This respected craft …
Collectibles are written and spoken very much. Just because this phenomenon of manifestation of human spirituality is too old. Already in the Renaissance, in the great Italian cities – such as Florence, Venice, Rome, the cult of ancient beauty and harmony and wealthy people have been erected, and the Papal Court in particular finances archeological excavations and collects artifacts in collections. The paintings and the sculpture are in their heyday, patronized by large and wealthy generations such as Medici, Sforza, Borghese, Cardinal Grimani and others. Leonardo and Michelangelo not by inheritance, but with their brushes they reach the peaks of the public hierarchy. Spiritual heads and nobles lead epic battles to order them. Raphael was appointed by Pope Julius II as the guardian and restorer of the valuable Pope collection. The accumulated masterpieces are already so much that naturally there is a need for spacious buildings to house and preserve them. The museums and galleries that create funds with donations from private collections are born. Vasari designs one of the most iconic museums today – Uffizi. Man survives his passion for having unique ones and they become part of the civilization wealth. As a matter of fact, they were initially such. Later, in the first half of the last century, Solomon Guggenheim instructed Frank Lloyd Wright to design a museum to arrange his invaluable collection of works of impressionism, post-impressionism, and modern art. When the museum was discovered, ten years have passed since the death of Guggenheim and six of Wright’s deaths. A mission outside of the time of life. In post-revolutionary Russia, patrons and collectors such as Morozov and Prohorov make the foundations of museums like Hermitage with their noble donations. Sooner or later, for one reason or another, valuable artwork reaches museum collections and halls to become known to mankind. In this sense, the role and importance of quality private collections is enormous.
In Bulgaria there are almost no traditions in the collection of valuable works of art. Apart from the Orthodox icon and the church frescoes, during the years of Turkish slavery, such works were not created and only before the liberation were the origins of secular painting. The wealthy Bulgarians build European houses, but they still do not have the spiritual attitude to paint pictures on their walls. Society can hardly overcome the inertia of looking at the artist as a craftsman who “portrays saints”. And at the beginning of the last century, we already have beautiful artists who graduated from prestigious European academies. Of course, the royal family began to follow the brighter names, and the palaces and residences found their paintings and sculptures. The exhibitions of the returning from Paris Nikola Tanev are sold in full. Doctors, lawyers, officers, merchants are increasingly buying works, thus supporting our fragile native art. Bogdan Filov, as Director of the National Museum of History, created a large collection of paintings, which became the foundation of the later-established National Art Gallery. Many good Bulgarians with Revival impulses donate their own works to the gallery. But talking about collections at that time is impossible. This is an aristocratic process and an occupation, and the newly-formed bourgeoisie has not yet the courage to “put on its facade.” Not to mention the lack of selective attitude towards plastic arts. The landscape and the portrait are fashionable, and after two unsuccessful exhibitions in Sofia in the 1930s, George Papazov, already famous in Paris, vows to never expose himself to Bulgaria. Bulgarian modernism is “killed” in the germ of the massive petty bourgeois taste.
During the socialist period, the state was the only patron saint and created in every major city galleries whose collections were filled at a rapid pace, sometimes at the expense of the quality of the purchased works. But the overall atmosphere tolerated the art, and the treasures came into the funds. There were no private galleries, and the collection of fine art was an exotic activity with a controversial and rather inappropriate taste for the ideology of socialism. Bogomil Rainov wrote and published “This strange craft”, irradiated by the unique atmosphere of Paris, where he resides long. Right, “strange” to our reality, but old and respectful in the West. It is good that at that time many books and novelized biographies of the great artists of the 19th and 20th centuries were constantly translated, in which the COLLECTIONARY was always present – a passionate and a leaping, generous and noble, a prince and a connoisseur … I loved Volar’s memories. In Bulgaria Bogomil Rainov himself grumbled the decadent Western culture and the “infected” collector Alexander Lilov told in a late interview that he shared his intellectual bias with a small circle of friends. Boyan Radev did not care who did what he thought and talked loudly about his new great love after the sport – the collection of paintings. His money was “white”, and Ivan Vukadinov himself was a consultant. The two-time Olympic champion with a macho beat appeared in the vernisages in a white silk shirt and a heavy Havana cigar in his mouth, and the artists gladly gave him paintings. At the same time, he was paying too much for works by Zlatyu Boyadjiev, Bencho Obreshkov, Master, David Peretz, Atanas Yaranov. Boyan is a confirmation of the rule that the collector cultivates and grows over time. So long as there is soil for it. And one more thing – that aristocracy is a state of the spirit, not just an external behavior. In the years up to the 90’s, legends came about the collection of Ivan Budinov – a politician and a patron, who took under such wingful talents as Dimitar Kazakov and Emil Stoichev. Prominent personalities received a large number of pictures as gifts, but these were home collections. Other, inconspicuous people, like my old friend Martin Kalistrov, shared their modest income to create small value collections. It was a spiritual need for them, and they were happy to make donations to museums and galleries. Nacho Culture was a living legend in Plovdiv. There was talk about Bogomil Raynov’s exclusive collection, but for the rest of his life he saw only a few pairs of eyes. Where are the precious works today? Svetlin Russev’s glamorous gesture, to donate much of his collection to Pleven’s home town, was a hideous and unhealthy curiosity. “C’est la vie”, in the beloved language of Bogomil Rainov.
