This year’s Salon Privé, to be held at Blenheim Palace in the UK from 5 to 8 September (2019), will have some Slovenian flair among the usual classic cars, supercars and hypercars, with the carmaker Tushek set to show off its new TS 900 H Apex.
What is a hypercar? In simple terms it’s an elite supercar, a cut above the rest, with special features and produced in ultra-limited numbers, and the TS 900 H Apex is in this class for numerous reasons. For one it’s very light, with a kerb-weight of just 1410kg, enabled by the use of carbon fibre. For another its powered by a hybrid system that pairs two front-mounted electric motors with a rear-mounted supercharged 4.2-litre V8 engine that produces a power to weight ratio of 502kW per tonne. With this Tushek claims the vehicle can go from 0-60mph (0-96 km per hour) in 2.5 seconds, with a top speed of 380 km per hour. In addition to these and other special features, the TS 900 H Apex features a striking design with a removable top and scissor doors, with some reports indicating a price tag of around US$1.4 million.
Tushek was established in 2012 by Aljosa Tushek, a Slovenian racing driver who now leads the company’s team in its efforts to produce “the ultimate hypercar”. You can learn more about the company here.
STA, 30 July 2019 - Slovenian researchers have discovered a new molecular mechanism of action in ketamine that they say opens up new potential for development of fast-acting antidepressants.
Ketamine, a medication used primarily for starting and maintaining anaesthesia, is already applied to treat depression in the US but not yet in Europe.
However, the discovery, made by researchers at the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine, the biomedical centre Celica and the National Institute of Chemistry, could accelerate making the drug available as an antidepressant soon in Europe as well.
"Before a medication can be placed on the market and starts being prescribed by doctors, it's necessary to obtain appropriate clearances, and these also depend on knowing the mechanism of action," Robert Zorec, a co-author of the study told a press conference at the Faculty of Medicine on Tuesday.
The difference between ketamine and other medications used in treating depression is in its mechanism of action. While other antidepressants take weeks to take effect, ketamine provides relief within hours and a single dosage may have beneficial and long-lasting effects in treating depressive disorders.
The Slovenian researchers' discovery has sparked major interest in psychiatry due to a lack of effective, fast-acting antidepressants. The mechanism of action in ketamine, which is also abused recreationally as an illicit drug, had not been known so far.
Matjaž Stenovec of the Ljubljana Faculty of Medicine said that depression is on the rise in Slovenia with one in nine adults affected. The rate in the US is lower, at 7.1%.
The abstract and a (paid) link the the full paper, titled "Astroglial Mechanisms of Ketamine Action Include Reduced Mobility of Kir4.1-Carrying Vesicles", can be found here.
July 25, 2019
The ethical luxury brand Benedetti Life, established by a renowned Slovenian designer Mateja Benedetti, presented its latest collection alongside Escada at the Costa Brava Fashion Week in Spain last weekend. The event took place at the Alabriga Hotel, located at the upmarket S’agaro resort on the Costa Brava, popular among international celebrity visitors since the 1920s, when the area was first developed.
At the event Mateja Benedetti spoke about the ethical approach to modern luxury and then presented her work in a show featuring Benedetti Life Parrots’ Poetry collection, NIIRO Jewellery and Woodstock Sunglasses by Benedetti Life, all brands taking Slovenian style to the next level internationally.
STA, 22 July 2019 - Slovenia boasts thirteen native breeds of domestic animals, with most of them considered endangered or vulnerable, so their preservation is of national importance. A network to support breeders, set up in 2016, features a dozen farms and seven agricultural centres.
There are four native breeds of sheep in Slovenia, with the Jezersko-Solčava coming from northern Slovenia, Belokranjska Pramenka from the south-eastern region of Bela Krajina, the Bovec from the upper valley of the Soča river, and Istrska Pramenka from Kras and Istria.
Other native breeds include the Drežnica goat, the Krško Polje pig, Carniolan honeybee, the Štajerska chicken and the Cika cow.
The three native Slovenian breeds of horses are the Posavje, the Lipica and the Slovenian cold-blooded horse.
