Vladimir Veličković: Figure as an Expression of Existence is the name of the retrospective exhibition of Vladimir Veličković (1935–2019) opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade.

This is an artist whose presence has been inextricably linked with the development of the local and wider European art scene, first in the context of the late fifties, when his work was closely related to the post-surrealist spirit of one wing of the local art scene, and then in conjunction with the appearance of the new figuration during the sixties as well as after leaving for Paris in 1966, when this type of Veličković’s artistic expression further developed within the French new figuration, and finally in the 1980s, when in parallel with the rise of his international career he was associated with the “postmodernist citation strategy.”

The exhibition’s layout is not chronologically designed but corresponds to specific problematic and thematic segments in the artist’s work, which can also refer to the broader context in which his personality was formed and based, and within which he created his particular artistic language. In ten separate thematic-problematic units, which focus on certain themes and symbols as well as their meaning in Veličković’s painting, his complex oeuvre is presented, which corresponds to the highest achievements of modern and contemporary art. By following these thematic-problematic units, defined as Youth, Crucifixion, Body in Motion, Space, Birth, Execution, Heads, Origin, Animals, Nothingness, No Name, and, we gain an insight into the complexity of his oeuvre. We trace the artist’s work from his earliest drawings and paintings created in the Belgrade period, when he portrayed modest spaces with a rigid, static atmosphere, through the baroque curvature of the accentuated movement (the cycle Scarecrow, and later Crucifixion), the figures in different stages of running or falling inspired by Muybridge’s historical experiments with photography, the heated, frenetic heads of the orators, or the abandoned, empty spaces of the execution site – up to the last scenes of scorched earth and landscapes whose horizon becomes lost in the haze of smoke and fog.

Vladimir Veličković was a unique artistic figure who, due to the complex characteristics of his identity, simultaneously belonged to different cultures: Serbian, Yugoslav, French, European, and pushed the boundaries of perception in the Yugoslav art of the time, also leaving us the possibility of re-examining the current post-Yugoslav art scene.

The exhibition, which is organized at all five levels of the Museum, will include over one hundred works by Vladimir Veličković realized in the media of painting, drawing, and graphics, comprising thirteen works from the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade acquired over the past decades, from 1962 to 2019. In addition to works from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition will also feature works from other institutions, museums, and galleries, such as Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle (Paris), FNAC, Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris-La Défense (Paris), Museum of Contemporary Art (Zagreb), Modern Gallery (Ljubljana), Museum of Contemporary Art (Skopje), Dubrovnik City Museum, Nadežda Petrović Gallery (Čačak), Sombor City Museum, Valjevo Modern Gallery, as well as from private collections in the country and abroad.

The event is accompanied by a catalog that will contain study articles by local and foreign authors. In addition to the texts written by the authors of the exhibition, museum advisors Svetlana Mitić and Žaklina Ratković, as well as Dr. Jasmina Čubrilo, Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, the catalog will also include anthological texts by the foreign authors Michel Onfray and Alain Jouffroy.

A special chapter in the catalog, as well as in the exhibition, will feature a documentary segment presenting photographs and letters from the artist’s family archive, along with a film program composed of documentaries and videos that are scheduled to be broadcast during the exhibition.

Vladimir Veličković (1935–2019) graduated in 1960 from the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade. He was an associate in Krsto Hegedušić’s Master Workshop (1962–1963) in Zagreb. Starting in 1963, he exhibited his works independently and in collective exhibitions in the country and abroad, moving to Paris in 1966 to continue his career. He represented Yugoslavia at the 35th Venice Biennale. He received numerous prestigious awards and prized in the country and abroad. He was a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU), the French Academy (Academie des Beaux-Arts – Institut de France), and the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MANU). He was awarded the highest French recognition in the domain of culture and art, the Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and the Order of the Légion d’Honneur. He was a professor (1983–2000) at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He is the founder of the fund for drawing Vladimir Veličković, which awards young artists from Serbia.

Photos: Bojana Janjić, MSUB