This post continues a series of scans of the issues of PamorART, a magazine published by the National Gallery of Arts in Tirana, during Gëzim Qëndro’s time as Director. The editor-in-chief of the publication was Eleni Laperi, and its editorial staff included Suzana Varvarica Kuka, Ylli Drishti, and Edi Muka. PamorART began publication in 1998, and was a crucial reflection of the artistic and cultural scene in Albania in the late 90s, providing a specialized venue for discussion and critical assessment of the visual arts in the country. PamorART holds a tremendous significance for histories of contemporary Albanian art, since it is one of the few publications where we can get a glimpse of the relationship between the developing post-socialist and post-1997 art scene, in dialogue with the central artistic institution in the country, the National Gallery. It’s also a tribute to the important work done by the longstanding research staff of the gallery (including Eleni, Suzana, and Ylli)–work that I think is seldom recognized. The issues of PamorART are very hard to find–hence my desire to make them widely available to researchers. Thanks to Suzana Varvarica for lending me this issue to scan it.
The third issue of PamorART, published in March of 1999, was dedicated to the 1998 edition of the ‘Onufri’ exhibition, the annual exhibition and prize established for Albanian art in 1993. As outlined in Edi Muka’s article “Paqëndrueshmëria e Përherëshme” (“Permanent Instability”) in this issue of PamorART, the 1998 edition of the prize competition and exhibition brought certain foundational changes. First, Onufri became an exhibition that included international artists from various other countries in the Balkans(including artists from Kosovo, North Macedonia, Croatia, and Bulgaria). Secondly, and more importantly, this was the first Onufri to have a curator and a curatorial concept (the titular “Paqëndrueshmëria e Përherëshme”).
Muka’s text is historically significant because he attempts to lay out why the role of the curator and the curatorial concept are necessary to the success of Onufri: basically, he argues that the use of a curatorial concept to guide the selection of works included creates the ground for a critical position on the exhibition, opening up the possibility for dialogue about the appropriateness of the concept, the degree to which the works selected develop that concept, and so forth. Implicit in this claim, of course, is the idea that artistic quality is no longer a credible factor in selecting works, and that artists were by that time working in such various modes that traditional models of taste on the part of the audience would no longer suffice to explain the works exhibited.
Muka goes on to assert that the curatorial concept was reciprocally generated by examining the trends in artistic output in the Balkans. This series of claims is emblematic of the complex introduction of the curatorial function (which Octavian Esanu has discussed at length in his recent book The Postsocialist Contemporary) in the region. On the one hand, the curator is supposedly necessary to navigate the complexities of artistic production and social reality in the new post-socialist context. On the other hand, the curator is supposedly staying true to what artists are doing–the curator does not capriciously impose themes on artwork, but rather organically responds to the trends in artwork produced in their own time.
Of course, the introduction of a curator for Onufri (which already occupied a strange middle position between a prize competition and a general national exhibition) could not help but be controversial. A fascinating dissenting position on the 1998 edition of Onufri is presented in the issue through two short interviews with the painters Besim Tula and Stefan Taçi, two of the founders of the Nëntori group. The Nëntori group, and their annual exhibition, offered a different model: that of an exhibition without a determined theme and without a curator, a model that they saw as an alternative to the conditions of both Socialist Realism (which had imposed set themes on artists) and contemporary curatorial practice (which likewise organized artists by means of curatorial concepts). Tula’s response is very critical of Muka in particular, while Taçi’s s more circumspect in its evaluation of the changes taking place in the scene at the time.
In addition to Muka’s text and these two interviews, the issue also contains numerous other interviews with artists who took part in the 1998 Onufri exhibition, as well as short texts from other curators and critics in the region, such as Suzana Milevska.
I first began archiving the PamorART issues on this website back in 2016. You can see the first issue of the publication here, and the second issue here. These first two issues were scanned by Vincent WJ van Gerven Oei, who received them from Gëzim Qëndro before he passed away. I think both of them for initiating the project. I subsequently posted the fifth issue here; in the next week or so I will finish posting the final two issues (issue 4 and issue 6)