Preserving these breeds in their own local environment is in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity, the programme for development of Slovenian agriculture and rural areas, and the long-term programme of protecting biological diversity in Slovenian animal husbandry.
In 2016, the Public Service of Animal Husbandry Gene Bank, which covers the field on the national level, set up the Slovenian network of breeders of endangered native breeds. The same year, the first farms received certificates for breeding endangered native animals.
Currently, 12 farms and seven agricultural centres have the certificates.
"The number of such farms has been increasing very slowly, but our goal is not so much to have more of such farms but to improve the quality of promotion and preservation (of the animals), which is the basic mission of these farms," Danijela Bojkovski and Metka Žan of the Public Service of Animal Husbandry Gene Bank told the STA.
"We would primarily like the wider public to understand how important it is to preserve native breeds and use their products," the pair said.
To get the certificate, a farm must breed at least three native breeds of domestic animals. It can also breed other domestic animals, but at least half of the animals have to be of native breeds.
The agricultural centres breed native domestic animals mainly for educational and tourist purposes.
Both types of farms are encouraged to market the products of the native breeds, follow the guidelines of organic farming and also preserve native plants.
The farms can receive state subsidies for breeding endangered native breeds as part of the programme for development of Slovenian rural areas.
The Karst Shepherd, a breed of dog of the livestock guardian type, is also a native breed whose conservation status is critical.
A breeding program was accepted in 2009 to boost the number of dogs, improve their characteristics and preserve their genetic diversity.
STA, 21 July 2019 - The Culture Ministry has recently added a number of activities or characteristics in the Slovenian intangible cultural heritage register, including building and rowing Pletna boats on Lake Bled, mobile beekeeping and the Prekmurje dialect.
Building and handling Pletna boats is a skill passed on from one generation to another and an established local tradition popular among visitors of the Bled lakeside resort.
The Bled island was a pilgrimage site already in the 12th century, with locals setting up piers and transporting people to the island. Even back then, they used boats they built themselves.
In the 18th century Habsburg dominions ruler Maria Theresa granted local farmers the rights to perform lake transports as a source of some extra money.
This typical Bled activity has stayed alive until today due to the development of tourism, with the shape of the Pletna boat changing over time.
The current form was designed by the locals at the turn of the 19th century, based on similar boats which were used on central European lakes.
After the First World War, an awning was added to the boat to shelter visitors from the sun and rain.
The Pletna boat used to be shorter but today the 8-metre vessel can transport up to 18 passengers. The boat's skipper or Pletnar rows and steers the boat with two oars, whose length amounts to 3 metre, while standing.
Only a few master craftsmen from Bled are still building Pletna boats, with every one of these vessels being an original. The lifespan for the boats is up to 50 years if they are being regularly maintained.
According to the Culture Ministry, the Pletna transport is key for preserving the local environment and the fragile Lake Bled ecosystem.
Apart from that, building and handling those boats have become the local community's trademark and part of its identity.
According to the head of the Pletna Bled boating association Gregor Pazlar, there are currently 23 Pletna skippers. They were the ones who initiated the process of entering the local tradition in the intangible cultural heritage register.
"The Pletna activities and skill are something special, since those boats are representative of Lake Bled. It's an activity that can be found only here," said Pazlar. Four years ago Pletna skippers already registered the Pletna trademark and name.
The Slovenian intangible cultural heritage register currently includes 72 units and 200 intangible cultural heritage holders.
Apart from the skill of building and rowing Pletna boats, another addition is mobile beekeeping, which stands for transporting bees in their hives to make a better use of bee pasture.
Yet another, addition, the Prekmurje dialect is part of the Pannonian dialect group, consisting of three subdialects - the Goričko, Ravensko and Dolinsko ones.
Until the standardisation of the Slovenian literary norm in the 19th century, the Prekmurje dialect used to be a regional literary variant of Slovenian.
STA, 19 July 2019 - After Neil Armstrong claimed the Moon for the very first time 50 years ago, space has been visited by four US astronauts of Slovenian descent - Ronald Šega, Jerry Linenger, Sunita Williams and Randy Bresnik.
