The Slovenian Association of Fine Arts Societies – window onto the world for Slovene fine artists

The Slovenian Association of Fine Arts Societies
This measure was reported by civil society.
Describe the main features of the measure/initiative: 
The Slovenian Association of Fine Arts Societies (ZDSLU) is the oldest professional association of Slovenian fine artists. In its 120 years of existence the Association has had a strong impact on the entire Slovenian fine arts scene and also took the initiative in establishing the National Gallery of Slovenia, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Academy of Fine Arts and Design. The members of the Association, which was established in 1899, are spread throughout the entire Slovenian cultural space. Today, the Association unites nine (9) regional societies (all together about 800 members), professional and active visual artists of all generations, of diverse directions and of different types of fine and visual art. Most of them are academically educated, while over 30% hold a master’s degree in arts, a PhD, and/or are habilitated university professors. With its members, the ZDSLU unites the widest database of Slovenian visual artists, which is essential for the growth of exceptional artists and for the creation of superior artistic highlights. The ZDSLU has been unceasingly integrated into the entire Slovenian art scene and has had a decisive influence on its development. The Association has been the initiator, co-founder or organiser of numerous projects in the field of fine arts and visual arts both at home and abroad. It regularly fosters care for its members and their promotion, makes presentations, and organises exhibitions across borders. The Association has been a part of numerous important international projects throughout Europe. A very successful one was “Intart”, which started in 1967 and bought together almost 150 artists from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Carinthia and Slovenia and which concluded in 2004 (although the project ended, it still has an impact on the connections with neighbours and artists from abroad). As there is no art market in Slovenia and no gallery or institution is exploring and “exporting” works of art to different countries, journeys across the borders, to close and distant neighbours, are a necessity. The Assocition has done a great job by presenting over 100 of the best painters, sculptors, graphic artists, and conceptional and new media artists, on an international stage at different galleries in eight towns, over the last eight years through the project “Window to the Neighbours”. The importance of promoting the fine art and traditional knowledge thereof was soon recognised not only in Slovenia. There are, among others, three important projects that are highlighted in this report. International exhibitions and international festivals are organised and managed by the ZDSLU and its regional associations, in the frame of which many artists have exhibited in Ljubljana, Kranj, Ajdovščina and various countries abroad. The first of the mentioned projects, “Window to the Neighbours”, which was organised together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture (SKICA in Vienna and Berlin), started at 2012 and since then the programme has been held regularly. There is an awareness that cultural diversity and a high level of fine art artists creates and enables inclusion in the rich and flourishing cultural movements at local, national, and international levels. With "Window to the Neighbours", the project started in the gallery of the General Consulate of the Republic of Slovenia in Klagenfurt with three exhibitions annually, which lasted for eight years. The Austrian and Slovenian media have been involved in each project, as were gastronomic enterprises and exclusive wine producers. The second part of this project is also taking place in Klagenfurt and the ZDSLU Gallery in Ljubljana. This entails an exchange exhibition project with the contemporary art-orientated artists of “BV Gallery”, which has been running continuously for the last six years. The third part of "Window to the Neighbours" is also running in different cities: Vienna (different galleries), Munich (Gallery Tresor in Vinum), Budapest (Profeto Gallery), Berlin (Sievi Gallery), Dallas (Madi Gallery), Paris (Cité des Art, Paris Art Salon), and others. As of last year, as the Association became the owner of the property at Komenskega 8, Ljubljana; the entire "House of Artists and Art" building has been filled with numerous projects of various art genres (dance, poetry, literature, music, oenology, creative industries, etc.). The “Secret Vesel’s Garden” open-air gallery hosts public discussions, round tables, fine art events, performances and exhibitions, fine art and music projects. There are also plans to present artists and important personalities from abroad, since the main goal of the international activities is to create a network of artists and galleries from different coutries, to eliminate borders, and to create a cultural and artistic region without barriers or national obstacles. The second important international project of the Association is the Festival of Fine Arts Kranj, which is organised by the Regional Fine Artists' Association of Kranj, which has been held for the last eight years. The Regional Fine Artists' Association of Kranj was founded 40 years ago and is based on a rich tradition of artists in the country. In recent years, the Association has been extremely active and productive both domestically and internationally. The vision they set for the association was to connect Slovene and Gorenjska artists and authors with international visual arts. They decided to dedicate each festival to another topic, whose name the festival would bear, and which had not yet been presented so extensively. They are also financially and organisationally linked up with the ZDSLU and the full range of galleries available in the Municipality of Kranj. The main goal of these meetings of art and artists is to follow a broad approach to current topics over time and across a diverse variety of fine art practices, including: painting, graphics, sculpture, architecture, design, photography, illustration, comics, installation, conceptual projects, textile art and video art. Internationally renowned authors are involved in the project, representing more than half of the participating authors and local artists from all regions at each festival. The project also includes a pedagogical aspect with presentations, consultations, lectures and guided tours by famous authors through the exhibitions. Another important aspect is the involvement of the entire urban political structure in the project. The whole city of Kranj becomes breathtaking with every festival of fine arts and is extremely proud of the project. The highlights of the last five years of the Kranj International Art Festival are the following: In 2015 the main theme of the festival was “Contemporary Landscape”. 