2015 / CEE Monthly

viennacontemporary 2015 | Focus Bulgaria

After the focus countries Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus (2012), Georgia and Poland (2013) and Azerbaijan (2014), viennacontemporary is taking a look at Bulgaria in 2015 with Focus Bulgaria.

Focus Bulgaria at viennacontemporary 2015 is the first overview on Bulgarian contemporary art at an international art fair. The project was initiated by Vesselina and Katrin Sariev (Sariev Contemporary and Open Arts Foundation), Iara Boubnova (Institute of Contemporary Art-Sofia) and Vessela Nozharova (Art Affairs and Documents Foundation).


Focus Bulgaria consists of a thematic exhibition (curated by Iara Boubnova and Vessela Nozharova), of panel discussions and small talks (curated by Dessislava Dimova), of historical comments on the context in the country, of quotations and explanations as well as of publication (developed by Boris Kostadinov) and parallel events.

Exhibition Variofocus – ARTISTS 

The exhibition Variofocus – ARTISTS curated by Iara Boubnova and Vessela Nozharova will take place at the booth C16/C24.

Variofocus – ARTISTS is showcasing the Bulgarian artists who are not only doing their job of creating artifacts with passion and dignity but often end up functioning as the unexpected substitute for the missing elements from the local institutional and artistic infrastructure.

NedkoSolakov - A BG Bar drawing

Artists-as-curators, artists-as-writers, artists-as-organizers, artists-as-managers, artists-as-dealers, artists-as-collectors, etc. (and sometimes vice versa…), they adopt a multitude of functions without ever ceasing to investigate the world around them and their place within this world.

Some of the participating artists: Luchezar Boyadjiev, Stanimir Genov, Irina Georgieva, Pravdoliub Ivanov, , Vikenti Komitski, Nestor Kovachev, Ivan Kostolov, Lubri, Svetlana Mircheva, Ivan Moudov, Stefan Nikolaev, Boryana Rossa, Kalin Serapionov, Nedko Solakov, Samuil Stoyanov, Valio Tchenkov, Krassimir Terziev, Vitto Valentinov, Stela Vassileva, Voin de Voin, Aleksandar Valchev, Aleksandra Chausheva, Valio Chenkov, Stafania Batoeva. 

VESSELA NOZHAROVA (born 1974) is a freelance curator and art critic. She holds a Master Degree in Art History from the Art Academy, Sofia. She has worked at The Union of Bulgarian Artists, Irida Gallery and Ata – centre for contemporary art. From 2003 to 2006 she was programme manager for visual arts at the Red House Centre for Culture and Debate, Sofia. In 2007 she was curator of the Bulgarian Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennial for Contemporary Art, and in 2008 – assistant curator of the 11th Architectural Biennial in Venice. She was a curator of a series of exhibitions in Bulgaria and abroad In 2008 she was one of the founder members of Art Affairs and Documents Foundation.

IARA BOUBNOVA is a curator and an art writer. She was born in Moscow and lives in Sofia, Bulgaria. She works at the National Gallery for Foreign Art as a curator of the Department of East European Art, lectures at the MA Program of the Cultural Studies Department at the St. Klement of Ohrid State University in Sofia. Iara Boubnova is founding Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art – Sofia. She had curated numerous international exhibitions of contemporary art, as well as the Bulgarian National Participations at the 48th Biennale di Venezia, 1999; the 3rd Biennial in Cetinje, Montenegro, Yugoslavia, 1997; the 4th St. Petersburg Biennial, 1996; the 4th Istanbul Biennial, 1995; and the 22nd Sao Paulo Biennial, 1994.


Open Call for Self Presentation 

Short video presentations of artists will be presented at the booth parallel to the curated exhibition. The video presentations will be selected after an open call. In their presentations artists will include theirselves, concrete artworks, exhibitions, their whole work and studio. Through their presentations they will answer some of the questions: Who are you? How would you define your art? What topics, problems are of interest for you? What materials and techniques do you use? What is your education? How do you socialize you work, where in what context do you exhibit? The aim of the open call is to present an overall picture of what it artist today, how does she/he reflects her/his position, what does her/his work consist of, how does she/he fit into the world around us, what are her/his problems.


In the selection jury are the curators Iara Boubnova, Vessela Nozharova and Dessislava Dimova, organizer and gallerist Vesselina Sarieva and Gaudenz B. Ruf – collector and supporter of Focus Bulgaria.

Vesselina and Katrin Sariev

Vesselina and Katrin Sariev

Talks program 

Focus Bulgaria will also include a daily program with artist talks in the booth C16/C24 curated and moderated by Dessislava Dimova. Through these talks series the audience will have the opportunity to meet in person some of key figures of the Bulgarian contemporary art scene.

In the framework of viennacontemporary talks program Keys to Contemporary Art Dessislava Dimova will also direct the conversation piece focus Bulgaria: Variable in appearance, sometimes vaporous, sometimes as plastic paste. The unusual panel discussion will take place on 27 September from 3.30 pm in the Talks area.