Ronald Šega was born in 1952 in Cleveland, Ohio to Slovenian immigrants. His father hailed from Loški Potok in southern Slovenia.
He became one of NASA's astronauts in 1991. Three years later he embarked on his first mission, STS-60, which was coincidentally also the first mission of the US-Russian Shuttle-Mir Program.
In 1996, Šega was part of the STS-76 mission, a flight which marked the third time the US Shuttle docked with the Russian Space Station Mir (Peace) as part of the joint program. The 66-year old has logged 17 days in space altogether.
Jerry Linenger was born in 1955 in Eastpointe, Michigan. His maternal grandparents immigrated to the US from Tržič and Radovljica in northern Slovenia.
The 64-year-old joined NASA in 1992 and travelled into space for the first time in 1994, spending almost 11 days there.
After completing his training in a Russian space centre, he travelled to Space Station Mir in 1997 and spent 132 days there, which was at that time a men's record.
Sunita Williams, born in 1965 in Euclid, Ohio to a Slovenian mother and an Indian father, was picked by NASA for its astronaut programme in 1998 and was later assigned to the International Space Station (ISS).
The first time she travelled into space was in 2006, when she spent 192 days there, setting a then women's record. Her second time flying into space was in 2012, when she stayed there for four months.
The 53-year-old formerly held the records for a total number of spacewalks by a woman (seven) and most spacewalk time for a woman (50 hours, 40 minutes).
She became the first person to run a marathon in space in 2007. Five years later she was also the first to do a triathlon there.
Randy Bresnik, who traces his Slovenian ancestry to Ljubno ob Savinji and Luče in northern Slovenia, was born in 1967 in Fort Knox, Kentucky. He was selected by NASA in 2004 and met legendary Armstrong on his first day at a new job.
The 51-year-old has completed two missions at the ISS, in 2009 and 2017. During the first one, he did two spacewalks, which altogether lasted twelve hours.
Two years ago he spent 139 days in space and completed three spacewalks, walking in outer space for some 20 hours.
All four of them have paid a visit to Slovenia and taken Slovenian symbols to space, including a national flag and a kranjska klobasa sausage.
The Slovenian gin scene is booming, helped along by the country’s long history of distillation and production of juniper-based schnapps (brinjevec or brinavec), as well as it’s growing reputation as a culinary destination.
One of the dozen or so gin producers that started business in recent years is Broken Bones, with a name that comes from when the owners, Borut and Boštjan, both had accidents when working with their first whisky barrels, resulting in a broken leg and broken nose.
I’d briefly met Boštjan at various gin-related events around town, but curious to know more about the first gin maker in Ljubljana, and the first new distillery in the capital in some 50 years, I decided to visit the place myself, an experience that’s now open to all.
It’s a short drive or cycle from the centre of town, at 132 Tršaska cesta, just between a Toyota showroom and a Petrol station. Since there are samples on offer you might prefer to get a bus, with both 6 and 6b taking you there from Slovenska cesta.
From the outside it’s easy to miss. Photo: JL Flanner
It's a small place, divided into a clean, white tiled distillery and a wood and leather showroom / store / bar. Playing the background is a sound collage of distillery sounds, put together by a DJ Boštjan knows from his time when he and the legendary Umek helped kickstart the techno scene in Slovenia, releasing records putting on club nights at Nexus and K4, two or three lifetimes ago.
Photo: JL Flanner
What’s your background?
Computer programming, a very different business. I worked in that for years on various projects. For example, I started the bolha.com, the online market, before eventually selling that, and then there was Napovednik. I was still working on that until recently, in fact, but Broken Bones (BB) was taking up more of my time, so now this is it.
How did you and Borut get into distilling?
It was a long process. I’m a technical guy, and my wife’s family has a vineyard, so I’ve been working with wine, thinking about wine for over 20 years. I also got into making beer, and was interested in whisky, starting from about eight years ago. But these were hobbies, not businesses.
