One of the defining moments in the development of contemporary Croatian art was the foundation of the Group of Six Authors in the mid-1970s. Comprised of six artists – Boris Demur, Željko Jerman, Vlado Martek, Mladen Stilinović, Sven Stilinović, and Fedor Vučemilović – the collective was not bound by media or style, but by an interest in redefining ways of exhibiting art. Rather than showing their work in museums and galleries, for example, the Group of Six opted to bring art to a wider audience by exhibiting in public squares, parks, city streets, and universities. Called “exhibitions-actions,” these events emphasized the active aspect in the group’s approach to creating and disseminating artwork and their prioritization of the public as a necessary component in the creation of art.
As part of a wider movement termed New Artistic Practice, which refers to creative exploration and social engagement among young artists in Yugoslavia from the late 1960s, the Group of Six Authors experimented with paintings, drawings, photographs, collages, texts, objects, and films, and questioned the function of art and the manner in which it is shared.
Their collaborative energies were directed toward creating a magazine title Maj 75, published from 1978-1984. The magazine title takes its name from the month and year of the group’s first exhibition-action, May 1975, and each publication was filled with the work of the group’s members, reconstituting the spirit of exhibition-actions in a magazine format.
The publication became a platform for other artists to publish and share their work in an alternative space, as well, providing exposure for a number of artists who would become some of the most important figures in the history of Croatian art.
Several issues of Maj 75 were exhibited at the exhibition Scenes From Zagreb: Artists’ Publications and New Art Practice at MoMA in 2011. David Senior, MoMA bibliographer and organizer of the exhibition notes, “Exhibition venues were fairly limited for artists so the pages of Maj 75 became an alternative space for not only the Group of Six, but also an extended circle of Yugoslavian and other Eastern European artists, to produce and disseminate their work publicly.” Other artists who contributed to Maj 75 and continued to develop as artists include Vlasta Delimar, Tomislav Gotovac, Sanja Iveković, Mangelos, and Goran Trbuljak.
In addition to creating artwork and producing Maj 75, the Group of Six Authors were also responsible for helping to establish alternative exhibition spaces in Zagreb, including Podroom and the Extended Media Gallery. Podroom, a private venue owned by artists Sanja Iveković and Dalibor Martinis, was active between 1978 and 1980 and primarily functioned as a gallery, but also as a meeting place for experimental artists associated with New Artistic Practice.
Podroom also served a venue for debates and discussions aimed at improving the position of the artist socially and economically. In 1979, for example, its members proposed an “Agreement on the Conditions of Presenting Works of Art in Public,” which demanded more rights for the artist with regard to cultural institutions.
The Extended Media Gallery, initiated by Goran Petercol and Damir Sokić, focused on artist-oriented exhibitions and also served as a space for meetings and workshops. In 1984, Mladen Stilinović, one of the members of Group of Six Authors, became the manager of the venue. Under Stilinović’s guidance, the space began to function more seriously as a gallery space, with a program of weekly exhibitions.
After the dissolution of the Group of Six Authors in 1981, each of its members went on to develop successful artistic careers, while still actively involved with alternative exhibition spaces and practices in Zagreb. Both the collective and individual activities of the Group of Six Authors define a significant moment in shifting creative and social ideals in Croatia and set the tone for subsequent generations of artists working in the region.
Written by Elaine Ritchel (@elaineritchel)
Image source: MOMA.org Scenes from Zagreb, 2011