Elsewhere / Places

Vita Zaman Visits Tirana

I landed in Tirana, the capital city of Albania with 433,000 inhabitants, and was spellbound by its hospitality, pride, and positive attitude.

There was ample sunshine, and groups of men were in long conversations about serious issues while standing by their newly acquired luxury cars.

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The National Gallery of Arts in Tirana maintains the artistic and cultural heritage of the Republic of Albania. The institution traces its history back to 1946 when a group of Albanian artists founded the Arts’ Committee of Albania. The first institution of fine arts ever known in the country was Pinakoteka. Soon after this, the Gallery of Arts opened to the public on January 11, 1954.

The new-formed arts space grew quickly and had to change locations several times to accommodate the increasing number of artworks displayed in its exhibition halls. The current location of the gallery is on the boulevard “Martyrs of the Nation” (Bulevardi Dëshmorët e Kombit).

The National Gallery of Arts in Tirana

Rubens Shima director of The National Gallery of Arts Tirana

Rubens Shima, director of The National Gallery of Arts.

The National Gallery of Arts.

The University of Arts is the only public institution of higher education with an artistic character in Albania, offering university degrees in Music, Fine Arts, and Dramatic Arts.

The University of Arts was able to take advantage of the Russian tradition in classical music and ballet due to the fact that Albania and Russia had close relationships during the communist era.

University of Arts Tirana.

The main street

In Tirana, street traders were selling anything from eclectic libraries and bags of boiled eggs to second hand shoes.

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I then met Fani Zguro for a coffee, and he told me about Tirana Art Center and innovative ways of working with artists without having a permanent gallery space.

Fani Zguro

Later I had a meeting with Andri Ibrahimaj from Tirana Ekspres. He had a very different and far more locally specific approach to curating.

Andri Ibrahimaj

The taxi driver had a hard time finding this alternative space. I enjoyed this anti-touristic urban experience.

Entrance to the art space Tirana Ekspres

Entrance to the art space Tirana Ekspres

The space is located near the train station in the wasteland of yet ungentrified area of the capital. The unexpected choice of this location is part of the curatorial concept.

Miza Galeri is a hot topic among the young art crowd in Tirana. One of the founders, the artist Olson Lamaj, gave me insights into the gallery’s activities and plans for the future.

Olson Lamaj

Artist Ledia Kostandini picked me from the hotel in her peppy car, and we drove to her studio, which she shares with her friend Matilda Odobashi. They sometimes use it as an exhibition space and a meeting point for other artists.

Ledia Kostandini

Ledia Kostandini

Ledia Kostandini and Matilda Odobashi

Traditional Albanian sweets- courtesy of Ledia's mother.

Traditional Albanian sweets – courtesy of Ledia’s mother.

Photographic documentation of a site-specific intervention by Ledia Kostandini.

Ledia has a blog where you can find out more about her projects.

Tirana has a nickname: “the city that wears lipstick”.

Artist Leonard Qylafi with his new work.

Artist Leonard Qylafi with his new work.

A fragment of a painting by a self taught artist

A detail of a painting by self-taught artist Lekë Tasi.

Then I drove to the seaside town of Durrës.

I sat down in an excellent fish restaurant on the beach and watched groups of men bonding. Albania very much seems to be a man’s world.

I drove to the airport as night approached. Tirana looked magical.

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