At the same time my partner in Broken Bones, Borut, had been importing whisky in Slovenia since 1991, when the country became independent and that kind of business was possible. He also has a family history of distilling, so that was a hobby of his. He was making schnapps, and then he started making absinthe, one of the first producers in Slovenia.
Broken Bones still makes small batches of whisky
So when we started working together it was in my basement in Kodeljevo, and we made our own still, for whisky, soldering the parts together ourselves, one that we still use here.
But whisky takes a long time, and it can be a very long time aging in barrels before you get a good whisky, because the raw whisky – the new make, the colourless liquid that comes out of the still, is really not something anybody would like to drink. Gin, on the other hand, is a lot faster to produce, with no real aging. It just needs to rest for a month or so and it’s ready to drink, so from a production point of view it’s a lot more appealing. We knew that many small whisky distillers were making gin precisely because of that, but not really liking classical gins we were not interested in making them. This changed a couple of years ago when we discovered the modern styles of gin by going to whisky events in London, where we learned about modern, much more interesting and aromatic gin, the kind from, say, Bombay Sapphire onwards, and that really started us thinking, especially because Slovenia is well known for its juniper berries.
We started experimenting with gin. Did about a hundred distillations on a small scale, studying a lot of the literature and using the knowledge we already gained through working with whisky. We experimented with botanicals, their ratios and different still designs. It took us about a year to get to the recipe we really liked.
The distillery is open for small groups, where you can sample the drinks along with some appropriate snacks
How long has Broken Bones been open?
Since May 2018, and we were very lucky when we launched. It was just when the gin craze was getting started here, with more producers, more bars and events.
I have to say that the craft beer scene really helped in this, too. Before then people were just drinking local lager, not thinking much about anything else but price. Then with craft beer things became more like wine. People were interested in what’s new, what’s next, and they also understood that you have to pay more for quality. So when people started making craft gin in Slovenia there was an understanding that this could be an interesting product, that it was worth exploring, and when you found something you really liked also that it was something worth paying for.
What’s the response been like?
Very good, both here and abroad. I’ve been going to London quite a lot, showing our gins to various bars, and we have a distributor in the UK now, as well as several awards. We currently have a 600 litre still, more than we need, but the way the business is growing it may be too small soon.
What ingredients do you use, and how are the London and Navy gins different?
We start off with a neutral alcohol, made of molasses, although grain is more common in the industry. For the botanicals we use the same in both our London Dry and Navy gins. Of course there’s juniper berries, but also lemon and cardamom, among other things, and then, as a Slovenian element, rosehip and linden. The Navy gin is stronger, with more alcohol, and that is why it can also carry more flavour it also has more botanicals.
We’re very busy at the moment, we only moved into this site at the start of May, but as things are settling down we should be able to launch something new soon, Old Tom Gin, with added linden tree flower honey and matured in Slovenian oak casks. Then we have a few more things we’re planning, including one that’s a more distinctive, Ljubljana gin, but that’s for another day.
And where can people find you?
You can find our gin at various bars and stores in Slovenia and the UK, but if you’re in Ljubljana then perhaps the best place is our distillery shop or the Central Market. Monday to Saturday, the part by the arcades that connects the two squares. Here you’ll find a stall where you can sample the gin. If you’d like a fuller measure, perhaps with a mixer, then the nearby Magda bar will do you. Elsewhere in town we’ve been working closely with Pritljičje and Kolribi, and if you’re looking for something a little different then Sveti Florijan, in the Old Town, makes a gin dessert.
People can also come here, for the Broken Bones Experience. We didn’t just want to do a classical tour of the distillery as such, although you obviously see it as well. But if you make a visit then you’ll learn about the history of gin, the process of distillation, the different kinds of gin, and, of most importantly, you’ll get to sample some, including in several cocktails from the selection of recipes created by Tina Pirnat especially for our gin accompanied with snacks, and try our gin pralines.
The Martini Espresso with a Gin Twist
STA, 15 July 2019 - A group of researchers from the Jožef Stefan Institute has discovered what they describe as an entirely new kind of matter that cannot be understood with existing physics and which opens up an entirely new field. Their paper was published in the latest issue of Nature Materials.
