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05 Dec 12

Gallery Closure Shakes Sarajevo Art World

The Ceka Charlama gallery was padlocked shut on Tuesday, following a decision of the Skenderija Center management, where it is located, to terminate their contract.

Amina Hamzic
BIRN Sarajevo
Montenegrin musician Rambo Amadeus (Left) with the director of CeKa Charlama Jusuf Hadzifejzovic (Right) at CeKa Charlama

Artists only learned of the decision on December 4, when they reached the gallery to find out that Hajriz Becirovic, director of the Culture-Sports Center of Skenderija, where the gallery is located, had closed it.

The closure happened after several artists and citizens protested a day earlier, urging Becirovic not to carry out the threat to padlock it.

The potential eviction of the exhibits and the closure of the gallery were announced a week ago.

But the management of the gallery had hoped that the city would help them reach an agreement with the Skenderija Center and stop the process.

Becirevic decided to end cooperation with the gallery, sending a warning letter that gave them until December 3 to leave site, without explaining reasons.

Becirovic later said Charlama owed money to the Skenderija Center. Artists from the gallery have denied that claim, saying they have no such debts.

Charlama director Jusuf Hadzifejzovic on Monday urged Bosnian artists and those who had exhibited in this gallery to protest against the “further destruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina's culture”.

"We hope that together we can send a message about the inhumane conditions in which artists work and in which cultural institutions operate,” Hadzifejzovic's protest note read.

“This is a vote against the locked doors of cultural institutions, which have become the dominant image of our reality."

Hadzifejzovic accused Becirevic of wanting to fill the Skenderija centre with turbo-folk concerts and other cheap attractions.

“Charlama wants to be... a place where gallery owners, curators and artists from all over the world can gather and discover the talents of Bosnian artists,” Hadzifejzovic said.

“Instead,” he continued, “they want Sarajevo's iconic Skenderija Center to become a place for meetings and exchanges of ideas in the field of turbo-folk and such stuff.”

He referred to a recently planned concert of Serbian turbo-folk singers, which has been scheduled in one part of the center.

German film director Wym Wenders in a visit to CeKa Charlama

Ceka Charlama has been one of the most active independent art organizations in Bosnia.

Through projects such as Subdokumenta and Emporio Dangularium, it has presented some of the most important artists from the country, the region and the international scene.

The permanent exhibition includes pieces by artists such as Vlado Martek, Dimitri Prigov, Neso Paripovic, Milija Pavicevic, Raso Todosijevic, Sasa Bukvic, Maja Bajevic, Alma Suljevic, Damir Niksic, Danica Dakic and many others.

Charlama has also hosted a number of students from European art academies such as Vienna, Stockholm and Berlin Bauhaus Academy.

The only politician to voice support for the gallery has been Sarajevo Canton's Culture and Sport Minister, Ivica Saric, who promised to help solve the gallery's problems while warning that it is not completely under his jurisdiction.

In May, Becirevic did the same to the art collection known as Ars Aevi, when he asked them to move out, citing unpaid bills.

That time, under media pressure, the Sarajevo Canton and the City of Sarajevo agreed a budget for the permanent maintenance of the collection, which is the Bosnia's largest contemporary art collection.

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