STA, 9 June 2022 - Pavel Car resigned as the director of the National Museum in Ljubljana on Thursday, a day after he postponed the opening of an exhibition of works by some of the world's greatest Modernist artists such as Picasso or Miro that raised serious forgery concerns. The Culture Ministry has already launched a procedure to select a new director.
In today's brief statement to the press, Car said the strong reaction of the general public and experts had made him realise he had made some mistakes, including that he had trusted the organisation of the exhibition to a wrong person.
"This has tarnished the museum's reputation," he said. In order to protect the reputation of the museum and its experts, he stepped down.
Car said that he had not pursued any personal gain with the exhibition Travels, but merely wanted to attract more visitors.
Last evening the museum was to put on display 160 works of art of greats such as Matisse and Kandinsky from a private collection of the Slovenian family Boljkovac.
But art experts labelled the paintings as "fakes," with art historian Aleksander Bassin wondering "how the National Museum can do such a thing, this is a scandal!"
Car meanwhile said last evening that he had seen the certificates proving their authenticity and accused the experts of jumping to conclusions.
Car, born in 1959, was appointed by the previous culture minister amid concerns that he was not up to the job of running one of the key national cultural institutions.
While he has a PhD in history, he is also a computer sciences graduate and has worked most of his career in IT, having no prior experience with running a museum.
Before he took over on 1 December 2020 for five years, the government amended the museum's bylaws to relax selection criteria.
He led the museum as it marked its 200th anniversary last year while its teams are also working to put up a major new permanent exhibition on Slovenian history.
Responding to Car's resignation, Culture Minister Asta Vrečko told the press that he had told her about his plan to step down today.
She accepted his decision, and the ministry has already launched a procedure to select his successor.
Vrečko said that they will select the new director based on professional references to restore the reputation of the oldest museum in Slovenia.
Asked about reviewing the cancelled exhibition, she said a review will be made with the new director in an attempt to find out "how this has happened".
Vrečko could not say whether the police would get involved to investigate the allegations of art forgery, but police officers have not yet visited the ministry.
STA, 9 June 2022 - A large bronze fountain has disappeared from the Maribor city park during construction works. The Maribor police department has told the STA police are investigating a grand theft.
The 1980 fountain Fitoliti (Phytoliths), the work of Maribor-based sculptor Vojko Štuhec, is located in the part of the park where renovation works have been under way for a year.
It is just over a metre and a half tall and made out of bronze and granodiorite, a rock similar to granite.
The only fountain in the Maribor park, it represents phytoliths, rigid, microscopic structures made of silica that are found in some plant tissues and persisting after the decay of the plant, which according to the Maribor Art Gallery symbolically unite the transience of plants and the permanence of rocks.
The Maribor police said on Facebook yesterday that someone had put the sculpture on a truck at night and taken off with it.
"This is an inadmissible criminal act and a sign of disrespect to the cultural heritage of Maribor," the municipality said.
The investigation is ongoing.
STA, 8 June 2022 - The National Museum in Ljubljana was to put on display tonight 160 works of art from a private collection but postponed the opening after experts voiced forgeries concerns. The exhibition termed Travels would have featured works by world greats such as Picasso, Matisse or Kandinsky from the Boljkovac family's art collection.
The museum's director Pavel Car decided to postpone the opening after meeting Culture Minister Asta Vrečko today.
The show has upset the community of art critics and art historians, with Brane Kovič saying: "These are blatant fakes."
Kovič also told N1 portal that if these had been original paintings, they would have been worth over a billion euro.
When a museum is offered a collection like this, it should check the authenticity of the works, whether they have the right certificates, he added.
Similar outrage was expressed by art historian Aleksander Bassin: "How can the National Museum do such a thing, this is a scandal!"
Bassin, an ex-head of the Ljubljana City Galleries, said that there might be some prints by one of these famous artists in Slovenia, but certainly no paintings.
Minister Vrečko meanwhile told the press the ministry had received yesterday several letters expressing serious concerns, and met Car today.
Asked whether she would demand Car's resignation, Vrečko said that all procedures must first be thoroughly examined.
The ministry has not yet received the documents to prove the authenticity of the works of art, while authenticating them is not in its purview, she said.
According to Vrečko, the museum's expert commissions refused to include the show into the museum's annual plan, but the director had the discretion to go ahead.
Despite postponing the opening of the show, Car insists that the works are authentic.
In a statement to the press this evening, he said that he had seen the certificates and that he believes the works are authentic.
He said the community of art critics was too quick to label the works as forgeries before seeing the certificates.
Car, who was appointed by the previous government amid concerns that he lacked qualifications for the job, said the museum had decided on the show a few weeks ago, which is the reason why it was not in the museum's plan.
The show was publicly announced with a brief press release just a few days ago, without explicitly naming the featured artists.