Conducting experiments designed to create new kinds of quantum materials under non-equilibrium conditions, the researchers used short laser pulses to create an unusually thick amorphous matter in which electrons become jammed because of strong interaction.
The researchers say the discovery, which falls in the domain of quantum physics, is fundamentally important in that it opens a new area of research that represents a huge challenge for the present state-of-the-art in quantum physics.
The jamming of electrons may occur whenever fundamental particles undergo fast compression at high density, for example in nuclei or in neutron stars. It also has potential practical utility since it can be controlled.
The research team discovered the phenomenon in 2016 but then needed three years to describe it and experimentally confirm it.
The new phenomenon has been dubbed "electron jamming" and is described in detail in the paper "Quantum jamming transition to a correlated electron glass in 1T-TaS 2".
July 7, 2019
You might not have heard of the Trans-Universal Zombie Church of Blissful Ringing yet, but this growing religion is currently the fifth biggest belief system in Slovenia.
The church was formed in 2013 in close relation to the 2012-13 anti-government protests. Originally the Church of Blissful Ringing added “zombie” to its name after the then ruling SDS of Janez Janša labelled the protesters as zombies in its Tweets.
In 2014 this indigenous Slovenian church was registered with the Office for Religious Communities of the Ministry of Culture under the number of order 46.
It currently has around 12,000 members, which makes it the fifth most popular religion in Slovenia, after the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, Christian Orthodox and Lutheran Church. It’s worth mentioning, however, that the current numbers of the other four religions date from the year 2002. After that the Government Statistics Office switched to a much cheaper register-based census (2011), which no longer provides data on citizens’ religious affiliation or ethnicity.
Since its inception the Church mostly operates democratically via its Facebook page. Its holy book was published in October 2014.
A compendium of articles, dogmas, gospels, revelations and other truths explains what the Church is all about and also forms the basis for theological contemplation of its followers.
Translation: Article 20; Every Trans-universal Zombie Church of the Blissful Ringing believer’s duty is ringing bells and creating blissful sounds with pans and holy pots. (Archpriest Rok, June 20, Zombie Year 1, 7 hours and 17 minutes after the resurrection)
But is there an afterlife? The church believes there is.
It was later explained that going to “Heaven in their own image” means that Heaven is what each of the undead considers it to be. If for someone Heaven is a Rammstein concert, that’s where they will end up after they die. Also, there is no Hell.
As it turns out, the Temple of Corruption and Original Sin actually means the National Assembly Building (i.e. Parliament). In the early years of its conception, the church held its holy mass in front of the Parliament building every Wednesday, while at the same time collecting donations in clothes and food for the Red Cross and Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth.
The new Church was met with a mixed response from the public.
A sociologist of religion Marjan Smrke, for example, stated for Delo, that the church is more of a parody of religion than a religion, but that such parodies are as old as religion itself, citing Roman Catholicism as a parody of original Christianity as an example. According to Smrke, the Zombie Church belongs to a new generation of parody religions, such as Pastafarianism and Jediism.
The Ministry also received a protest letter from the Catholic Institute for Family and Culture of Life (KUL), who expressed offence at the Ministry’s decision to register the Church, claiming that the Zombie Church was in fact a “nonreligious” community. KUL saw the recognition given to the Church as part of the Minister Uroš Grilc’ broader “Christianophobic” plot: “In accordance with the secular doctrine of a hateful attitude towards religious communities, with the aforementioned registration the Minister encourages public mockery of religious communities and the spread of prejudices against religion and religiousness in general.”
Gregor Lesjak, the director of the Office for Religious Communities, also replied to KUL’s complains that a joke religion was added to the list of the true religious communities. In an article by Delo, Lesjak was quoted emphasizing that the Zombie Church met all of the required criteria and explained that the law does not call for verifications of “religiousness”.