150 artists from 17 countries participated in the project, exhibiting at 14 art exhibition places and galleries. In 2016 the main theme of the festival was "Digital Image and Classic Picture". More than 12 active art critics and curators from Slovenia and abroad participated and were involved in the project. The festival featured 180 artists from 16 countries. In 2017, the festival bore the title "Symbol, sign, color”. It featured 131 artists from 21 countries. The title of the festival in 2018 was "Geometry – Rationality of View." 128 artists from 24 countries presented their works. In 2019, the theme was “Black and White”. 126 artists from 25 countries presented works of art. The third important project is the International Biennial Festival of Aquarelle Art Castra Ajdovščina, which was organised by the Northern Primorska Fine Artists Association and by the ZDSLU. In 2015, the 1st International Biennial Festival of Aquarelle Art Castra Ajdovščina was held. The appellation Castra is an antique Roman name for the town of Ajdovščina. The purpose of the Castra Biennial of Watercolours, five years ago, was to increase the interest of the audience and artists in this noble and demanding fine art technique, which has been experiencing a renewed boom and many innovations in technological, aesthetic and substantive terms throughout the decade. The organisers also wanted to present the area of the Vipava Valley, which borders Italy, to the world. With the project CASTRA 2015, it had the idea of reinvigoratinf interest in this subtle classical technique in Slovenia and abroad, first of all in painters, then in the owners of art galleries, as well as in the general public, and to actualise new technological procedures, genres and motives. The exhibitions were held at the Lokar Gallery, the Pilon Gallery and the Lična Hiša gallery, all three of which are located in Ajdovščina. The extensive exhibition of 192 authors from 45 countries, which took place in the mentioned three art galleries, presented a large palette of personal figurative poetics and genres, encompassing just about everything from experimental technical watercolour procedures to traditional transparent techniques, where the media are exclusively water and pigment. Going through the genres, there were abstractions, urban and traditional landscapes, portraits and figures, still lifes, flowery motifs and content related to illustrations. The exhibition managed to include in its programme practically all figurative expressions, from realism, hyper-realism, naïf art, expressive figurative art, to linear drawing, geometrical decorative art and abstract expressionism. Along with the 1st International Biennial Castra 2015, a symposium took place with the goal of clarifying and revealing the historical development of the genres, motifs, and techniques, thus passing on knowledge of the impact of contemporary materials on figurative expression, exchanging a few words on the dialogue between gallerists and artists, conversing about the passion to paint in watercolour technique, etc. The ongoing accompanying programme of demonstrations and workshops had the aim of demonstrating and practicing watercolour painting. In 2017, the 2nd International Biennial Festival of Aquarelle Art Castra Ajdovščina hosted 58 watercolour artists from 11 countries and also included an accompanying programme with roundtable discussions, talks and workshops on watercolour painting today. In 2019, the 3rd International Biennial Festival of Aquarelle Art Castra Ajdovščina included 165 artists from 39 countries. The organisers note that the Biennale is becoming highly regarded and increasingly recognised both at home and abroad. There, artists from all over the world share experiences and network in the field of watercolour. The local community of Ajdovščina is also gaining ground through the festival and is becoming recognisable in the wider world, which would certainly not be the case without this artistic manifestation.
What are the results achieved so far through the implementation of the measure/initiative?: 
Looking only from a statistical point of view, in the last five years 1,240 local and foreign visual artists have been presented within the framework of all three projects: Window to the Neighbours, Kranj International Festival, and the Castra International Watercolour Biennale. The importance of the projects lies primarily in the promotion and presentation of Slovenian visual art, connecting and exchanging artists’ experiences, connecting the fine arts with local authorities, and presenting local and international authors to the general public. Of great importance is the responsiveness of the media, which is increasingly more present than at any other art event, and therefore public awareness is at a high level. And once again, as an art market does not exist in Slovenia, and no other gallery or institution is exploring and “exporting” works of art to different countries, the journey across the borders, to close and distant neighbours, is a necessity. It has done a great job by presenting over 100 of Slovenia’s best painters, sculptors, graphic artists, and conceptional and new media artists to an international audience at different galleries in eight cities over the last eight years through the project "Window to the Neighbours”. In the framework of art campaigns, the Association has been able to present many of the artists abroad. The result is that important galleries have come to know them and many of them are now frequent exhibitors at renowned visual arts galleries abroad. The actions in the Window to the Neighbours project are also significant in the political sphere. The ZDSLU has become a model gallery that organises top-quality exhibitions and presents first-class authors abroad, which is of great assistance to the diplomatic-consular missions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Association manages to connect artists from different countries within their projects and makes friendly connections between artists and gallerists, thus helping to create a cultural landscape without borders. At the International Festival of Fine Arts in Kranj and the International Biennial of Watercolours in Ajdovščina, in addition to the high level of visual and fine arts and artists, the importance of involving local regional centres in cultural events, the emphasis on the importance of local communities, and the promotional nature of the projects should all be emphasised. It is a real pleasure to see the significant and highly visible changes in the context of the cultural momentum in the regional centres where fine art projects have been running for the last five years, which greatly enrich the local environment and promote Slovenia and its culture.