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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Bucharest Art Safari

Due to the pricing of flights (being cheaper on Monday), I had a weekend to kill in Bucharest – which was mainly spent working in a series of cafés and drinking an ill-advised quantity of coffee (in my defence, some of it was decaf). However, I also felt obliged to see some art whilst I was here.

After visiting a couple of galleries, which I was not sufficiently impressed by to bother writing a blog post about them – I came across an art museum which was branded as an “Art Safari”. It sounded like a gimmick – but I guess they have to lure tourists in somehow. The series of six exhibitions turned out to be quite interesting, and varied from “Romanian Old Masters” to more contemporary works dedicated to a (deceased) Romanian art collector, ‘Ruxandra Garofeanu’.

Some initial observations about the building and curation: it was a bit odd. The museum had an incredible, classical atrium complete with stained glass and marbles, however, the exhibition spaces had a more contemporary feel, with brightly coloured wall paint or striped wallpaper and some odd choice of curtains (silver and brightly-coloured velvet).

I was entirely convinced that the bold and vibrant backdrops always complimented the artworks (especially given the tarnished gold / vibrant orange frames many of them were displayed in), but it was an interesting curatorial choice.

There was some very odd lighting choices in several of the galleries, which were almost pitch black, with the artworks illuminated by spotlights (which was particularly problematic with the reflective surface of the oil paintings, which were often cracked due to age).

Two of the stairwells had incredible murals painted on the walls, which I preferred to some of the artworks in the exhibition, one of the corridors had some flimsy, paper cut-out hangings which I was less taken with.

It was also obvious that some corporate sponsorships were funding the exhibitions, as there were various branded stalls dotted throughout the spaces – including, Porsche which had its own room with some “inspirational car quotes” on the wall.

Thank you, Porsche, my life now has meaning thanks to your motivational words.

There was also a UV room with an installation by another company called 'Glo' which was fun, but it felt more "laser quest" than modern art...

Moving on to the art....

One of my favourite artworks, was this116 x 89cm oil on canvas painting, titled ' Sophisticated Character', 1992 by Georgeta Naparus. I think the title amused me because of all the assumptions we make about 'sophisticated' people, whereas this artwork conveys the omplexity and messiness inherent in human nature. Does wearing a suit and watching Opera make you sophisticated? Or does have a complex, entangled identity and diverse range of life experiences make you sophisticated?

In stark contrast, this 69 x 240cm 'Untitled', oil on canvas painting by Paula Ribariu, of an empty table seemed bold because of its emptiness.

I liked this painting, 115 x 103cm, oil on canvas painting, 'Poem-Parcel with Memory Stamps' by Amexandru Chira primarily because of it's unusual shape.

This artwork, 114 x 146cm oil on canvas, 'The Garden' by Horia Bernea was mesmerising. I loved the use of colour, the contrasting darkness of the shadow areas and the ethereal light of the (dawn or dusk?) sky in the background. The light brushwork and bright colours of the plants, danced on the dreary grey of the industrial concrete and human textiles. The photograph doesn't convey the intricate texture of this painting, but I could stare at it for hours.

I think every student can relate to this artwork, 100 x 124.5cm oil on canvas, 'Exams' by Mihai Rusu which seemed to perfectly capture the dreary tedium of revision - the pink, dream-like clouds otaunting the three girls through the window. I just wish it had been located on a grey wall instead of the cheerful yellow.

I'm not usually into scultpute, but I was very taken with these three gaunt men. 'Emil Cioran, Eugène Ionesco and Mircea Eliade', 3 bronze statues 180-190cm tall by Mircia Dumitrescu. There was something tragically severe yet frail and vulnerable about their demeanour and I liked the angular lines and coarse texture which reflected the light and cast interesting shadows.

This painting was part of the '100 Faces of Romania' exhibition - I am not a massive fan of old-fashioned, classical art style but I liked this dude for some reason.

Portraitist of the Aristocracy - Eustatiu Stoenescu

Again, I am not a massive fan of this style of art, but I was amused by how faceless, expressionaless and dull he made the "aristocracy" seem.

I didn't particularly like this painting, but I am including it because the accompanying "art waffle" is hysterically pretentious...

This was apparently the most important artwork in the entire museum, 'Head of a Little Girl' by Nicolae Tonitza - so much so, that it had an entire room dedicated to this one painting. It was also the artwork used for the 'Art Safari' stickers which visitors were obliged to wear.

I was glad that there was also a room dedicated to more traditional Romanian art and craft, including hand-carved 'house pillars' and these embroidered cloths.

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