Saturday, February 11, 2017

215. ... A day of great art and magnificent architecture

Being a little disheartened by the art scene here in Sarajevo, my spirits were certainly lifted – in fact they went through the ceiling – on a visit to the Bosniak Institute - after which I ventured down to the river bank for a wander through the very imposing Sarajevo City Hall. 

 The Bosniak Institute - the 16th C Hamam under the copper domes

The Bosniak Institute is a cultural centre in Sarajevo that focuses on Bosniak culture.  ( Bosniak refers to a South Slavic nation and ethnic group inhabiting mainly the area of Bosnia and Herzegovina -  traditionally adhering to Islam since the 15th and 16th centuries ) … The Centre was established in 2001 by one of the most prominent Bosniak intellectuals of the 20th-century, Adil Zulfikarpašić, and consists of a huge collection of both ancient and modern art that covers a wide spectrum of the Bosniak history and culture. 

The Institute is housed in a renovated sixteenth century Turkish bath and an adjoining purpose-built building and includes a library, an auditorium used for concerts and an art centre.

Firstly you visit the old Hamam ( an ancient Islamic bath house ) that dates back to the Ottoman times of the 16th century - but which has now been converted into several small museum / galleries plus a huge auditorium that is used for concerts etc. Of special note here is the wonderful collection of mixed media paintings by Bosnian artist Mersad Berber ( 1940 – 2012 ) ...

Then if that is not enough for any art lover - back out into reception and take the lift to the 4th floor of a newly constructed art and cultural centre - and make your way down, floor by floor viewing a very large and interesting collection of artworks by more than 200 modern-day BiH artists.

No photography is allowed inside - but I wanted to share my find, so I have downloaded just a few images from the Institute website.

Works by Mersad Berber ...

Other artworks included ...

 Hakija Kulenovic

 Izmet Rizvic

Vefik Hadsizmajovic


… then after a couple of hours being totally absorbed in the art at the Bosniak Institute, I head off around the corner and down to the river bank to wander through the outstanding Sarajevo City Hall

Sarajevo City Hall - known as Vijećnica - was designed in 1891 by the Czech architect Karel Pařík. It was initially the largest and most representative building of the Austro-Hungarian period in Sarajevo and served as the city hall.

The edifice was built in a stylistic blend of historical eclecticism, predominantly in the pseudo-Moorish expression, for which the stylistic sources were found in the Islamic art of Spain and North Africa.

Building works began in 1892 and were completed in 1894, at a cost of 984,000 crowns, with 32,000 crowns provided for fixtures and fittings. It was formally opened 20 April 1896, and handed over to the City Authority, which occupied the property until 1949, when it was handed over to the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


On 25 August 1992, Serbian shelling during the Siege of Sarajevo caused the complete destruction of the library; among the losses were about 700 manuscripts and incunabula and a unique collection of Bosnian serial publications, some from the middle of the 19th century Bosnian cultural revival. Before the attack, the library held 1.5 million volumes and over 155,000 rare books and manuscripts. Some citizens and librarians tried to save some books while they were under sniper fire, at least one person died. The majority of the books could not be saved from the flames. 

After the Siege, the structural repair of the building was planned to be carried out in four stages: 1996-1997 (financed by a donation from Republic of Austria), and 2000-2004 (financed by a donation from the European Commission), and the city of Barcelona among others. The third stage ended in September 2012, with an estimated cost of KM 4.6 million (about €2.37 million) and returned the city hall to its former grace. 

The fourth stage began following the completion of the third stage and lasted about 20 months, finishing at the end of 2013 and cost of KM 14 million (about €7.23 million) which are secured through the IPA. In this stage the whole interior was built and reconstructed (paintings, sculptures, books), meaning the building is brought back to function. Everything that was possible to restore has been done so, while those things that were not possible to save have been made anew through special molds. The whole reconstruction and restore process was predicted to cost about KM 25 million (about €13 million).

After it was repaired, the building - now a national monument - is used for a wide variety of events, including various protocol events for all levels of government, concerts and exhibitions. 

My time here in Sarajevo is fast running out – just a few more days … In  my next blog I shall endeavor to explain the four year siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s …