclimate. Meet Košljun, a darling islet located off the coast of Krk

Sunday, 4 February 2018


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Art in Spotlight: 5 Exhibitions to See in Zagreb

Art lovers have plenty of reasons to rejoice as the new year kicks off with impressive cultural events in the Croatian capital

Friday, 19 January 2018

Konavle Representatives in Zagreb Present Vlaho Bukovac's Works

Cavtat native Vlaho Bukovac's Paris period, from 1877-1893 is presented by representatives of the Konavle Municipality in the capital.

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