Total Portrait of the City. Tomislav Gotovac and Július Koller in conversation with Vjenceslav Richter


Total Portrait of the City. Tomislav Gotovac and Július Koller in conversation with Vjenceslav Richter

28.09.2019 - 03.11.2019 / Zbirka Richter

The exhibition “Total Portrait of the City. Tomislav Gotovac and Július Koller in conversation with Vjenceslav Richter”  is the first public presentation of Tomislav Gotovac and Július Koller, two prominent figures in socially oriented performance art, creators of radical and complex conceptual messages. 

Both artists in parallel, starting from the early 1960s, systematically developed in their respective countries, the former Yugoslavia and the former Czechoslovakia, their own idiosyncratic programs based on social critique and anti-institutional standpoints. Both repeatedly tried in their work to break the norms that imposed on individuals the prescribed behavior patterns which were at the time considered to constitute normalcy.

This meeting between the two artists is selectively focused on their interventions in the public space and the conspiracy theories present in their works. Situated in the environment of a modernist villa designed by one of the key designers and architects of socialist Yugoslavia — Vjenceslav Richter, the works of Gotovac and Koller engage in a conversation not merely with each other but also with the utopias of urban planning, something which Richter systematically dealt with in his work.  Richter was a member of the Exat 51 group and the creator of Yugoslavia's Expo 58 national pavilion in Brussels. Sinturbanizam (a synthesis of urbanism) is a fully featured utopian vision for solving the expansion of urban agglomerations. The situationism of Gotovac and Koller is characterized by performances tied to the immediate life of the city, opened by urban environments to affective gestures of liberty.

Even though Gotovac and Koller used different means of expression, their methods were analogous, and they both carefully reflected the policies of representation and the mass media in the era of a world split along ideological lines into East and West. Gotovac carried his repeated experience of watching films over into performances in which he used his own body as a means to confront the private and the public. Koller developed his performances within the system of his U.F.O. linguistic operations, with which he reacted to the social passiveness of the so-called normalization period that followed the occupation of Czechoslovakia (1970-1989) and highlighted the omnipresent systems of control and surveillance. A shared, or virtually identical point of departure for both artists is their provocative fusion of contradictions. Gotovac focused on the avant-garde structural film and Hollywood cinema, while Koller subverted the academicism of modern socialist painting with using unschooled, amateurish techniques and junk materials.

Today, the legacy of their works remains more pertinent than ever, providing an answer to the crisis of democracy in the post-factual era. To this, they offer a counterbalance by pointing out an imaginative identification with the city as a living organism by means of invading it with displaced fantasies. The exhibition tries to promote artistic dialog in this area and to reconsider the points of departure of socialist modernism in our countries.

Famous Croatian architect Vjenceslav Richter donated with his wife Nada Kareš Richter artworks and their family house to the City of Zagreb with the idea of extending cultural content beyond the city centre and contributing a new dimension to Zagreb's cultural horizon. In the late 1990s, the City of Zagreb entrusted the management of the Richter Collection to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Today following Richter's ideas and visions, the house and grounds were gradually converted into a public museum space. Richter Collection has become a venue for everyday cultural events – exhibitions, concerts, lectures, book or magazine launches etc., as well as a research center for studying Vjenceslav Richter’s work.

An exhibition initiated by the Tomislav Gotovac Intitute, Zagreb and the Július Koller Society, Bratislava in collaboration with the Vjenceslav Richter and Nada Kareš Richter Collection and Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb.


Location: Vjenceslav Richter and Nada Kareš Richter Collection, Vrhovec 38, Zagreb

Duration: 28.9. 2019 - 3.11.2019

Exhibition opening: 28.9. 2019, 12.00


Curator: Daniel Grúň, Július Koller Society, Bratislava

Cooperation: Darko Šimičić (Tomislav Gotovac Intitute, Zagreb), Vesna Meštrić (Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb)

Architecture: Matej Gavula

Technical support: Dušan Dobiáš, Leontína Berková

Translations: Michal Spáda

Production: Zlata Borůvková


Special thanks: Květoslava Fulierová, Zora Cazi Gotovac, Sarah Gotovac

This exhibition has been supported using public funds by Bratislava, the Capital of the Slovak Republic.