The visiting exhibition would entail minimal costs for the museum, while it would bring more people to the museum in the summer months, he said.
The owner of the collection, Niko Boljkovac, meanwhile told Delo newspaper he had collected the works over a period of 50 years while working as a gallery manager.
The works were bought at various auctions, mostly where the asking price and interest were relatively low, he explained.
Boljkovac said he had run Gallus, a small private gallery that participated in purchases of many works of art, and helped create the collection of Autocommerce company, which was put on show at the National Gallery two decades ago.
STA, 8 June 2022 - The 8th iteration of the MENT music festival is opening on Wednesday, bringing 80 artists from 25 countries to the capital Ljubljana. Taking place until 10 June at 15 venues, the festival is joining forces this year with Austria's Elevate and Slovenia's Druga Godba festivals.
The highlight of the opening night will be a concert by the American singer-songwriter and producer Yves Tumor. Thursday and Friday will see performances by the Ukrainian hip hop icon Alyona Alyon, UK singer-songwriter Martha Skye Murphy, French avant-pop artist Oklou, and Austrian keyboard player Dorian Concept.
The 2022 line-up ranges from hip-hop and pop to exploratory folk and post-jazz artists and representatives of various electronic music genres. Some of the locals artists participating are Sahareya, PTČ, Kokosy, Zevin, Gašper Letonja, and Ana Kravanja and Samo Kutin.
In collaboration with the Druga Godba festival, an evening concert at the Channel Zero club at the Metelkova culture centre will feature four artists, including Japanese psychedelic rock trio KUUNATIC, while three stages at the K4 club and Zorica bar will see a plethora of performances by various Slovenian, Austrian, Serbian and Belgian musicians in cooperation with the Elevate festival.
Together with the Tresk Festival, MENT is also hosting an international record label fair.
The programme will also feature an international conference on the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequences of lockdown on the music industry, featuring the long-time director of Druga Godba Bogdan Benigar and the founders of the Elevate festival Roland Oreški and Bernhard Steirer.
"Slovenia has been lagging behind when it comes to the music festival scene for a long time, but things have changed in the last two years, mainly because Spotify has entered the market and made music much more accessible. This is reflected in the young generation's skills in using new digital tools", the festival's PR manager Jaša Bužinel told the STA.
"Streaming platforms entering the Slovenian music market have had a very positive effect on the visibility of local musicians, especially among the young generation," he added.
STA, 6 June 2022 - A debate on inclusion of foreigners into the local environment, especially education and healthcare, was held on Monday in Slovenska Bistrica, where increasingly many foreigners live due to growing demands on the labour market. Slovenian language skills were highlighted as crucial for integration.
Mayor Ivan Žagar would like systemic solutions to be implemented to facilitate integration. The town's council urged the state to set Slovenian language skills as a condition for employment along with suitable living conditions and inclusion into community work.
Some of the demands have been taken into account in changes to the aliens act, while may issues still remain open, the mayor said.
According to Emil Trontelj, chief of the Slovenska Bistrica administrative unit, foreigners comprise of about 6% of the population. They mostly come from Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, and work in construction, industry or transport.
He stressed the administrative unit had no influence on how many foreign citizens will come to the municipality.
Grega Malec, head of the sector for work-related migration at the Labour Ministry, said that a foreigner could only get a job if no other appropriate candidate was found in the unemployment register.
Since the unemployment has been dropping in Slovenia, further growth in employment of foreigners could be expected, he said, adding that there were many provisions in the Slovenian legislation envisaging that people without a job in Slovenia should return to their homeland.
According to the head of the Government Office for the Support and Integration of Migrants, Katarina Štrukelj, persons who are entitled to international protection are offered systematic assistance in integration, including Slovenian lessons.
"Foreigners themselves say Slovenian lessons are crucial for living and working in Slovenia. But they say 400 hours is not enough," she said.
Economic migrants are not that interested in learning Slovenian, as they already have a job and usually work all day. Still, their children should be given the opportunity to learn Slovenian, as they must be included in the Slovenian education system as soon as they come here. "Every day a child does not spend with their peers is lost."
Malec added that such workers, especially construction workers from Kosovo, often go to work to another country, which is an additional reason why they are not particularly motivated to learn Slovenian. "We suspect the demand for labour force in Slovenia is being inflated on account of the needs in other countries."
Tatjana Pufič, head teacher of the Slovenska Bistrica primary school, stressed the need for assistance in integration of children. She said the state should allow for additional staff to be hired for this purpose. "We should also work with the children's mothers," she said.
To uphold this, head of the local community health centre Urška Sedmak said it was hard to perform a gynaecological examination in the presence of a child who acts as an interpreter.
