A new space for contemporary art opens in Ljubljana

A new space for contemporary art opens in Ljubljana


Cukrarna Gallery. Photos: Miran Kambič/MGML.

September 20, 2021
The Wonderfulness of Memory
September 24, 2021–February 13, 2022
Poljanski nasip 40
SI- 1000 Ljubljana
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–7pm

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The Wonderfulness of Memory is the inaugural exhibition of Cukrarna Gallery, featuring works by fifteen artists: Rosa Barba, Sophie Calle, Janet Cardiff, Jimmie Durham, Vadim Fiškin, Teresa Margolles, Ernesto Neto, Adrian Paci, Lia Perjovschi, Marjetica Potrč, Tobias Putrih, Miha Štrukelj, Aleksandra Vajd & Anetta Mona Chisa, Samson Young.

Cukrarna was founded in 1828 as a sugar refinery, which soon adopted the Slovenian name “cukrarna” from the German Zucker. After its humble beginnings with twenty-two workers and a welding boiler, it developed rapidly in the following decades. In 1835, it received its first steam engine, the most important indicator of early industrial production, and by the middle of the 19th century, it had become the largest sugar refinery in the Habsburg Monarchy. On August 25, 1858, it was hit by a devastating fire. According to sources, the six-storey building burnt for six days and the Ljubljanica River, next to which it is located, was black and sweet from the molten sugar that flowed into it. This meant the end of sugar production in Ljubljana. The owner at the time restored the damaged building so that it could be rented out both to businesses, of which the two largest, namely the tobacco factory and the textile factory, are worth mentioning, and to private individuals. In the decades that followed, the building housed soldiers and factory workers in interchanging spurts or side by side, as well as the less well-off inhabitants of Ljubljana. The latter were settled en masse after the Easter earthquake of 1895, including the poets and writers Dragotin Kette, Josip Murn, Ivan Cankar and Oton Župančič. It was these most famous residents of Cukrarna who established a new romanticism, decadence and symbolism in Slovenian literature and left extraordinary testimonies in their literary works about the building and the people who lived there.

The drafts for the renovation of Cukrarna began after the City of Ljubljana acquired the land and the dilapidated industrial monument in 2008, known in recent history not for its architectural beauty but as the most spacious building in Ljubljana. Between 2018 and 2021, the renovation was carried out following plans by the Scapelab architectural bureau. The roof features as well as the original exterior (façade with 318 windows) were preserved, and a steel structure was inserted into the building to create four gallery spaces. At the same time, the building was given a six-metre-high basement, the floor level of which is below the level of the riverbed of the Ljubljanica.

Due to the mostly gloomy stories about Cukrarna and its past, the curatorial decision in conceiving the exhibition followed a turnaround in perspective and ways of finding a connection with contemporary art production, while exploring the positive and creative sides of the foursome’s work, which brought new ideas, new themes and new forms of expression into the Slovenian arena.

The context of the former sugar factory site and its history provided the artistic director of Cukrarna Gallery and the curator of the exhibition, Alenka Gregorič, with the conceptual framework for The Wonderfulness of Memory, which highlights the interweaving of past and present as its central theme. The works presented address issues of memory as the collective and individual experience or as things felt and rationalised, with the curator juxtaposing bookmarks, records, archives, narratives and found objects so that they can be understood as a tribute to the stories snatched from oblivion, interweaving them with the memories encoded in the Cukrarna building.

On more than 5,500 square metres, Cukrarna Gallery, which is part of the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana, will host exhibitions, performances, music and sound events, as well as the INDIGO festival, the sixth edition of which begins on 13 October. More information about the INDIGO Festival 2021, with talks by Mladen Dolar & Nina Power, Slavoj Žižek & Yanis Varoufakis, lectures by Sara De Bondt and Ariane Spanier, as well as concerts by Kali Malone featuring Lucy Railton & Stephen O’Malley and Mouse on Mars is available at https://indigo.ooo/en/.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with texts by Sarah Messerschmidt, Barbara Predan, Oscar Gardea, Corina Apostol, David Crowley, Birte Kleine-Benne, Vladimir Vidmar, and Alva Noë as well as an interview with Ernesto Neto, a journal entry by Samson Young, a poem by Petr Borkovec, and texts by artists Rosa Barba, Jimmie Durham, and Marjetica Potrč.

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September 20, 2021

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