The Slovenia Times

With new wing, National Gallery restored to full glory


The refurbishment of the mansion from the Austria-Hungarian period, which has been the main home of the National Gallery since 1925, will enable the showcasing of art according to the latest standards.

The gallery keeps the largest collection of art made in Slovenian lands between the Middle Ages and Modernism, including a highly treasured collection of Slovenian Impressionists.

The historical building, the Narodni dom (National Home), was built by Czech architect František Škabrout in 1896, with the goal of bringing all Slovenian associations of the time under one roof.

But even after the building was claimed by the National Gallery, incepted some seven years earlier, its western wing remained occupied by a gymnastics club until the most recent renovation started in 2012.

Valued at 14 million euros, the works represented the third and final stage of the restoration of the National Gallery, which started a quarter of a century ago and during which the gallery got two new extensions.

Comprising three buildings and a connecting glass and steel wing, the entire complex now comprises almost 13,000 square metres, 3,100 square metres of which are allocated for the new permanent collection.

The latter features 613 works of art, displayed on the ground and first floors of Narodni dom and in the north wing, which was built by architect Edvard Ravnikar in 1993.

The overhauled permanent collection combines the so far separate collections of Slovenian and European art, which have additionally been expanded by a third, according to gallery director Barbara Jaki.

The collection follows a chronological order with the largest artworks showcased in the great hall, including the Glorification of Saint Francis of Sales, the 18th century canvas by Valentin Metzinger.

Several new artists have been included, also, as Jaki says, in order to cover the whole territory of today's Slovenia, considering the previous collection was more or less limited to Carniola.

One of the gallery's main missions since its inception has been the popularisation of art heritage, also among children and youth. The educational work has been upgraded according to the latest trends, also with the help of the gallery's dwarf Gal.

The mascot and its mysterious world has been created by the acclaimed poet and writer Svetlana Makarovič and illustrator Kostja Gatnik. After the latest renovation, Gal has got its own interactive room, where children will learn about the gallery's treasures and be able to make their own art.

On the occasion, the gallery also introduced new animation programmes for guided tours of pre-school and school children. These comprise more than half of all visitors to the gallery.

Visitor numbers had been increasing steadily until 2009, but fell after the crisis kicked in. Despite being partly closed, the gallery has since seen a new rise in turnout, with a 35% spike last year compared to 2014, mainly due to the Painting in Normandy show and the accompanying programme.

After the reopening, the gallery also plans to reintroduce lessons in graphic arts techniques and a drawing lessons for adults. An additional novelty are guided drawing tours and tours guided by well-known Slovenians.

As a special treat for the visitors, admission will be free for the first four days after the reopening. On the occasion, a book featuring a hundred most popular artworks from the new collection has come out in Slovenian and English.


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