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Exhibitions and Projects
Revelations | 7 Dec. 2023 – 3 Jan. 2024

Revelations: New Year Greeting Cards

Pogačnik’s Collection of Artists’ New Year Greeting Cards

The 2008 bequest of Marjan Pogačnik to the National Gallery of Slovenia contains among other things a collection of over four hundred greeting cards sent to him by his Yugoslav colleagues and artists from abroad. The collection has a tremendous potential for amplification and is a symptom of printmaking culture formed in Slovenia in the second half of the 20th century. Its originator was the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts that gave birth to the so-called Printmaking School of Ljubljana. The notion of the School exceeds the narrow stable of artists sharpening their expertise in the Paris studios of Johnny Friedlaender and Stanley William Hayter. The Biennial was a mediator of information on up-to-date print production of the world, which stimulated domestic creativity. Printmaking output of Ljubljana and Yugoslavia as a whole reached an extraordinary standard in various printmaking techniques.

The idea of an artist’s greeting card is not something entirely new. Western culture around 1900 produced an original postcard, which often carried a humorously conceived original and unique visual message on its face side, using the form of caricature as one of most frequently applied tools. The Munich painter Richard Graef, among others, communicated with Matej Sternen in this manner, as well as members of the ‘Vesna’ group of Slovenian artists in Vienna, who shared their visual puns and scintillations through original postcards. At the time, illustrated postcards were generously available, not just as greeting cards, but also tokens of fundraising (Society of Sts Cyril and Methodius for Slovenian schools), war propaganda, aid to the refugees and war orphans, triggered by commercial accessibility of colour printing. The artist’s postcard remained the means of intimate communication within artists’ communities and other participants in the growing system of art institutions.

The renaissance of the artist’s greeting card occurred within the Printmaking School of Ljubljana in the second half of the 20th century. It was not regionally restricted. The International Print Biennial of Ljubljana was a Yugoslav national project that gave broad prestige to the country. Along with the Slovenian artists, other important printmakers rose from the rest of the federal republics, such as the students of the Ljubljana Academy of Fine Arts and Design Đevad Hozo, Mersad Berber and Peter Waldegg, or those independent from the Ljubljana centre: Safet Zec, Ivan Picelj, Miro Šutej, Ante Kuduz and others.  Artist’s greeting card belongs to the genre of small print that was cultivated also by the Exlibris Sloveniae Society. Its function remained unchanged but it thrived now in the advanced system of art institutions and art market. Printmaking techniques offered a suitable medium for its expansion. They fetched a sufficient quantity for the exclusive audiences. Artist’s greeting card promoted the recent production of its maker with his colleagues, friends, and particularly with decision makers in charge of exhibition programming and distribution of public and sponsored funds. Art institutions made use of the artist’s print as well – International Print Biennial, Museum of Modern Art, Academy of Fine Arts and Design, nascent private art galleries and many others. Unfortunately, those small prints usually ended up framed on walls. An important aspect of Pogačnik’s Collection provide envelopes – with e.g. calligraphically written out address by Lucijan Bratuš, the velin foliculi as protective sheets inscribed with greetings by Vladimir Makuc, drawing additions on commercial printed reproductions by France Mihelič, etc. Artist’s greeting card is therefore a symptom of visual culture and social practice that marked groups of intimately and through business connected members of cultural elite of a society that wanted to be egalitarian and therefore sought its prestige in symbolic objects and gestures.

Andrej Smrekar

Presented: Thursday, 7 December, 6 pm

7 December 2023 – 3 January 2024
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana