Ministry of Culture Lends Works to documenta14 without Explanation

On March 29, 2017, the Council of Ministers approved a Decision (VKM), allowing the transport of a total of 18 art works from the depot of the National Gallery of Arts to be included in the prestigious documenta14 exhibition “Learning from Athens” in Kassel and Athens.

According to the VKM, the works will be out of the country between April and October.

It is one of the first times that works from the depot of the National Gallery pertaining to the socialist-realist period leave Albania for an internationally renowned exhibition. It is therefore surprising that neither the Ministry of Culture, nor the National Gallery of Arts, nor the Prime Minister, who extensively advertises his private shows, has announced or commented on this fact.

Perhaps this is related to several aspects related to the loan. After a freedom of information request, Exit received the full, specified list of the 15 works leaving the country to Greece, whereas the list of works exhibited in Germany was not released.

Llambi Blido, Në pultën e komandimit (1971).
Llambi Blido, Në pultën e komandimit (1971), one of the works loaned to documenta14.

First of all, it should be noted that the government did not disclose who is paying for the transport and loan of these national works of art. For years, the budget of the National Gallery of Arts has been insufficient to restore works stored in its depot or exhibited in its permanent exhibition, let alone prepare 18 large paintings for international transport and exhibition. The question is whether the foreign exhibition of the works will profit the National Gallery, so that other works, such as Sali Shijaku’s Zëri i Masës, may be restored and shown to the Albanian public.

Second, the values given to the works, which also forms the basis for their insurance, appear to be unsubstantiated by any independent appraisal of their value. For example, above work by Llambi Blido, part of the permanent exhibition in the National Gallery, is valued at 150,000 lekë, a bit over €1,000. This seems rather little for a work prominently displayed in the nation’s most important art venue.

Then there is the website of documenta14. The list of artists only includes a biography of Edi Hila, while for other artists, Kel Kodheli, Androniqi Antoniu, Abdurrahim Buza, Hasan Nallbani, Spiro Kristo, Sotir Capo, Llambi Blido, Arben Basha, Pandi Mele, Gani Strazimiri, Foto Stamo and Zef Shoshi remain without biography. This is highly unusual. The point of lending out works from Albanian artists to an international exhibition is to bring exposure to this Albanian cultural heritage.

The Ministry of Culture ought to insist on including the names of the Albanian artists on the website of documenta14, and provide appropriate English-language biographies.

So far, the government has provided no information as to the reason why these works were lent to documenta14. It is therefore missing a valuable opportunity to direct local and international attention to this important period in Albanian art history.