The problematisation of religiousness with the emerging new religious communities rests, according to Lesjak, on three misconceptions. The first misconception is a belief that the State is a guardian of the sacred: “The State is not the guardian of the sacred, religious communities are.” Secondly, the registration does not mean that the state issues a certificate indicating that the group’s religious teachings are genuine, appropriate or true. Gaining and keeping the trust of their followers is something that rests with the religious institutions themselves. And thirdly, it is not State’s task to tell its citizens what kind of things are good or bad to do, like a mother would tell their child. The State offers its citizens various legal forms of organisation under equal terms. If it turns out that a group of citizens has chosen a form of organisation that hindered the development of their own plans, the responsibility for that rests entirely with the group, not the State.
In an interview for MMC, Rok Gros, Archpriest of the Zombie Church and the Keeper of the Pot and Pan, didn’t deny the similarity with the Pastafarianism, being quoted as saying “we don’t discriminate against anyone. Members of any other religion are welcome in our church, Pastafarians included.” However, he strongly denied that the Church was making fun of anyone, or that the Church was not a real one.
For Sobota info, Gros stated that “Calling us a parody is one of most serious insults to us. We are a very serious church.”
We too had some questions for the Church, specifically how many members does it currently have, whether it gets any public funding and whether it is true that the Church has managed to spread to Croatia. The Church replied with the following explanations.
Our church has 12,000 members.
We do not receive any public funding, despite the fact that even the court decided that the Ministry of Health violated legislation by religious discrimination for not granting our pro bono clinic in Nova Gorica a status of humanitarian institution, the legal basis for bids on tenders.
In Croatia we have Archpriest Domagoj I the Lionheart, who takes care of spiritual needs of our believers in Croatia (marriages, holy masses…)
Best regards and Bell be with you.
Archpriest Rok, founder, Keeper of the Pot and Pan, July 1, 7 Zombie Year, 3 hours and 4 minutes after resurrection
For more on Trans-universal Zombie Church of Blissful Ringing, click here for its webpage, where you can also join.
STA, 3 July 2019 - A Slovenian project focussing on the river Ljubljanica has received a UNESCO award for best practice in underwater cultural heritage, and archaeologist Andrej Gaspari has been honoured with the appointment to a UNESCO advisory board, the public broadcaster's news portal MMC has reported.
The project focused on underwater research, the conservation of a dugout boat from the 2nd century BC, remedial work on the riverbanks and monitoring, among other things.
It culminated with the Ljubljanica River Exhibition in the town of Vrhnika, which is dedicated to the natural and cultural heritage of the river and its surroundings.
Ljubljanica, declared a cultural monument of national importance in 2003, is one of the most important but also one of the most at-risk archaeological sites in Slovenia.
According to MMC, there are plans to have it placed on the UNESCO list of natural and cultural heritage.
The project was conceived and led in 2014-2016 by Irena Šinkovec from the Ljubljana Museum of Galleries in collaboration with the Vrhnika municipality, Ljubljana's Biotechnical Faculty as well as domestic and foreign experts.
Meanwhile, Andrej Gaspari, head of the archaeology department at Ljubljana's Faculty of Arts, was elected a member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Board.
He is credited with laying the foundations of advanced underwater archaeology in Slovenia.
The two recognitions came on 21 June as part of the seventh conference of signatories to the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in Paris.
Slovenian ratified the 2001 convention in 2008.
If you live or even just spend a little time in Ljubljana you can't help but be struck by the vibrant arts scene, both in the formal sense of galleries, large and small, but also in the street art and style that make the place such an attractive place to hang out in. In that context, and with a little money in your pocket and bare walls at home, you may be wondering: where can I buy some Slovenian art? One man who has answer to this question, and many more about the local art scene is Damjan Kosec.
Damjan and the SLOART team have at least two long-term plans. One is related to his studies, in computer science and artificial intelligence, where he's working on his PhD in Ljubljana, following a line of research that we'll no doubt be covering at a later date on this site. The other, and the focus of today's story, is project that started more or less in 2005, when became interested in the local art scene, and which has grown steadily since then.
Inside the space on Trubarjeva cesta
The current incarnation of this interest – which is itself composed of at least 16 different projects, six of which have now been realised, with the remainder due to come online by 2025 – is called SLOART. In brief, this aims to connect Slovenian artists with buyers and collectors, using both an online platform and brick-and-mortar gallery, a new version of which has just opened at the funky end of Trubarjeva cesta, opposite the always under-threat Rog squat.
