Two weeks ago we participated in an event that in recent years has become one of the highlights of the cultural scene. Not only in Bulgaria but throughout Europe. I am talking about the European Night of Museums, which took place on 14 May this year.
Nearly 70 state and municipal museums and art galleries, as well as their branches in 24 districts in the country, took part in the eighteenth edition of the European Night of Museums initiative this year. From the largest historical museums, through the impressive collection of paintings of the National Gallery Kvadrat 500, to many small artistic galleries across the country. The program of this year’s edition was definitely rich and there was something for everyone.
WHAT IS THE EUROPEAN NIGHT OF MUSEUMS?
The European Night of Museums is an event in which everyone can visit the participating museums and galleries completely free of charge within the night. It is an initiative open to as many people as possible with a focus on the young audience. Everyone has the opportunity to learn about Bulgaria’s cultural heritage through an attractive program.
The event was first organized in 2005 by the French Ministry of Culture and has been successfully taking place throughout Europe ever since. Bulgarian museums and art galleries started participating right from the beginning.
EUROPEAN NIGHT OF MUSEUMS, SOFIA 2022
This year more than 45 museums and art galleries took part in the European Night of Museums in Sofia. From artistic galleries in the small streets of central Sofia to large museums such as the National Museum of Military History and galleries such as the National Kvadrat 500 Gallery, the variety was great.
Most of the museums and galleries opened their doors to visitors after 18:00 and were open until midnight. However, the time was extremely short to be able to tour all the places and see everything. So we made a strict plan to go around as many places as possible in the short time we had.
And since there are definitely more editions of the European Night of Museums coming up, I decided to share with you the places we visited this time. Perhaps the biggest piece of advice I would give you is to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Because you will be walking a lot. Pick a few places that you definitely want to visit and make a list. There is no way to visit everything in one edition of the initiative.
Here are the museums and galleries we managed to visit:
One of the few places that opened its doors since noon. This was a good idea, as the museum is large and it takes time to fully explore it.
The permanent exposition of the museum is located in one of the most beautiful and emblematic buildings in Sofia – the former Central Mineral Bath, built in 1912. There are eight halls with a total area of 2300 m2. It includes exhibits, covering a period of more than eight thousand years – from the Neolithic to the 1940s. These are the main themes – Heritage from Antiquity, Power of the Spirit, The Dynastic Connection to Western Europe, The Palace Study, A Street in Sofia, State and Municipal Institutions, Homes and Clothing of citizens of Sofia, Cultural Life and Entertainment. The accent is on some of the most important moments of the history of the city – its election for capital in 1879 and the decades before the beginning of the wars from 1912–1918. This is the period during which Sofia transformed from a small oriental city into a modern European capital.
Rakursi is an independent gallery for modern and contemporary art. The temporary exhibition Direct Object included artists Aneta Dragusanu, Mariana Marinova, Valentin Angelov, Hristo Yotov, Gredi Assa, Mihail Lalov, Vasil Stoev, Dimitar Petkov, Milko Bozhkov, Tsvetelina Maximova, Nikolay Yanakiev, Plamen Bonev.
This was one of the most elegant and stylish galleries we have ever visited. We completely fell in love with the space. Nuance Gallery presents exhibitions of contemporary, classical and modern art. It participated in the European Night of Museums with the exhibition Temptations by Ivan Stratiev.
Unfortunately, a small part of our national literary museums are in excellent condition. The house museum of Petko and Pencho Slaveykovi is not even in the same building where they actually lived. Their small house was on one of the side streets of Graf Ignatiev Street (near the square of the same name), but was destroyed after their death. Their few belongings have been moved to an apartment on the first floor of 138 G. S. Rakovski Street, where you can currently visit their house museum.
Despite our disappointment, we still managed to see some of Slaveykovs’ belongings and enjoy a short talk by the museum staff.
This is another house museum that is still struggling to obtain finances for a complete renovation after long court battles over the property’s ownership. The exposition is mainly on the second floor of the house. The other two floors are currently closed for visitors.
The exposition in the living room and the poet’s study recreates the authentic atmosphere of the early 20th century. You can also visit the room with the original possessions from the poet’s last home on Solunska Street, where he ended his life in 1914.
Out of the three house museums we visited, we like Ivan Vazov’s museum the best. This was the first national literary museum in Bulgaria, founded only a few years after Vazov’s death.
The house was built in 1895 and the writer lived and worked here for the longest time of his life. You can see an art and documentary exhibition on the first floor, which presents some of the unique gifts and awards of the national poet for his two anniversaries in 1895 and 1920. On the second floor the visitors can see Vazov’s office. His desk and library, personal belongings and paintings create a unique atmosphere in the place. The office is connected by a transitional door with the poet’s bedroom where you can see a small collection of his clothes.
Initially we had not planned to visit the ONE + Gallery. But since it was next to the Ivan Vazov House Museum, we decided to include it in our program. Of the four galleries we visited, this was the place we liked the least. The exhibition was too abstract for our taste.
For the finale of this year’s edition of the European Night of Museums, we decided to leave the National Gallery Kvadrat 500. I will be honest – we were already very tired, but we went around all four levels of the gallery.
The gallery definitely resembles major European galleries. At times I had a feeling that I was walking in a famous Parisian art gallery. And the fact that so many people visited Kvadrat 500 during this year’s Night of Museums makes me extremely happy.
You can enjoy 1700 works by Bulgarian and foreign artists in the 28 halls on four levels of the national gallery. The beginning of the Bulgarian collection dates back to the 1890s, whereas the foreign collection – from the 1980s.
The exhibition includes works representing Bulgarian art from the mid-nineteenth century and twentieth century, European art from the fifteenth and twentieth centuries, samples from Asia, Africa and America.
Have you participated in the European Night of Museums? Which museums and galleries did you manage to visit this year? Tell me in the comments.