Print 

From November 4, 2021 to January 23, 2022 in Quadrate 500 Sofia residents can see a rare exhibition - that of Vasil Simitchiev.

It is a selection of the artist's landmark works and new projects, with which he returns with all the power of his artistic discoveries, with the results of his long journey in contemporary culture. Curator of the project is Ivo Milev.

During the restoration of Georgi Dimitrov's mausoleum in the mid-1970s, the young sculptor Vasil Simitchiev was commissioned to create the bronze wreaths around the sarcophagus. The reward for this prestigious commission was an international passport, with which the artist was able to leave the country, become a "non-returnee" and settle in Sweden. Freed from the dictates of political and artistic conformity, "one of the first mature conceptual artists in this country was born", writes the eminent Swedish art critic Dan Jonsson about him. "After the scale of Christo, there is no other Bulgarian with this determination, global artistic vision and creative scope", says Prof. Stanislav Pamukchiev.

Large-scale projects implemented in Sweden are always in the centre of some conflict zone. This is one of the reasons why some of the ideas remain only on the white sheet. For example, at the height of the Cold War, Simitchiev proposed that part of the pavement of Red Square in Moscow be swapped with grass from the White House lawn. An idea that, of course, remains without realisation, faced with overwhelming political will. Or the project to "connect" Denmark with Sweden through a musical work whose score was created on the roughness of the seabed in the Öresund Strait. Years later, the two sides are connected - by the brute force of concrete and iron in Europe's longest bridge. Or the "preservation" of the mausoleum in Sofia, confronted with the intolerance of the past. Or the painstakingly prepared and well-calculated project to move the water mass of a Swedish lake into the courtyard of the Royal Palace in Stockholm...

Vasil Simitchiev is a conceptual artist in the fullest sense of the word. Ideas are the raw material of his art, and as he says - once they are realised, they lose half of their power. Some of his earliest but most elaborate experiments were in this direction, the water basin projects carried out in various locations in the late 1970s. The two largest of these were made for the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm and for one of the city parks in Malmö.

The work that brought him worldwide recognition was undoubtedly The Glass Pier in Malmö (1985). The six square kilometres of the old quay of the harbour are covered with tons of glass panels, and the artist conducts the rumble of their crushing under the weight of the trucks passing over them. And here the conflict, the collision of stone and glass, of heavy, solid, hard with thin, transparent, fragile, brittle, is at the core. This is a spectacular visual and aural spectacle, with large-scale conceptual and aesthetic suggestions, in real comparison with the most significant of this kind of art worldwide.

Simitchiev's recognition as one of the strongest contemporary conceptual artists in Sweden led to his invitation to become a professor at the Stockholm University of Art, Craft and Design, where he holds the chair of monumental sculpture. He founded and directs the Free Academy of Experimental Art, develops an innovative program of art intervention in the social environment, and carries out with students numerous sculptural installations, actions, performances and conceptual projects in public space.

The exhibition at Square 500 is organised in partnership with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Sweden and is funded by the Ministry of Culture under the Movable Cultural Heritage, Museums and Visual Arts Programme.

Photos courtesy of the National Gallery - Square 500.

Above:

Vasil Simitchiev hiding his face with his face, 2002, photographer Ake Hedström

Below:

1. Water table, Palma de Mallorca, 1977
2. The Water Table project for the Royal Palace in Stockholm, 1978.
3. The Glass Pier, Malmö, 1985.
4. Untitled, 1985 Photographer: Lyubomir Ivanchev