The owner, Mr Prijatelj, at work
The place is open 16:00–18:00 on Monday, 10:00-13:00 and then 16:00–18:00 Tuesday to Friday, then 10:00–13:00 Saturday. While these hours can make it hard to visit, they’re also a reflection of why it’s worth the planning, because they underly the philosophy of the owner, Jaka Prijatelj, when it comes to running a business. As he sees is, Antika Carniola isn’t a Mercator, and the people who work there have lives to live, and that’s why it isn’t open as much as its neighbours.
Mr Prijatelj has had the store for almost 30 years, and been part of the scene for much longer. Just one thread of his story will suffice here, as we’ll save more for a Meet the People feature – his time as owner of the nearby (and now closed) Anonimus Gallery, back in the 1990s. This was where all the big names of ex-Yugo art scene were shown, an era that lives on in the store with the numerous works from Irwin and others scattered about, waiting to be discovered. And it’s not just names from that era who provide the art, as the little store has corners and walls crammed with paintings from many other names, including several by Zoran Mušič, who recently got his own room at the National Gallery.
A small Zoran Mušič, with several larger ones also in the store
Prijatelj points to a small work by this artist, sitting on a chest of drawers. I like it and ask how much. Maybe €600, he says, something like that. He isn’t sure, but you can be certain that if you have some money to spend on decorating your apartment then there are plenty of nice objects and objets here, from the high to low end of the price range, from antique sculptures to plastic figures.
There’s also quite a collection of lighting fixtures, including some from the legendary Meblo, as well as other examples of classic Slovenian design. (It’s here we’ll pause to note that it was Prijatelj who gave MoMA in New York their Iskra telephone, just one of many international connections he’s made in his years living and working inside and beside the Slovenian art scene, stories of which he was happy to share on a recent visit, albeit off the record.)
So pay attention to the opening hours and consider a trip inside Antika Carniola next time it’s possible, and you’ll see a store and institution that offers living history and life being lived, in addition to the antiques, art and curios for sale. And if it always seems closed then check out the windows, online store, or Facebook page, although much better to just make another trip when its open.