About the Gallery
Bojidar Danev on Giving +
New endeavours are often initiated with tiny, timid steps but with great expectations. Eventually, reality sets in: desire alone is bound to leave you short of these expectations. Restless anxiety and frantic yearning are the moving elements of our cravings and mental goals. Moving elements constrained by unclear and unsettled policies, by financial risks and frameworks. Wealth can be measured but art cannot be counted. Charitable giving follows the same pattern. At the backdrop of time and art, money and politics are no longer rewarding. The act of sharing becomes the ultimate excitement and joy. Sharing with friends and strangers, with connoisseurs and novices, with mature adults settled in their routines and exploring adolescents. This collection is an act of sharing this joy. The academic aesthetics of Dutch, Flemish and other Renaissance masters from the 17th till the 19th century proves that changes in tastes are a temporal and recurring phenomenon. It is difficult to distinguish the talents of the acknowledged masters from those of their anonymous disciples and followers of the tradition. The portraits, landscapes and biblical plots are united by the richness of their styles. The lack of ostentatious virtuosity, the imposed inner rhythm, measure and balance are reminiscent of the Renaissance classics. The statics of portrait painting, the dimmed lights in the landscapes, the movements blurred by the reflections, the balanced compositions, and the exaltation of the contrasts extend and prolong time, so as to allow us to relish in the style differences today. The biblical wisdom, the Judaic mystique, and the passions of Christ, intertwined in art, are part of the moral values of our inner equilibrium. Prudence and mystique.
The dark colour structure, its optical impact, the mystery of colours, and the tone value of the images create disquieting phantasms. The forms, the articulated lines, and the texture of colour create obvious solemnity, worthiness and aristocratic nobleness. Thus, classical works can hide surprises laid down on purpose more than 150 years ago but still in tune with today’s reality. The late medieval school, in the shadows of flickering candles, presents Europe in a strange way, not with its kingdoms or states, but as a continent where academic classicism carries prophetic messages. Finally, allow me to share that what you are perusing is not just the next art catalogue but a deeply thought out and revealing reflection on the collection. A reflection that is not simply a study, but a benchmark for further understanding. I deeply believe that classics hide undiscovered depths, concealed symbolism, stunning nobleness and aristocratism and that there is a lot of sweet anguish, great thrill and innermost joy in sharing.
Board of Trustees Member
New Bulgarian University
George Tekev on UniArt Gallery | "Bojidar Danev’s Family" Auditorium +
The mission of New Bulgarian University to change the social environment and itself, as well as the position of arts in the academic profile of the university, confirm our institutional readiness to create and develop projects which present excellent examples of arts so as to create conditions for the development of different schools. The University Theatre, the Arts Centre, The Museum of New Bulgarian University, the Photography and Animation Laboratories, the University Film and Television Centre, and, today, the University Gallery definitely prove it.
The donation by the Danevs Family – a collection of European paintings from the 17th till the 19th century – has its special place in the collection of donations by significant figures of our time, who are all concerned about the cultural traditions, their preservation, and continuation in time. The act of donation shows the variety of ways of connecting “the academy” with the outer world and is an example of the multiple interactions between them. The strength of the university teams, well-knitted over the years, attracts generous donors and figures of world significance that have incorporated New Bulgarian University in the network of international universities and the professional community or have created their schools of followers here. The spectrum is wide – music, theatre, cinema, and fine arts. The donated collection presents the discovery and development of talent, the continuation of tradition, and the creation of followers; the time period of the creation of the works coincides with a particular stage of the world university history, the period when the university idea, born in Antiquity and shaped in the Middle Ages, had to go through institutionalization dependent on public interest so as to legitimize its autonomy.
UniArt Gallery is a contemporary university space for the creation of interdisciplinary knowledge of interactive forms, in a medium able to exist in a network. The permanent and temporary exhibitions, the chamber concerts, seminars, and workshops are well combined with the academic lectures, master classes, university ceremonies, discussions, and debates. The auditorium is an accessible space for project work with schools, universities, and academies; it is open to dialogue between academic traditions and contemporary concepts, which is oriented to artists and partners for the creation of new achievements and practices.
I would like to thank Prof. Bogdan Bogdanov for his support, Dr. Bojidar Danev for his shared assets, Prof. Irina Genova, architect Zarko Uzunov and Mr. Alexander Zahariev for their contribution.
Board of Trustees Member
New Bulgarian University
Irina Genova on the collection European Painting +
This very first inventory of the collection of paintings, having been gathered by Mr. Bojidar Danev over the last years, aims at summarizing and presenting the information that is available so far about it. The thorough study and the detailed cataloguing of the collection are yet to be carried out. To make that happen we will need the help of experts, both art historians and restorers, from museums with collections of comparable samples of painting. The initial inventory, which undoubtedly will be corrected and made more precise in time, has been prepared because of the inevitable need for the overall documentation of the donated collection and because of the idea of its usefulness in the educational seminars for students in art history and restoration. With the careful look at the plots and iconography, with the general information about the technology of painting, with the restoration study and judgement about the necessitated interventions, with the short texts on the back of the painting and its framework, this catalogue gives the future art museum workers and experts as well as the more general amateur audience an idea of the picture as a peculiar object, of the specifics of its study and presentation, and of the care taken of it over the course of time. The greatest difficulties during this first inventory have been connected with the style comparisons and specifications of the given works. In Bulgaria, this collection of European painting is, if not an exception, a rarity and the connoisseurs needed for the precise attribution of the paintings will be foreign colleagues as being a connoisseur requires, together with some specific talent, a saturated milieu of related artistic objects in the field of the given expertise.
The cultural-geographic, genre and style variety of the collection
The predominant part of the paintings, acquired with the help of some Brussels galleries, is by Flemish, Dutch and, a couple of works, by French artists. When created, those paintings were intended for that cultural milieu. Apart from the cultural and geographical topoi in which these works were circulated, we should also mention the Italian artistic centres, especially Rome and Venice, where many Dutch and Flemish artists were educated and formed during the 17th and 18th centuries. The collection gives us an idea of a cultural geography without rigid borders and constraints, but with an intensive artistic exchange of iconographic motifs, genre and style peculiarities and interconnections between different art schools. The portrait, allegory, genre painting, biblical scenes and the landscape present the genre variety of Baroque and Classicism painting. Still life as an independent genre is missing in the collection but we can find it in the allegorical compositions and works with biblical plots.
The genre variety of the paintings is related to their purpose, to the way they were acquired or to the way ownership changed. In this respect, the more distant history of the paintings – some of them have signatures, inscriptions, ateliers’ brands, respective owners’ stamps, notes and traces on their back and frame – could become the subject of further research. The style characteristics of the paintings also present a wide variety. Among the portraits and characters as well as paintings of biblical plots there are examples of very good painting skills. What is very attractive are the images created with certain naivety, following higher samples. Specific comparisons with related examples from the outlined cultural territory could bring in more precision when defining the authorship and the connectedness with certain artistic circles.
Private collection – university collection. The gesture of donation
The big universities in Europe and North America have founded and developed art collections since the 19th century. Among the numerous examples of museums and galleries at universities and colleges in the USA and the UK is the famous art museum of the University of Princeton and, in our local milieu in the 20th century, the museum of Sabanci, a private university in Istanbul, which often hosts big visiting exhibitions. The collections of world art add to the prestige of any university that develops humanitarian studies. These collections are one of the signs that the university exceeds its narrow educational domain and performs a larger-scale mission in society. The university collections in the world have been created and enriched mostly by donations. The gesture of donation is more than a transfer of ownership. By such a gesture, the collector’s partiality, successes and limitations become generally known in the university community, and, through it, to the public. Thus, the collection transforms itself from an accomplished act of personal choice into a part of the university’s research and educational field; it changes its purpose and status. In this sense, the generosity with which the donor entrusts the university with the rights over the collection, as if it were “a favourite child”, cannot be reduced to any tangible dimensions. The donor’s expectations of the university concern not so much the care for the materiality, but the cultural interest, the professional response and public presence. In Bulgaria, the practice of university art collections and gallery spaces is poorly developed. The Museum and Gallery of the National Art Academy in Sofia stand out with the catalogues of their collections, but they are more comparable to the experience of other art academies. In terms of university facilities, the newly built gallery of New Bulgarian University is a unique initiative in Bulgaria. The collection presented in this edition will find its place in this gallery.
The future of the collection
In the university milieu of New Bulgarian University the collection will become the subject of a long-term study. The lecturers – art historians will be given the opportunity to put their expertise, skills and experience into practice. The collection European Painting will provide a real occasion for the establishment and development of new contacts with foreign counterparts from universities, museums and galleries. Thus, in our country, the education in a narrow, specialized and still underdeveloped field, aiming at preparing future art historians, will have the opportunity to manifest its practical applicability in a real situation. Together with, and because of, the research work and the further documentation of the collection, the restoration work and study of the paintings will continue. The knowledge of and the care for the materiality of the artworks are an inseparable part of the professional occupation with artistic works and collections, even if we talk about video-art and new media in our contemporaneity. The future artists, film producers, advertisement-makers and all the students who prepare themselves to work with visual images also stand a good chance with the university collection of European painting. The visual references and the different type of artistic tasks set by the lecturers in connection with the exhibited works will drive the youth’s creativity in fruitful directions. The collection will have a future if it has its audience. The successful art museums and galleries in the world enjoy the attention of the most enthusiastic audience – the children. UniArt Gallery provides opportunities for working with the youngest audience. The child’s look will enliven the portraits, landscapes, and biblical scenes, will acquire them and turn them into drawings. The students – the future art historians and artists - will present the peculiar world of the painting to children, who in their turn will become students; this is an excellent opportunity for a university collection.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about the new home of the collection. In 2011-2012, an art gallery was built in New Bulgarian University. The construction of a building intended to be an art gallery is an event, especially in the capital city. The common practice is to reconstruct, by compromise, premises, which used to have different functions. In this case, the architect Zarko Uzunov designed the spaces in compliance with the specific requirements of galleries and, even though restricted by the circumstances, these spaces have been well thought out in terms of their specific functions. Thus, the European Painting collection, together with other art collections, was given home at the University, which is a warrant of its sharing in the future.