STA, 20 September - The Cukrarna Gallery, managed by the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana (MGML), will open its doors to the public on 24 September in a completely renovated former sugar factory on the banks of the river Ljubljanica, in what marks the creation of a new platform for contemporary art. The renovation paid tribute to the building's history.
MGML director Blaž Peršin has told the STA that the design of the Cukrarna Gallery itself already expresses a duality - a historic exterior and a completely modern interior. In terms of content, it will be dedicated to contemporary art of various genres.
The Cukrarna Gallery is located in a former sugar refinery, while it was home to several famous writers of Slovenian Modernism at the beginning of the 20th century, who also brought modernity into the building, albeit in a very different way.
Now, Cukrarna will try to bring new perspectives on "where contemporary art is going and what problems today's society is facing", and become an open public space for visitors from home and abroad.
Before starting to develop their vision, strategy and programme, MGML familiarised themselves with the work of similar institutions abroad, but according to Peršin, they are aware that they needed to find their own path.
He also said that the Cukrarna Gallery will not create its own collection, but it will house a library. Alenka Gregorič, Cukrarna's artistic director, explained that it will be designed with careful consideration and themed around contemporary art.
"Much like the building itself. We're slowly moving in, bringing in content, and making long-term alliances with artists. We invite them to cooperate, to help us build the Cukrarna Gallery programme with their projects, ideas and aspirations, and to contribute to the vision of this new contemporary art centre," she added.
A separate space at the Cukrarna Gallery will be dedicated to Slovenian Modernism. According to Peršin, comic artist Andrej Štular will interpret the history of Cukrarna and the authors of Slovenian Modernism in a playful way in the corridor opposite the future library.
A multi-purpose hall and a small classroom/conference room have also been set up in the basement, and will be used for workshops during the day and lectures in the evenings, while the amphitheatre behind Cukrarna will be the venue for events such as screenings, concerts and social gatherings.
Gregorič said that because they dared to think big, they had also shaped their team according to the needs of the space. For example, they have hired a special curator for performing arts and producers, which is rare in museums and galleries.
The Cukrarna Gallery will open its doors with the international exhibition entitled The Wonderfulness of Memory (Čudovitost Spomina). The title itself is a paraphrase of a sentence from a letter by Modernist poet Dragotin Kette to Modernist writer Ivan Cankar, and the entire exhibition will be dedicated to the theme of memory, both collective and individual.
According to Gregorič, the theme of memory is certainly appropriate for the space in which the exhibition will be put up: "Cukrarna is deeply ingrained in all of our memories, whether from our school days or from the years of watching it fall into disrepair.
"But if we explore it further, we can see that it also contains many bright stories of joy and happiness, not just misery and sadness that are usually associated with it. We want to show that in life, one goes hand in hand with the other," she added.
The opening exhibition will feature works by artists including Jimmie Durham, winner of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale, Sophie Calle, Rosa Barba, Janet Cardiff and Ernesto Neto.
The exhibition will also bring a selection of works by Slovenian artists Marjetica Potrč, Vadim Fiškin, Miha Štrukelj, Tobias Putrih and Aleksandra Vajd. It will be on display across the whole Cukrarna building.