In the last quarter of a century, numerous private galleries managed to create interest and attitude for the purchase of works of art. Good artists and their paintings received a decent assessment. The market, whether on a business or not basis, has built a pantheon of twenty names of authors from the first half and the middle of the last century, which we call today classics. The prices of their paintings are rising even today despite the several-year crisis. Numerous authors took the middle class. The financial resources of many fast-paced people gave them the opportunity to buy expensive paintings. Fashion was contagious like chickenpox. I’m telling him with the experience of a thirty-year-old professional galley, who has seen in his practice all kinds of cases and people. Several good contemporary artists have also received the right attention and the prices of their paintings went up only. Most miserably lived until their death, Kazakov and Genko, today are frantically sought after (and infamously falsified, of course) … I see them drinking their drink up in the sky, generously smiling at earth vanity and vicissitudes. Simple mortals have “produced” them in geniuses.
Among the chaos of the art market and the frequent attempts of non-spiritual people to buy spiritual indulgences emerged an unusual and not known for the general public sphere of activities – the collection of works of art. With the help of consultants or not, but wealthy Bulgarians began systematically building their collections. The reasons? Generally speaking, as everywhere in the world, they are two – love for the art and reliability of the investment. On both occasions, the two exchanged their seats. But I argue that no artwork is involved. Therefore, those who do not have it, but have a lot of money, collect cars, yachts, properties, mistresses, etc. To prevent the walls of their palaces from being empty, they order expensive but mediocre copies of Rubens and Dally.
In the past few years, twenty collectors have gathered courage and staged joint exhibitions, showing wonderful models created by our great masters. It was again amid the whispering and yellow curiosity and was accompanied by blatant law clashes and clerical squabbles on “Movable Cultural Heritage.” For natural reasons, I know some of these collectors. I separate those who buy massively from those who tremble over the selection and fight for certain authors and paintings. Such are Mitko Indjov and Ventsi Kadiev. Emotional, valuable, absorbed entirely by the collection. A few years ago, Boyan called me for two big oils by Lyuben Gaidarov, whom he heard they were in Varna. I did the necessary to secure them, and he immediately left Sofia to pick them up. He was glad and excited. At the same time, I had a long battle to bring from Paris a great still life to Peretz. This classic of ours is a tribute to Boyan Radev’s collection. “The Wrestler” did not leave me alone until the picture arrived in Varna. In a few hours he himself stood in front of the hanging masterpiece in our gallery, and only silently snarled: “Magnificently, magnificently …” We went down to a coastal pub to destroy a still-life with frying turbot and fine white wine. With us were Stoimen Stoilov and Stoyan Tsanev – two great artists of our time, to whom the collector’s interest is already huge. So, a new and interesting page is opened in our cultural space. Our Osiromashala Rodina welcomes with suspicion and often with eloquence the episodic comments about the Bulgarian collectors. From the “shocking” youngsters, thunderstorms are thundering about the fabulous prices of Markvichka, Zlatyu, and so on. There are no specialized editions to talk seriously about collectibles. The artistic life is left on an autopilot, and frivolous galleys offer surrogates and counterfeits, and helpful artists write certificates to them. Because suddenly it turned out that paintings can be a big and profitable business. And why do we get the extraordinary noise after millions of counterfeits are offered at world auctions, and famous US museums are filled with stolen works and artifacts (the Medici Conspiracy). A legalized, winning industry carrying the innocent and representative halo of spirituality … The trunks with exported Bulgarian old art that Vezhdi returned to our country are only a tiny part of the robbery of the treasure mafia that has already built canals and is led by prominent public figures. The temple has long been “extinguished” by people whose boots are undergone with golden tints. We do not export paintings, but we have created a scale and a chart to keep the newcomers, but not sufficiently literate Bulgarian artists. Everything is extremely subjective and serves certain interests. Thus, in the museums, galleries, squares, pentagrams and others. works are arranged and jubilee exhibitions are organized, mostly related to the names of our “high-revolutionary” classics. There you will not see pictures of Hristo Kavarnaliev, Georgi Velchev, Georgi Urumov – three of our greatest mariners with European education and manifestations. Nothing in the National Gallery is the earliest works of Kavarnaliev, bought in 1914 – 1918 by Bogdan Filov for the National Museum of History, and in 1935 Andrei Protic puts the artist at the highest place among our mariners before Mutafov and Kyvliviev. It is the museum’s landfills – to paint the pictures of the forgotten authors. Mentors of the newly created Bulgarian art market have not included these names in their charts, they do not bring them money. Prospective workshops are flourishing because the demand for Zlatyu, Genko, Kazakov, Vassil Stoilov, Tanev is bigger than the supply. Everything goes unpunished. But happiness has been delivered to someone who proudly boasts “I bought five Nero, I went to one who you are, and he told me they were real …” How much does a man need to be happy. And in translation from the favorite language of the author of “This strange craft” – WHAT IS LIFE.