NLB: Connecting our home region through art

25 January 2023

Today, on Wednesday, 25 January, a press conference was held in Ljubljana upon the start of the new NLB Group Art Programme for visual arts. Its aim is for NLB Group to become the main supporter and partner of contemporary art and artists in South-eastern Europe (SEE), its home region. As part of its Art programme the Group will resume investing in acquisitions and commissions of works of art and art projects, and design a new art collection called SEE ART, which will find its place in the NLB Group’s gallery in the making in Ljubljana.    

The NLB Group’s vision and ideas in support of visual arts in the SEE region were presented by NLB’s CEO Blaž Brodnjak, Director of NLB Cultural Heritage Institute Irena Čuk, curator dr. Meta Kordiš, and members of the newly established NLB Art Council, dr. Mira Gakjina (Skopje), Maja Kolarić (Belgrade) and Tevž Logar (Rijeka).

Blaž Brodnjak is convinced that there is no sovereign nation without its own cultural identity and financial backbone, and NLB, as a carrier of banking tradition, has always been a major patron of the development of art and culture. With the Art programme and SEE ART collection, NLB Group will reintroduce the noble tradition of patronage, spread it in its home region of South-eastern Europe and bring it to a new era. "Art and economy know no borders. NLB Group wants to actively contribute to a better quality of life in its home region, which is why we are now strengthening our support of arts as one of the extremely important pillars of sustainable and socially responsible operations throughout the region of SEE, including in our neighbouring friendly Republic of Croatia. With the SEE ART collection we connect contemporary art and artists, recognize the talents of this region, support and promote them, and open the door for cooperation, dialogue and new opportunities," added Brodnjak.

Art to the people

Irena Čuk, Director of NLB Cultural Heritage Institute, pointed out that the upcoming art collection isn’t the first monument to culture created due to NLB’s tradition of patronage, noting that the banking museum Bankarium, which operates under the aegis of NLB, also emerged from it. “In its premises in one of the most beautiful Secessional buildings in Ljubljana, a new gallery will round up the NLB Group Art programme activities. In this way, we want to bring art closer to people, as cultural heritage enriches us as individuals and as a wider social community," she explained.  

Meta Kordiš, curator, pointed out: “By commissioning, acquiring, and presenting contemporary art from the Southeastern Europe the NLB Group strives to become the main supporter and partner to artists in the region. By setting up the SEE ART collection, the gallery and developing the accompanying programme focused on the broader region, we will enrich banking premises as well as public space for local communities and contribute to the improvement of the existing art production and infrastructure conditions in the region and open the doors for art to enter the daily life of people living and working in this region.”

NLB Art Council – guarantor of professionalism, quality, and transparency

In order to ensure a professional, high quality and transparent approach, we have set up a professional body NLB Art Council, whose members are internationally recognised experts in art production in South-eastern Europe: Tevž Logar (Rijeka), Chairman of the Council and independent curator, editor and author, dr. Mira Gakjina (Skopje), art historian, art critic, senior curator and Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Maja Kolarič (Belgrade), historian, curator and Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade. Together they have designed the name of the collection, its concept and programme.

Why the name SEE ART for the new art collection of the NLB Group?

The name of the new SEE ART collection refers to South-eastern Europe (SEE), NLB Group’s home region, and gives the collection a clear geographical framework. At the same time, it invites us to see, look at and explore art differently, in the context of the present and the past, memories, different identities and cultures, and the challenges of today and our common future.

The purpose of the project is to improve the understanding and knowledge of different cultural environments, thereby promoting tolerance and diversity, while at the same time new sustainable ideas and actions with various expressions of contemporary art are born.

Mira Gakjina pointed out that “this is not the first time that Ljubljana has had an impact on the development of the visual arts in the region. This was the case for decades in the past through the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, but also more recently through the work of numerous art theorists, historians and curators who have rethought and reconceived the history of art in our region. The time we live in has many attentive (and curious) observers, i.e. artists from the region. Thus, collecting their works means creating a Document of our time. We usually see banks as guardians of valuable things, of our savings and plans for a better future. It is precisely for this reason that this initiative to create a collection should be seen as an endeavour of the Guardian of Values who shows special care for what we consider to be our valuable legacy.”

According to Maja Kolarić, the collection will include artworks by artists from all over the region, from all generations, including emerging ones. “It will be diverse in trying to cover all media from paintings, sculptures, video, installations, performances, to digital media and new technology, fostering all kind of innovations in art that are breaking conventions and challenging the boundaries. Our policy of collecting works of art will include different methods that will allow a broader and deeper overview of artistic creation: public tenders, art competitions and prizes, and exhibitions that will serve as a basis for studying new purchases and orders. The collection is intended to offer an authentic and unique artistic experience that brings new knowledge and delivers inspiration to the viewer.”

Tevž Logar concluded that “the segment of the exhibition programme of the Bankarium gallery is what makes our project stand out compared to other similar corporate projects dealing with the SEE area. The exhibiting activity in dialogue with research, publishing, nomadic residencies, institutional collaborations and similar not only goes beyond the comprehension of the collection as an abstract entity consisting of a collection of artefacts but acts as a platform for raising public knowledge and improving the production conditions for artists and their profession. This is certainly unique in this region, and such an approach undoubtedly enables the SEE ART project to become an extraordinary point of reference for contemporary art across the wider region.”

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