FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Socialist Sofia: Museum of Socialist Art

Posted in Bulgaria, Sofia by folkestonejack on May 21, 2016

The Museum of Socialist Art, an initiative of the Ministry of Culture, opened its doors in September 2011 and has already become well established on the tourist trail in Sofia. There are three parts to the museum – an outdoor sculpture park, an exhibition hall and a video room. A cafe is located above the souvenir shop.

The collection boasts 77 works of sculpture from the socialist era (1944-1989) and over 60 paintings, but is still continuing to grow. For example, the sculptures from the 1300 years of Bulgaria monument will be moved here when it is dismantled, assuming that it doesn’t fall apart first!

Sculptures in the museum grounds

Sculptures in the museum grounds

Our visit coincided with a spell of heavy rain which was far from ideal for looking around the impressive colection of sculptures in the grounds. The statues of notable figures include Dimitrov, Lenin and Dzerzhinsky but I took as much, if not more, pleasure in the sculptures of the worker, such as Funev’s The Champion Worker’ (1958).

At present the museum is hosting the exhibition ‘The image of the leader’ in its hall and this runs until November 2016. It offers up an interesting collection of paintings and posters that amply demonstrates the changing styles across the span of the communist era. The curator of the exhibition quite rightly questions whether some of the late works would have been acceptable a decade or two earlier.

My favourite was a large canvas from 1951-53 entitled ‘The National Conference of the Winners of the Labour Cooperative Farm’ which shows the winners queueing up to be congratulated by party officials. The detail is superb, such as a chap with a pig under each arm waiting his turn. As all of this is going on the proceedings are being observed by portraits of Dimitrov and Stalin hanging in the conference hall. I think it captures the essence of the era, even if a modern audience is bound to see a layer of threat in these watchers that perhaps would not have been present for most people at the time.

The museum building and the star from the Party House

The museum building and the star from the Party House

A small video room next to the souvenir shop offers a loop of archive footage from communist Bulgaria, interspersed with images of its demise (for example, footage taking us on a walk inside Dimitrov’s mausoleum is followed by images of its demolition). The footage had its comical moments too, such as when one model worker was praised for exceeding his targets by 1200% – I’m glad my managers don’t have such expectations!

Practical information. The National Gallery – Museum of Socialist Art is located at 7 Lachezar Stanchev Street which is easily reached from G.M.Dimitrov metro station. We followed the map and directions that a kind soul added to tripadvisor after the difficulties he encountered trying to find the place.

Opening times are given on the national gallery website. Admission currently costs 6 Lev and catalogues for the current exhibition are available from the souvenir shop for 12 Lev.