60 Years of ‘Atelier 61’: The Exhibition That Takes Us to the Magical World of Ilija Bašičević Bosilj

‘Destiny of ‘Atelje 61’ and Ilija Bašičević Bosilj is feeling cosy in lavish colours and travellings around the world’, this is how Jelena Đorđević, the author of the ‘Bosilj Fiction of Atelje 61’ exhibition, starts the story. The impressive exhibition was opened in the Svilara Cultural Station on 11 March, and it comprises 13 tapestries made in the Institution for Tapestry Making in the period 1967-1975. The author said that Ilija’s creative work, the so-called ‘naive expressionism’, talks about the sharpness of his thoughts and expresses something primordial and primary in a human being. Within the exhibition, the audience has had an opportunity to feel how the author was breathing and dreaming, what he believed in, what was his inspiration and the life he lived.

Ilija was a serious and incredible creator, the artist of art brut. In his works, you can see religious and national motifs, Serbian medieval myths and legends, epic poetry, characters from the Battle of Kosovo, scenes from the Old and New Testament. These things point to how Ilija was highly educated and had a widespread perception of the world’, said Jelena Đorđević and added:

‘Within the exhibition, we tried to represent a tapestry from each cycle, a myth or a legend. It was a real temptation since all 28 tapestries were great, and it has come down to these 13 tapestries. For example, one of the tapestries was named ‘Animals and Birds from the Iliad’, which is the world Ilija created himself. He created his own world since life was cruel to him.’

The great, timeless artistic works were made by connecting formal and constructive elements of Bosilj’s fine art and tapestries. Some of the most beautiful works in the field of tapestry art were created on the Bosilj’s cardboards. The ‘Bosilj Fiction of Atelje 61’ exhibition was launched on the occasion of marking 60 years since the establishment of ‘Atelje 61’, in cooperation with the ‘Ilija & Mangelos’ Foundation, managed by Ivana Bašičević Antić, Ilija’s granddaughter, who said that she felt absolutely delighted that the exhibition was implemented, since the tapestry has gone through the constant cycle of approval and refusal.

The fight for the establishment of ‘Atelje 61’ was actually the time of great enthusiasm and a wish for creating and making some new achievements. After that, the ‘black’ period, when all the above-mentioned stopped and when tapestry was put aside as an artistic way of expression. It was connected to the work carried out by women, the so-called housework. The period affected us as well, since we were the ones who had to preserve the tapestries. They are huge and heavy, and you have to protect them from moths, and then you realise that you are amazed by them, but you cannot exhibit them anywhere. Then, in 2004, a big exhibition was being arranged in the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade. The tapestries turned up in a large space for the first time and it was really impressive to see them properly exhibited. After that, they were exhibited in ‘Boško Petrović’ and ‘Ilijanum’ galleries, and that was the time we realised that they would have their own life’, said Ivana Bašičević Antić.

Tapestry, as an autonomous, visual media, which emerged from the convergence of the French and Flemish tradition and local heritage of the ćilimar technique of weaving on a loom, achieved great progress from naive, pioneer experiments, to authentic and original achievements that follow contemporary world artistic processes. Works by numerous famous artists, whose activities and work are the best representative of the notion of contemporary art in Serbia, can be found in the Collection of ‘Atelje 61’, which consists of almost 300 tapestries. For 60 years since its establishment, the Institution for Tapestry Making has exhibited on over 280 exhibitions across the world – from Brazil, Washington, New York, Copenhagen, Paris, and all the way to Tokyo.

All interested will have a chance to see the exhibition until 16 April, during working hours of the Svilara Cultural Station (from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.). During the exhibition, professionally guided tours led by Dr Ivana Bašičević Antić, curator of ‘Atelje 61’ and author Jelena Đorđević, have been planned. Moreover, workshops, within which weavers-specialists of the artistic weaving in ‘Atelje 61’ will demonstrate to all interested the weaving techniques on small, horizontal looms, and introduce the creative part of co-authorship in the tapestry making, from the cardboard of an artist to the final work, will be held on 24 and 25 March, from 12 until 2 p.m. Visitors themselves will have a chance to try their hands at creating the unique visual artistic media. All interested can apply via e-mail address [email protected] for professionally guided tours and workshops.

Photo: Uroš Dožić