World Art Museums: Museum of Socialist Art, National Art Gallery of Bulgaria, Sofia

Added on by Miguel Sopena.

From visiting Bulgaria, it is clear that the debate about the Socialist past was very intense after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and still rages today. The Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia opened its doors in 2011 and is now part of the National Gallery of Art. The museum functions partly as a venue for temporary exhibitions.

At present, the museum's permanent exhibits consist of a series of official propaganda films and news reels from the Communist era shown in the museum store/ticket office/projection room (mainly celebrating the social, economic and political achievements of the Communist regime) plus the over 70 sculptural pieces displayed in the park outside the building. Besides the several Lenins here there are portraits of prominent Communist leaders like Georgi Dimitrov, Prime Minister of the country from 1946 until his death in 1949. There are also many celebratory depictions of ordinary workers and allegorical representations of Bulgaria and the Bulgarian republic. The prevailing style is the blocky expressionism known as Socialist Realism, which (call me a dinosaur), with its severe, old-fashioned stylishness probably speaks to me more than much of contemporary sculpture.

The park is also home to the huge red star that used to top the spire of the headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist Party in central Sofia (the building now houses administrative offices of the Bulgarian Parliament and is crowned by the national flag).

The current temporary exhibition, The New Political Poster (18/05 – 28/10/2018) appears to be a display of student-designed posters on a handful of set themes (from the centenary of the October Revolution to the Prague Spring to populism). This is interesting work but, frustratingly, not much information is given. A contemporary sculpture piece in the park (Reconstruction as Tragedy and Farce, by Peter Sadofski and Dan Trantina from the Czech collective Pode Bal, 04/07 – 30/09/2018) looks at the death of an East German citizen as he tried to cross the border between Czechoslovakia and Austria in 1986.


Nedko Krasnev and Nikolina Karanova, Giorgi Dimitrov (1949)

Nedko Krasnev and Nikolina Karanova, Giorgi Dimitrov (1949)