Novi Sad Citizens Choose

The Gallery of Matica Srpska, Novi Sad, Serbia

Starting from the fact that the city is shaped by citizens, their origins, heritage, habits and orientations, and that the museum is a place of collective memory that collects and preserves different life stories of individuals, the Gallery of Matica Srpska in Novi Sad decided to open its collection and offer it to fellow citizens through works of art – in the space of our Gallery they tell the story of themselves and their city. We chose them not according to some logarithm or formula but thinking about them as individuals of different professions who are in different ways related to Novi Sad, but also to our institution. They are major actors from Novi Sad, who are engaged in different fields of culture, education, science and economy, different nationalities, and religions and as such show the diversity inherent in Novi Sad. We invited them to stroll along its art depots, look at paintings hung on panels, sculptures on shelves, drawings and graphics in museum cabinets and to feel the number and diversity of heritage that we keep under the roof of the Gallery of Matica Srpska. and give them the opportunity to find their essence there. We wanted to intertwine personal and general, individual and city, work of art and the possible message it conveys at the present time, and as a result of that friendship, the exhibition Novi Sad Citizens Choose was conceived.

The exhibition tells a story of Novi Sad citizens about their life, childhood and desires reflected through selected works from the Gallery art depot. Lastly, by mounting this exhibition and choosing this model of presenting the collection, we wanted to show that the museum is a place for everyone, and that the Gallery and its collection, seen through the eyes of citizens, can be one of the possible representations of fine arts in the contemporary world.

The exhibition presents 41 works of art from the Gallery’s collection, selected by 43 citizens of Novi Sad, including 18 women, 24 men and one girl. They opted for different works of art, so the exhibition Novi Sad citizens choose consists of three sculptures, one drawing, one linocut and 36 paintings in different techniques. The oldest selected work dates from 1891, and the newest from 2014, so the exhibition covers a long period in the national history of art. The process of picking works of art lasted forty-three days and citizens of Novi Sad spent over 20 hours in the depots, selecting works of art for the exhibition, while the museum experts tirelessly and patiently helped their fellow citizens to find their way among the painting panels and graphic maps. Their choices are followed by impressions, short stories, but also a recorded aria performed by a Novi Sad opera singer and a composition composed especially for this occasion by an illustrious Novi Sad pianist.

For example, musician Slobodan Trkulja and his daughter Nikodima wrote: “In this painting, I have recognized a child waiting for his dad to come back from a trip. That was me while my father travelled all the globe. Now my children are waiting for their dad to return from the world…” (Child at the window by Judith Eisenhut, 1920-1930) Jasmina, chief of the restaurant, wrote: “The image of a young woman left me with the impression of a girl’s longing. She is filled with both feeling of nostalgia and hope. She is romantic.” (Woman by the window by Sava Šumanović, 1924). Some of impressions are short, but with strong message, like one from Mihail Dudaš, athlete: “Serenity instead of sadness. Freedom instead of shackles.” (Girl with a cage by Stevan Maksimović, 1961)

Also, within the accompanying program of the exhibition, the project participants were in the role of curators several times during the year, and by the end of 2022, everyone will have the opportunity to be curators of the exhibition and to lead through it. In this way, project participants can convey their impressions and opinions about the collection of works of art stored in the Gallery of Matica Srpska.

Through their selections, the citizens of Novi Sad picked a variety of authors, themes, motifs, and styles for a wider audience that, in the year when Novi Sad is the European Capital of Culture, will be able to savour the exhibition space of the Gallery of Matica Srpska. We enjoyed that unusual step into our own job and a different perspective, a side view of the profession we are engaged in. This path was immensely useful and important for us in our capacity as experts because it pointed out to us the likes and choices of those for whom the museum exists – the audience.