The fate of the Government Art Collection is long and complicated. Although its beginnings date back to the Provincial Committee of Carniola, the collected art in government offices has never reached status of a collection, until it was put under the management of the National Gallery of Slovenia. The collection's only purpose was to decorate the offices of the government buildings.
The collection holds over 1300 works of art varied in quality and especially in acquisition process of individual pieces. Since it was not conceived as a collection, its documentation does not meet museum criteria; thus, we decided to present the collection according to its historical chapters. We begin with the last phase of the commissions and purchases after the year 1945. The paintings that originate form the confiscated and nationalized property after the World War II will be a subject of a special exhibition. Their provenance is in need of thorough research in order to secure most reliable documentation. Our task is to present the historical account of the Government Art Collection. The first part reveals illustrative vivid image of the new ideology and the cultural policy of the new state.
The state acquisition policy was started to take shape during the first five-year plan and the joint exhibition of 1948; the Government Art Collection documents this policy well. Ministry of Education and Culture took control of the state acquisitions in the middle of the 1950s, mostly resulting in the systematic process regarding the collection and documentation of new acquisitions. The paintings in the Government Art Collection include some quality works (by Marij Pregelj, Bine Rogelj, Marko Čelebonović, Zlatko Prica and others); the fund, however, did not satisfy all the needs of the Museum of Modern Art, the central national institution, as proven by the works at that time lent into its permanent collection.
Conservatism and restraint were acquisition's regular features, as evidenced by the inclusion of the artists that are present in the collection. They were usually people involved in state or federal politics, senior functionaries of profession organizations or professors at art academies. Among the artists from the first decade who are presented in the collection are functionaries of the profession organizations, public office holders and recipients of state grants and awards. From the late 1950s onwards the group includes younger artists of the post-war generation who were quick to receive expert and state awards.
The growth of the Government Art Collection depended on opportunities and current needs. With Mihelič's Roving Kurents we are most likely dealing with a commission for the artist, who made a larger replica of an older composition for a specific place. In other instances the acquisition was directed by the protocol bureaucracy, while the care for the collection (art inventory, rather) was left to the office novices. Thus, from the middle of the 1950s it is possible to more clearly distinguish between the organized growth of the fund and the sporadic ad hoc acquisitions which reflect a lack of professional experience of the people making them.
Authors of the exhibition
Andrej Smrekar, Alenka Simončič
Exhibition and graphic design
The exhibition is supported by
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia
5 March–17 August 2014
National Gallery of Slovenia