Inside the space on Trubarjeva cesta
It offers works from 1800 to the present day, and even just a passing familiarity with the biggest names of Slovenian art, as seen in the National and Modern Galleries, will make clear what an impressive list of names SLOART offers. Names such as Drago Tršar – the subject of a major retrospective earlier this year, and the man behind many of the most well-known sculptures in Ljubljana; Hinko Smrekar – who did the illustrations for much-loved edition of Martin Krpan; Zoran Mušič – who has his own room at the National; or Rihard Jakopič, the leading Impressionist who founded the school that would go on to become the Academy of Fine Arts at the University of Ljubljana. Beyond the dead there’s the living, with exciting works by current artists with years of work and discovery ahead of them.
Duša Jesih - Menage a trois, Acrylic on canvas, 100 cm x 100 cm, 2015
But how is SLOART different from any other gallery? Since the offices of TSN are currently located in the corner of a bedroom on Trubarjeva cesta, nestled between a window and closet and less than 100 metres from the new establishment, I went along to learn more. I didn't record the conversation because the art world is full of stories you won't hear with a device in your hand, so while none of this comes from direct quotes it’s an abbreviated version of our conversation, based on notes and sent back to Damjan for approval.
What’s the main problem with the local art market?
Ten years ago the Slovene art scene, in terms of buyers and sellers, collapsed. There were a lot of scandals, few ethics and an overall lack of transparency. Art was, for example, used to commit fraud laundering, so an appraiser would get sent an email with a picture attached and value it for millions, no questions asked. Even without such obvious criminal actions, the market was too small, too unknown, for buyers to have much confidence. Moreover, if they did make a purchase then very often they were being ripped off, being sold a work at three times what the artist should have been commanding, based on previous sales, exhibitions, and so on. This led to a very bad first experience for many buyers here, and so they never returned to the market.
Arjan Pregl - Butterflies, Oil on canvas, 120 cm x 100 cm, 2017 - 2018
And what does SLOART do to change this?
My main goal is to grow the market here, and that can only come with the right ecosystem. So, for example, one of the projects we have that should launch next year is ArtIndex. This will be a database of Slovenian artists, where you can find details of their resumes, and so on. But more than that, it'll have records of the prices paid for their work, plus a system whereby they'll get points for how many exhibitions they've had, and where. Based on this people will be able to have some idea of a fair price for the artist's work, making the whole thing more transparent and returning some confidence to the market. More than that, though, we'll use AI along with a group of art experts to predict where the market might go for a particular artist.
Tina Dobrajc - This is bat country!, Acrylic and artificial flowers on canvas, 305 cm x 155 cm, 2014
We also want to develop artists careers in a more active, collaborative way. A new project we have is Gallery Y (pronounced “epsilon”, not “y”), which is also in the same space here [Trubarjeva 79], and we plan to open another gallery in the centre of town sometime next year. The idea here is that we'll choose, say, 10 outstanding Slovenian artists in 10 years and showcase their work, really try and help them break through on the international scene.
Sašo Vrabič - Smartphones, Oil, acrylic on canvas, 6 artworks: 24cm x 40cm and 18cm x 30cm
What are some of the practical problems artists face here?
Mostly it’s difficult for an artist to make money, to support themselves from their work, so there's a constant need produce and sell. And this can be a real existential crisis, in the sense that the means of your existence are always under threat, even if you make regular sales. The government could do more in this regard, especially to help artists who are just starting out in their careers. But even with all that, Slovenia has a lot of very talented, dedicated artists, and I’m convinced that once trust and transparency have returned to the market it can attract more serious collectors, or just people who’d like some Slovenian art for their homes, because right now the market is very undervalued.
You can see more of the works on offer at SLOART on the website, or visit the gallery at 79 Trubarjeva cesta
Some of Arjan Pregelj's works at the Moderna Galerija. Photo: JL Flanner