The pleasure of love on show during the October Salon

This year’s October Salon, Belgrade’s famed international contemporary art show, examines the role of emotion in modern art through diverse mediums.

The October Salon, one of Serbia’s most important contemporary arts events, opens on Friday and runs until November 6 at the Belgrade City Museum’s new building – the former Military Academy – under the motto ‘The Pleasure of Love’.

‘The Pleasure of Love’ explores “what role emotion plays in contemporary art and how it may be framed in ways that are neither banal nor kitsch,” said show curator David Elliott in a press release.

“This may include the not-so-simple pleasures of love, humour, horror and any other perspectives that art may bring to bear on the fragility of human experience and life which, in itself, may have a transient or long-lasting impact,” Elliott added.

Nearly 60  artists from Serbia, the Balkans and beyond are displaying work during the exhibition – more artists than in previous years – and in a wide variety of formats and mediums.

A classic French love song called ‘Plaisir d’Amour’ inspired the theme. The song was composed by Jean-Paul-Egide Martini in 1784 and is based on a poem written by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian, who was killed during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror in 1794.

“The pleasure of love lasts only a moment. The grief of love lasts a lifetime,” the song says.

Despite the centuries that have passed since his death, Elliott believes that Florian’s song still rings true today.

“Florian’s words have echoed across time to still speak in the present, both in Martini’s original arrangement and deformed into kitsch, at once eternal and fleeting,” Elliott said.

The city of Belgrade established the October Salon in 1960 as a local exhibition of the best works of fine arts. The festival has hosted many prominent artists and curators since becoming an international showcase in 2005.

Among the internationally recognised artists who have appeared are Anda Rottenberg, Darka Radosavljevic and Nebojsa Vilic, Rene Block, Lorand Hegyi, Bojana Pejic, Branislava Andjelkovic, Johan Poussete and Celia Prado, Galit Eilat and Alenka Gregoric, Branislav Dimitrijevic and Mika Hannula, Red Min(e)d, Nicolaus Schafhausen and Vanessa Joan Muller.

The October Salon was held annually until 2014, but Belgrade authorities decided to make the exhibition biannual in order to improve the salon’s quality.

“We are ready to ensure [improved quality] by giving more time [to the organisers] to prepare… and by giving more money for a bi-annual concept of the salon,” Vladan Vukosavljevic, former Belgrade cultural secretariat and current Serbian culture minister, told Politika Online in October 2014.

However, the decision sparked an outcry among art historians, culture experts and many October Salon team members, who said the move broke a decades-long tradition and does not represent the salon’s core values.

Mia David Zaric, the acting head of the Belgrade Cultural Centre, was fired in 2014 after she criticised the changes to the October Salon.

The Culture Secretariat said she was sacked for her “incorrect and unprincipled opposition”, but Zaric alleged it was because she was not a supporter of the ruling Progressive Party.

For more information about the exhibitions and authors, visit www.oktobarskisalon.org.

(Balkan Insight, BIRN, 26.09.2016)

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