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Self-Taught Visionaries of Serbia




From the opening



27 March 2018
House of King Peter I,

Vase Pelagića 40, Belgrade


There has always been a divide, remaining to this day, between the recognition and total acceptance of new forms of artistic speech and new aesthetic values. It took time to develop trust in the quality of work and for some elements of the breakthrough into the new to institutionally consolidate and assume an undisturbed public life. The continuity of a series of crucial events was inevitable.
It began with the onrush of modernisation, state-building and putting the role of tradition second, with people moving from the villages to the cities and the desire of those leaving their ancestral hearths and homes to save their customs and heritage from oblivion. The romantic idea that art does not have to be the privilege of the elite but should be the domain of people from all walks of life helped create the fundamental postulates of the phenomenology of the spirit of naive art in Serbia. The torchbearer of this idea and one of the greatest promoters of self-taught art in Serbia and abroad in those decades was Oto Bihalji-Merin, an idealist, essayist and revolutionary. The founding of an institution unique in the Balkans – the Museum of Naive and Marginal Art in Jagodina in 1960 during the expansion of self-taught art across former Yugoslavia was of crucial importance, given the prevailing atmosphere in the society which, for decades, had been fostering the myth of freedom of art and beauty by convincing the public that art can only be created by educated professionals and that any untrained activity is questionable or indecent.
As a national institution for the protection of naive and marginal art, the MNMA persisted in the fight to offer self-taught visionary art comprehensive protection in such an atmosphere, carrying forth the real image of its essence and true artistic value by setting it apart from other branches of non-academic creation – the field of amateurism and dilettantism, using rigorous selection and clear criteria. More than half a century of over seven hundred exhibitions in Serbia and abroad and just as many publications on the most important artists and the phenomenology of the spirit of their art, helped dispel deeply rooted misconceptions and delusions connected to the specific field of art by self-taught visionaries, artists of raw vision, outsiders, marginal. And thus, even in wider circles of the art public, we see a heightened awareness of the incredible artistic potential, high artistic achievements and true creative energy of the most valuable works, an intensity expressing their autochthonous world of ideas.

Nina Krstić







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