In the last sunny days before a week that’s forecast to be rainy, Lavrič' Hut in Gračišče by Stična will host an annual Chainsaw sculpturing festival.
The sculptors are already there, preparing for the speed carving competition which takes place at 16:00 on Saturday, June 4th, in front of a variety of visitors – including picnic goers, weekend mountaineers, families and everyone else interested in great countryside views accompanied with some local folklore entertainment.
Photo: Lavrič's Hut, Facebook
The speed carving competition with about 15 chainsaw artists from Slovenia will take place at 16:00 on Saturday. Each artist gets 60 minutes to carve a wooden sculpture. The sculptures are then assessed by a commission, who declares a winner.
The speed carving competitors, 2016 Photo: Lavrič's Hut, Facebook
An example of a speed carving result from a training session Photo: Gregor Tršar, personal archive
A workshop on safe chainsaw handling will take place at 11:00 on Sunday, presented by the Slovenian Forest Service.
STA, 3 June 2022 - The 2022 Pride Parade festival, which starts on Friday, will hold a mirror up to politicians and hold the new coalition and government to their election promises, said Simona Muršec, head of the Pride Parade Association. Bringing many events, the week-long festival will wrap up with Ljubljana Pride next Saturday.
Muršec noted at a recent press conference that the legal rights and status of LGBT+ people were still not regulated in many areas, but the social climate had changed in the last two years.
The Pride Parade Association has been active in trying to mobilise LGBT+ people, young people in particular, and the wider community, including the community's allies and all those fighting for human rights, to strive to make a difference.
The Rainbow Voice initiative was also launched ahead of the April general election to inform voters about how different parties approach issues important to the LGBT+ community. The association expects the new government to deliver on the promises made in the run-up to the election, but above all they want the rhetoric to be such that it creates "a different climate in society".
One of the festival's highlights will be tomorrow's Koroška Pride, the third pride parade to be held in Slovenj Gradec in the northern Koroška region.
The festival's programme also features roundtable debates, workshops, performances, an exhibition of young queer artists and other events aimed at raising awareness about the LGBT+ community. One of the debates will be dedicated to efforts to support LGBT+ refugees from Ukraine.
Another highlight will be next Friday's spoken word performance by British poet Joelle Taylor, the latest recipient of the prestigious T.S. Eliot prize.
STA, 3 June 2022 - Fierce storms with strong winds, downpours and hail stones that in some parts reached the size of a tennis ball left a trail of destruction as they moved across central parts of Slovenia late on Thursday, damaging cars, buildings and crops.
In the south-east of the country, roads turned into gushing streams, flooding houses and commercial and public buildings and in Mokronog hail had to be removed from roads by a snowplough. Many households were hit by power cuts.
In the Mokronog-Trebelno municipality, more than a dozen buildings were flooded and the wind peeled off roofs from more than 15 buildings and uprooted more than 150 trees.
The hail badly damaged the roof of the Mokronog primary school and more than a hundred cars. The damage is so bad, there will be no classes today for nearly half of the pupils.
Meanwhile, in Mirna a primary school was flooded. Winds tore down electrical wiring, uncovered many roofs and toppled trees onto cars as landslides blocked several local roads.
The storms also caused extensive damage to crops, orchards and vineyards. No figures are available yet as damage assessment is yet under way. Firefighters and other services are still busy cleaning up in the aftermath of the devastation.
One firefighter was injured trying to repair the roof of a building in Šmarješke Toplice and had to be taken to hospital.
Damage is also reported from central parts of the country around Celje, Kamnik and Zagorje ob Savi, Koroško in the north and the Kozjansko area.
In Slovenj Gradec, in the north water flooded the hospital's underground floor, including one of the surgeries, as well as a pharmacy, the new wing of diabetes treatment surgeries and transfusion unit. The hospital's director Janez Lavre told the commercial broadcaster POP TV the damage topped EUR 25,000.
The news portal of the public broadcaster TV Slovenija has reported that storms also caused disruption to air traffic. Ljubljana airport had to cancel one flight while two aircraft had to circle above the airport for a while before they could land.
STA, 2 June 2022 - Murska Sobota Bishop Peter Štumpf has banned video shoots in all local churches over a music video shot in a Murska Sobota church that the diocese found to be disrespectful. Unofficially, the star in the video is pop singer Nika Zorjan, who hails from Murska Sobota and at one point in the video dances in the church wearing red boots.
A statement by the Slovenian Bishops' Conference that was published on Thursday reads that the ban has been put in place over a video featuring a Slovenian singer that was recorded in St Nicholas Church in Murska Sobota, but does not reveal the name of the singer. Because of its content, the video should not have been shot in a religious venue and violates its holiness and the holy purpose of the church, it adds.
Any recordings in churches and chapels that fall under the Murska Sobota diocese or publications of them in the media are banned until further notice, with the exception of those dedicated to religious services.
