Danube Dialogues 2013 The title of the Novi Sad Festival of Contemporary Art, Danube Dialogues, includes the Danube as a geographic feature, but more importantly as a metaphor for encouraging encounter and dialogue in the arts and cultures of the countries along its banks: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine. As originator and organiser of the 2013 festival, it was the intention of the Bel Art Gallery to establish Novi Sad city as a meeting place where contemporary artistic works and ideas could be presented and discussed, to provide an opportunity for making friends, for cooperation, comparison and exchange, all with the deepest respect for the diversity of artists and art in this culturally rich and varied European region. The Danube countries, in fact, may form a model for a review of current events and trends, since a benevolent geography allows us to make the acquaintance of the art of some of Europe’s most developed countries, and also of those still in transition. The idea of dialogue along the Danube has long roots, reaching back into a history of collaboration and shared influences in the arts of the countries along its shores, and in Central Europe. The education of its artists in great centres such as Vienna, Munich and Budapest is an important factor of our art history. In the give-and-take of exhibitions, many artists of contemporary sensibility have changed their views, habits or forms of expression. The Danube Dialogues project was conceived as a multimedia mosaic, taking place simultaneously in various galleries and alternative premises. Paintings, sculptures, performances, video works, exhibitions of artistic flags, installations, forums and workshops, the presence of numerous artists and the public all came together to create a unique and dynamic atmosphere. The artistic director invites selectors for group showings, each country being represented by its own exhibition, with the particularly interesting feature of “dialogue exhibitions” shared between a local artist and another from one of the Danube countries, who thus achieves partner status in the event. In future versions of this concept, we would like to extend this idea to other cities of the Danube while continuing to bring together artists, art scholars and historians, gallery owners, collectors, lovers of art and the public; in this exchange of energy and ideas, we hope to reflect on, explore and define the specific attributes, similarities and differences of current art in the region. Throughout August and September 2013, Novi Sad was an outstanding meeting place for contemporary art. Thanks to the choices made by the national selectors and art directors, the Festival distinguished itself by some very successful exhibitions: Slovakia was represented in an independent showing by Viktor Hulik from Bratislava; Romania by Liliana Popa from Timişoara (selector Ileana Pintilie); Croatia by Vladimir Frelih from Osijek; Germany by Georg Gartz from Cologne; Serbia by the artist couple diSTRUKTURA from Belgrade; Austria by an exhibition arranged by curator Pia Jardí called Greetings from Vienna that included Georgia Creimer, Silke Meier, Leopold Kessler and Christoph Swarz; Hungary by artists Juhász József, Apolka Erös, István Orosz and Zsili Babos, selected by Márta Szilágyi. In addition, the public was able to visit an exhibition of artistic flags by the well-known Budapest artists Andrea Ruttka and Steiner Villö, located in the main pedestrian area of the old town centre; a group of young artists from Osijek, Croatia: Robert Fišer, Dražen Budimir, Mario Matković, Dora Tomić, Josip Kaniža, Kristina Marić, Ana Petrović; then Serbian artists Dušan Todorović, Marta Kiš Buterer, Goran Despotovski, Zvonimir Santrač, Svetlana Milić, Jastra Jelača, Tamara Vajs, Dragan Jevdić, Rastislav Škulec, Sibila Petenji, Korina Gubik, Danijel Babić, Bosa Zirojević, Milan Jakšić, Nada Denić and Monika Sigeti; an exhibition of German drawing featuring Stephanie von Hoyos, Stefan Jűttner, Ingrid Redlich-Pfund, Stefan Wehmeier and Hansjürgen Vogel arranged by painter Maja Erdeljanin, editor at the Gallery of the Novi Sad Cultural Centre; and well-conceived projections of video works by distinguished artists from the region: Ulu Braun, Antal Lux, Fabian Grodde, Joerg Piringer, Zoltán Lányi, Peter Lichter, Mihai Grecu and Alexander Isaenko, arranged by artist and critic Andrej Tišma. At the dinner following the opening of the 2013 Festival, there were performances by Juhász József from Budapest and Nenad Bogdanović from Odžaci, while a video installation, Danube, was shown by Stevan Kojić, an artist from Novi Sad. A special event of the Danube Dialogues 2013 was the artists’ colony of professors from the Academies of Art in Novi Sad and Vienna, Nita Tandon and Bosiljka Zirojević, with students Marija Kozma, Oliver Alunović, Marija Cvetković, Marina Milanović and Sonja Radaković. This continued from 27-31st August in the picturesque park of the manor house at Ečka, near Zrenjanin, a spot where an artists’ colony has been coming for over 50 years now. Working in a constructive atmosphere, people got to know one another, socialised and exchanged ideas. The Austrian-Serbian Art Dialogues took place in collaboration with the Austrian Cultural Forum, Belgrade, with which Bel Art Gallery cherishes years of successful association. Selected by art critic and Festival Art Director Sava Stepanov, Serbian and Austrian artists were brought together in dialogue and communication. It was easy to see both similarities and differences in the works of Robert Hammerstiel and Petar Ćurčić; Fritz Ruprechter and Mira Brtka; Josef Linschinger and Ljubomir Vučinić, Eva Petrič and Nataša Teofilović. The Festival had unambiguously shown that the universal way in which art communicates is capable of overcoming linguistic, political, social, cultural and any other barriers, while making a significant contribution to acquaintanceship, understanding and tolerance. At the same time, we were able to point out to visitors the crucial importance of a synthesis of aesthetic and ethical principles, so badly needed in these grim and crisis-ridden times. For this reason, we feel that by launching this exhibition, we are doing something right for artists and the public at large, while helping our city in its efforts to be promoted to a European cultural capital. I am happy that the opening and the various programmes went off in a congenial atmosphere, well attended by the public and in the presence of notable media attention. The results of the first festival are reason enough for Bel Art Gallery to begin preparing the next session of the Danube Dialogues. The event is a challenge to the City of Novi Sad, the Vojvodina Cultural Secretariat and this year’s sponsors to continue their support if the desire to see Novi Sad become a meeting place on the Danube for contemporary art is to come to fruition. I thank our partners in the Danube Dialogues 2013: the Austrian Cultural Forum, Belgrade and the Erlin Gallery, Budapest, the Novi Sad Tourist Organisation, Wiener Städtische Insurance and Erste Bank, our media sponsors, the Festival’s Art Director Sava Stepanov, whose task was extraordinarily demanding, and the galleries, museums and cultural institutions who made such understanding partners. I thank all those who helped in any way to bring about the Festival, particularly the artists whose contributions did most to ensure that the event achieved the high artistic standard it did.
// Vesna Latinović
founder and director of Danube dialogues