Contemporary artist Saša Šekoranja, known for his left-field flower shop on Ilica, has recently opened avant-garde bar and gallery Velvet. Time Out asked him his evaluation of today's Zagreb.
First let’s talk about the new Museum of Contemporary Art. Surely this level of cultural investment can only be good for the city?
The MSU, as we call it, is an important infrastructure and not only for living art. As for its contents, I think the programme and the choice of exhibitions itself could be worked on a little more comprehensively. The idea to have a lot of contents in the museum is a great one and it's probably going to be refined with time and the museum is to became a place for all of us to meet and exchange our ideas. For the institutions such as the MSU, it’s crucial to be open, especially towards experimenting. As for the building, don’t forget that there are also smaller, great and important examples of contemporary and even older Croatian architecture. For instance, there’s Vitić's polychrome skyscraper.
Which Croatian artists would you pick out?
It’s a little known fact that the New York MOMA asked Vojin Bakić to make a model of his sculpture of the bull, but with smaller and golden sculptures. They would have been MOMA's official presents for its big donors. Bakić turned down the offer saying that he didn't do souvenirs. He was a man of art, not of profit, and also definitely one of the greatest European artists of his time. Henry Moore visited his atelier in Zagreb. Besides visual art, I think the Croatian motion pictures made in Yugoslavia were an extraordinary contribution. Movies such as ‘H8’ or ‘Foxes’ can be compared with the greatest works. Orson Welles frequently visited Zagreb as his partner was Croatian director Oja Kodar. Some of his movies were made in Croatia. His movie ‘The Trial’ was made on the streets of Zagreb. All visitors to Zagreb should also go to see photographs of Tošo Dabac in his atelier on Ilica. Umberto Eco spent time there.
What is the best thing Zagreb has to offer?
Its greatest asset is its atmosphere, particularly in spring and autumn. The way of life is almost Mediterranean and the sea is only an hour’s drive.
What is Zagreb lacking?
Certain programmes and events, but that’s connected to the economic situation. First and foremost, it lacks a strategy, in urban planning as well as in the managing of existing resources. In my opinion, money allocated for cultural production has been distributed according to obsolete and inefficient models while independent culture and international collaborations lack funding. It doesn’t mean that such initiatives don’t exist or function but they should get additional funding.
What’s your vision of a future Zagreb?
I envisage a city open to influences, not necessarily bigger, but with much more varied programmes where culture is concerned. As for that, we have a lot to offer and a lot of things to build on. I envisage local industrial architecture to be put to good use for culture – for instance, the restored Paromiln or the ex-slaughterhouse facilities. I expect the city centre to become pedestrianised to add to the quality of life. I think one of the most important things for the city is to make use of its river and for the banks of Sava to be developed. We need to invite international tenders to get this done.
Do you want Croatia to join the EU?
I find the idea of the European unity a great one and in that sense I definitely support Croatia’s admission. It’s first of all good for the necessary reform of Croatian institutions, the fight against corruption and, generally, for the raising the democratic and civil standards. These corrections are best made on the inside.
Finally, what would you recommend to the first-time visitor here?
A stroll through Dubravkin put, where witches were burned at the stake. The Sunday bric-a-brac market on Britanski trg, followed by coffee. A visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art and to the Gallery of the Modern Art. In the early evening, a stroll through the Upper Town and ending up at a concert in the Croatian Music Institute. As for recommended venues, I don’t go to restaurants and clubs often, I’m more into house parties. I would say that a panoramic view of the city from Medvednica hill is particularly impressive.
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