Furthermore, there will be a talk on collecting Bulgarian art with collectors Nedko Solakov, Gaudenz B. Ruf and Spas Roussev as part of the 20four7 – Contemporary Collecting program curated by Rainald Schumacher.

DESSISLAVA DIMOVA is a writer and curator based in Brussels. She studied art history at the Bulgarian Academy of Arts, Sofia and philosophy at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy, Middlesex, London. Recent curated projects include: Politics without Poetics (artist talks), NICC, Brussels, 2014-2015, Ryan McGuinley, MUSIZ, Sofia, 2014, The Dark Side of the Night, Anniversary program of the Night of Museums and Galleries, Plovdiv (Open Arts Foundation), 2014. In 2010 she co-curated Thank You for Your Understanding, Second International Antakya Biennale, Turkey. Her writings have appeared in: Art-agenda review, Le Salon, Manifesta Decade, revue 02, Flash Art International, Res Magazine, Kultura, Art in Bulgaria Magazine, Idea, Art Margins as well as for catalogues of the Witte de With, Kunsthalle Wien, Walter Koening, the Bulgarian Pavilion and Romanian Pavilion in Venice, among others.

Anemic Cinema, 2014, 56 x 76 cm, aquarell, nero pencil on paper


Focus Bulgaria will also include a publication which will not only reflect the whole project, but will also make the audience familiar with some of the most important aspects of Bulgarian contemporary art. The publication will conceptualized and developed by Bulgarian Vienna-based curator Boris Kostadinov. The publication will be available for free at the Focus Bulgarian booth.

BORIS KOSTADINOV is a curator and art critic – lives and works in an international context between Vienna and Sofia. His projects are in the field of contemporary art and photography, conceptual design, architecture, sound and interdisciplinary forms. They explore the interaction of art with political and geopolitical realities, economics, social processes and theories: economy of art, art as a social or activist gesture and art as a political platform. The second guideline of his work is art and technology. Such projects are defined by artistic practices that moderate relationships between elite science, future forecasts and social consciousness. He has curated recent projects for Radiator Gallery, New York; IG Bildende Kunst Gallery, Vienna; bäckerstrasse4 Gallery, Vienna; Center for Contemporary Art, Plovdiv.
Boris has authored many texts in catalogues and specialized publications.

Focus Bulgaria is organized by the Open Arts Foundation and Sariev Contemporary, Plovdiv, in cooperation with the Institute of Contemporary Art-Sofia and the Art Affairs and Documents Foundation. It is kindly supported by Gaudenz B. Ruf (Zurich / Sofia), the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Bulgaria, the National Culture Fund, Bulgaria, the EVN Collection, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, and is organized in partnership with the BKI Haus Wittgenstein in Vienna and Ogilvy Group Bulgaria and Pulsio Print. 

SARIEV GALLERY was founded by Katrin Sarieva and Vesselina Sarieva in 2004 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, initially as a Centre for photography and conceptual ceramics. In its fifth year, the gallery’s growth led us on to develop it as a space for contemporary art, and in 2011 it was officially renamed as Sariev Contemporary. Since 2011 Sariev Contemporary has built a representative list of Bulgarian-born artists and committed itself to promoting Bulgarian contemporary art internationally and locally through establishing a new model for a contemporary art gallery in the country. Sariev Contemporary has participated in international art fairs such as Art Brussels (2015), ViennaFair (2014, 2013), Artinternational (Istanbul, 2014), Contemporary Istanbul (2012), Contemporary Art Fair Shanghai (2012). www.sariev-gallery.com

OPEN ARTS FOUNDATION was founded in 2007 in Plovdiv by Vesselina and Katrin Sariev. The Foundation’s main mission is reflecting, energizing and communicating the city with the means of art. Open Arts Foundation is main organiser of Night of Museums and Galleries Plovdiv – one of the biggest cultural events in the country with annual audience of more than 50 000 people for two nights. The “Night” was awarded as Cultural Event of the Year by Eventex Awards Bulgaria two years in a row (2012 and 2013). In 2011 Open Arts Foundation started an Educational programme for Contemporary Art and Collectors’ Forum. Other projects by Open Arts Foundation are Artnewscafe Bulletin and Alternative Map of Plovdiv. www.openarts.info

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Photo credits: Kalin Serapionov, In Dialogue with Myself Reflection, 1997. Photography, C-print, 20 x 30 cm each, framed. Part of the project Do You Feel You Are Different?, 1996-1998, Courtesy of the artist | Nedko Solakov, Drawing for A BG Bar, 2005, black drawing and wash on paper, 21 x 29,7 cm. Courtesy of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (Vienna) | Pravdoliub Ivanov, Tools, 2013. B&W photo, newspaper, printed paper, 85 x 116 cm framed, edition 2. Courtesy of Sariev Contemporary (Plovdiv) | Nestor Kovachev, Anemic Cinema, 2014, aquarell, nero pencil on paper, 56 x 76 cm | Courtesy Gallery Heike Curtze and Petra Seiser, Stela Vassileva Breach, 2012, wood, glass, mirror, cardboard, LED light, 60х80х15 cm, Courtesy of Un Cabinet d’Amateur (Sofia) and the artist.

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