Art from the fringes | Nina Krstic

Currently on display at Pjazza Teatru Rjal in Valletta, ‘Naïve and Marginal Art from Serbia’ showcases striking works by Serbian artists operating ‘off the grid’ of the elite cultural establishment. Museum director Nina Krstić tells us about this showcase, while remaining hopeful that it will lead to a more concrete collaboration between Serbian and Maltese artists in the near future.

Sava Sekulić, Mother and her wings (detail), 1977
Sava Sekulić, Mother and her wings (detail), 1977
Nina Krstic:
Nina Krstic: "Outsider art often finds it impetus in independent endeavour"
Života Milanovic, Long journey, 2006
Života Milanovic, Long journey, 2006
Milosav Jovanović, A stork, 1969
Milosav Jovanović, A stork, 1969
Vojkan Morar, They walked to the sky, 2006
Vojkan Morar, They walked to the sky, 2006

In collaboration with the Museum of Naïve and Marginal Art (MNMA), Jagodina, Serbia, the newly setup Serbian Cultural Information Centre in Malta is currently showcasing an exhibition of ‘Naïve and Marginal Art from Serbia’ at the Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Valletta. The exhibition will be on display until December 6.

Speaking to MaltaToday, MNMA director Nina Krstić said that she hopes the exhibition would be a catalyst for future cultural collaboration between Malta and Serbia. Broadly defined the artistic genre of ‘outsider art’ encompasses visual art created by artists who do not have any formal artistic training, but whose work – by dint of both its intrinsic formal strength and idiosyncratic, striking flavour – is deemed worthy of interest.

The exhibition will feature a generous spread of works from the 60s to the noughties, gathering some of the key pieces from the MNMA.

Krstić believes the exhibition will be of particular interest not just to the Serbian community in Malta, but also

“Outsider art often finds it impetus in independent endeavour – it tends to be made by artists who exist outside of the established artistic circles and educational institutions. And I get the sense that plenty of Maltese artists operate in the same way: through their own initiative,” Krstić said.

The MNMA was founded in 1960. The Museum researches, collects, keeps and protects the works of original self-taught artists from all over the world. The International MNMA Art Collection counts over 2,500 works of Naive, Art-brut and Outsider Art. MNMA is supported by Ministry of Culture of Republic of Serbia and it is ranked as the Cultural Institution of National Importance.

“Sadly, our collection does not, as yet, have a representative Maltese piece… so I see this exhibition as an opportunity in this regard too,” Krstić said, noting that while outsider art is often intuitively identified by viewers as such, it is also a generous category, which can by definition include a wide variety of artists from various walks of life.

“One idea we have for the future – and which we’ve discussed with the Serbian Cultural Information Centre – is to eventually hold an international exhibition from outsider art in Valletta itself. The fact is that our museum houses work from over 30 countries, and Valletta would be an adequate setting because the city works as in intersection point: so many people from various countries pass through it on a regular basis.”

Asked how a collaboration between the Museum and Malta would concretely come into effect, Krstić said that she’s already been in contact with various local cultural institutions, in the hope of finding Maltese artists who would be willing to participate in the museum’s upcoming initiatives – which would culminate in a triennial celebration of naïve and outsider art in 2016.

Krstić makes a distinction between ‘naïve’ and ‘outsider’ art, both of which will feature in the ongoing exhibition in Valletta.

“To specify the definition a bit more, I would say that outsider art expresses a darker, more raw side of life. More often than not it serves as a raw, therapeutic vent for the artist, so it would have that element of internal psychological turmoil. Whereas naïve art presents a more idealistic picture: the artists of this stripe tend to use bright colours, and often depict idyllic landscapes which valorize our connection with nature, and emphasise the need to cultivate it.”

Krstić contends that outsider art is currently enjoying an unprecedented popularity in the world at large.

“I would attribute this to newly awakened attention towards human rights – with all that that implies. Outsider art encompasses marginal voices by definition, and so displays a sensitivity towards those classes of people who have been left out of the elite circles of society. Art has always been in thrall to some kind of cultural or political establishment or other, and work that falls under the ‘outsider art’ rubric in this sense represents a genuine, bona fide avant garde sensibility,” she said.

‘Naïve and Marginal Art in Serbia’ will remain on display at Pjazza Teatru Rjal in Valletta until December 6. The exhibition is organised by the Museum of Naïve and Marginal Art in collaboration with the Serbian Information and Cultural Centre and the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia

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