Since G-MK is one of the oldest creative centers in Martićeva, we visited its curators in order to get a first-hand account of the projects in which the gallery has engaged with its immediate urban environment.
Although its official address is in Šubićeva street, the entrance to Miroslav Kraljević Gallery is from Martićeva street, and the gallery is located in the basement of the INA company. Moreover, G-MK was founded in 1986 within the INA Cultural Club Citizens’ Association, with the purpose of presenting the works of amateur artists and company workers, but also of established Yugoslav creators. At the time, the concept of the program was based on the idea that workers should participate in the creation of culture, not merely consume it. Since then, G-MK has focused on various aspects of contemporary art. Apart from the exhibition program, the gallery’s curator team and its associates also organize a residential program for foreign artists, various workshops and lectures, a competition for the production of new artistic works, a publishing program, as well as numerous smaller online projects.
The art historian and curator Branko Franceschi was a longtime manager of G-MK, and in his time the gallery became one of the most important exhibition spaces in Croatia and gained relevant international reputation. In 2004 Antonia Majača inherited the managing role from Franceschi, together with the new expert counsel of the gallery, while in 2012 the managing duty was passed on to Ana Kovačić, in collaboration with the curators Sanja Sekelj and Lea Vene. In their own words, the curator team is interested in “artistic and intellectual practices that analytically and critically question the present, especially the relations between politics and aesthetics. Since G-MK is one of the oldest creative centres in ‘Martićeva zone’, we visited the members of its curator team in order to get a first-hand account of the projects in which the gallery has engaged with its immediate urban environment.
Ana Kovačić: The most recent exposition in Miroslav Kraljević Gallery related to our neighbourhood was The Lost City by the Texan artist Joshua Goode in March 2014. He considered it important to realize his concept in the vicinity of the gallery, so he chose Bartol Kašić park across the street. He assumed the role of an archaeologist, staging archaeological exploration and excavation all over the park, and finding various lost treasures that were actually “planted”.
Joshua’s goal was to make people talk to him so he, a foreigner, could find out more about the history of the neighbourhood. At last, the artist learned lots of interesting things, for example about the Badel-Gorica factory complex and its former workers. He managed to get a lot of information, which was what he was hoping for.
Lea Vene: We could also single out the work of the foreign artist John Hawke, realized within the Liquidation project, followed by a conference of the same name in May 2014. The point of the project was to critically examine the process of privatization of public goods and spaces in Croatia, and Hawke’s installation on Kvaternik square fit in well in that context. His work dealt mostly with the transitional transformation of public space, of which Kvatrić is a prominent example. Like Joshua Goode, Hawke was also looking for a space near G-MK where he could react within the project’s theme. His installation remained in place longer than the exposition itself, as long as the citizens tolerated it.
Sanja Sekelj: The installation was made out of materials which suggested that it was installed by official authorities — the peculiar orange net. Most of the installation vanished after a month and a half or so, while the base remained at Kvatrić perhaps by the end of the summer. The notices on the installation informed the citizens that the sculpture was donated to the City of Zagreb by a certain corporation as a token of gratitude after the City granted it a part of public space, namely Kvatrić, in order to build a public garage. The interesting part is that with time people ruined the installation themselves.
Ana Kovačić: There was a time when we communicated with private shops with which we share the basement space of the INA building, where G-MK is located. There were opticians and hairdressers, and there is also the space of the veterans’ association, which remains the single active association besides us. When Ana Bilankov and Antonia Majača organized the Neighbourhood project in 2006, together with local art academy and humanities faculty students and neighbours, they wanted to know if those people were even aware of the existence of the gallery that has been there since 1986. The project helped in renewing and intensifying the communication between G-MK and the neighbourhood.
— Meanwhile, many enticing activities have been going on in the Gallery, such as recent editions of the Open Atelier program, in which the curator team has welcomed Mokre gljive, a collective of musicians, and young artist Katerina Duda. Occupy, Resist, Produce, an exhibition by artists Oliver Ressler and Dario Azzellini has been going on at the moment, featuring film and video works in the form of multimedia installations. There’s always something interesting happening in G-MK!