The statement also reads that the video propagated negative stereotypes and ridiculed the sacrament of marriage, priests and faith as an important value. The diocese regrets that the church was desecrated due to a lack of caution on the part of those responsible, and apologises to believers.
The local news portal pomurec.com reported that the singer in question is likely Zorjan, a popular pop singer and former reality show contestant who recently released a music video for her latest song titled 1, 2, 3. The video was partly shot in St Nicholas Church.
Zorjan is at first wearing a white wedding dress but after realising she has been stood up at the altar she replaces it with a country girl outfit: a jeans shorts, a tied-up flannel shirt that reveals her belly button and red boots. Wearing this, she dances in the church, prompting the priest who was supposed to officiate her wedding to do the same. Later in the video, she is also riding a mechanical bull. The priest also has a go at the bucking machine.
STA, 31 May 2022 - The coastal town of Izola is ready for the 18th iteration of the Isola Cinema International Film Festival, which will take place from 1 to 5 June. Lovers of art film can look forward to 41 carefully picked feature and 71 short films, which will mostly be screened at three open air and two indoor venues in Izola.
Screenings and events are also planned in Ljubljana, Cerknica, Idrija, Sežana and Tolmin, with some already scheduled before the official start of the festival. The festival's director Tanja Hladnik has told the press that the scope of the programme is comparable again to the pre-pandemic years.
According to selector Varja Močnik, the films chosen demonstrate how much intimate life is intertwined with political developments, with the latter pushing some people to the edge of society.
The official opening film of the festival is Disappearing/Verschwinden/Izginjanje by Andrina Mračnikar, an Austrian filmmaker with Slovenian roots, who addressed the situation of the Slovenian language in Austria's bilingual province of Carinthia. The film won the audience award at the Diagonale festival in Graz.
The main open air venue films moreover include Luzzu by Alex Camilleri, who portrays the impact of EU regulations on traditional fishing in Malta, The Staffroom by Croatia's Sonja Tarokoć, who explored the dynamics of the education system, and Pier Paolo Pasolini's Love Meetings.
Pasolini's classic will not be the only trip down memory lane in Izola, as the festival will also join a Ljubljana cinematheque-organised retrospective dedicated to Hungarian director Marta Meszaros.
The festival, which will also host a number of filmmaker guests, will moreover feature a selection of short films by rising independent filmmakers in the relaxed atmosphere of the Video on the Beach section, a programme of films and activities for children, young people and families, and a programme for film professionals.
What is more, this year, Isola Cinema committed to implementing measures for preventing and reducing the amount of produced waste and thus became the first film event in Slovenia to have received the title of a Zero Waste Event conferred by the Ecologists Without Borders association.
STA, 30 May 2022 - The outgoing government lifted all remaining Covid restrictions as it repealed on Monday the main decree governing anti-Covid measures under a motion by the Health Ministry's advisory group for coronavirus.
The advisory group proposed that all restrictions be lifted in favour of compliance with the recommendations of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), the Government Communications Office said.
The group that had advised the ministry on measures to contain Covid-19 led by Mateja Logar has proposed it be dissolved and health Minister Janez Poklukar endorsed this.
Restrictions have been gradually eased since the worst of the Omicron wave passed and most recently the only major measures in place have been mandatory face masks in health settings and mandatory hand sanitising.
Logar told the STA that hospitals' services dealing with prevention and managing of hospital infections would from now on decide if or when face masks would be required.
The first head of the Covid advisory group was Bojana Beović from the Ljubljana infectious disease clinic. She headed it since the start of the epidemic, 12 March 2020 until 1 March 2021, when her colleague Logar took over.
Some members of the task force were also replaced then, but most of them remained, including NIJZ director Milan Krek and the heads of both organisations that analyse the vast majority of all PCR tests, Tjaša Žohar Čretnik from the National Laboratory of Health, Environment and Food and Miroslav Petrovec from the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology.
In addition to medical professionals, a sociologist also joined the team then.
Mario Fafangel, the chief epidemiologist at the NIJZ, was appointed to the group twice and exited it twice. As he left it the second time, he said the decisions adopted by the group had often ran contrary to the opinion of the NIJZ epidemiological service, established protocols and the usual epidemiological practices.
"When you look back, you assess things differently now that you have more information than at that particular point when you had to decide on a measure," Logar said. She said the group had always made decisions based on expert findings, while it could not affect what decision-makers later decided.
The government also adopted a report today on a special government project aimed at promoting Covid vaccination, especially among those aged 50 or more to protect the group and the healthcare system. The ministry envisaged special bonuses for members of the family medicine teams if a certain percentage of their patients got vaccinated.
But since there has been response to the project, other activities were organised to boost vaccination, including Vaccination Days and mobile vaccination units.