Albanian Communist Art on Display in Istanbul Museum

Istanbul’s Pera Museum has opened a new exhibition displaying examples of socialist realism art, created during the Communist period.

Entitled “Constructing a Dream: Socialist Realism in Albanian Art”, the exhibition features a selection of works that were produced during the dictatorship. The aim of these pieces was to spread the principles of communism and to create propaganda in support of the state.

The exhibit opened on 7 July and will continue until 15 October.

Curated by Albaniana Artan Shabani, it investigates the impact of communist ideology on art during the second half of the 20th century. It provides viewers with the opportunity to become familiar with the world that Albanians were forced to exist in for 50 years. Works include depictions of daily life, the working class, portraits of leaders, and images of the regime.

“Socialist realism” is defined by Shabani as a time when the state exercised control over artists as well as all forms of creativity. The exhibition includes works from some of the leading artists of the time.

Items on display include paintings, clothing, children’s books and other materials that also reference partisan warfare and resistance against occupation forces. Strong themes include defence of the motherland, industrialization, sport and the social life of Albanian people.  

Artists whose works are on display include Guri Madhi, one of the founders of the Albanian Fine Arts Academy, Safo Marko, Pandi Mele, and Pellumb Bylyku. Others include Robert Permeti, Agim Faja, Zef Shoshi. Dhimiter Theodhorri, Skender Kamberi, and Lumturi Blloshmi.

Emir Hoxha, a faculty member of the University of Art in Tirana defines Albanian socialist realism as “euphoric, optimistic, and beautiful”. It preached a new world where exploitation and social classes didn’t exist and where income was shared equally among all, he said.

A fine example of socialist realism is the mosaic that sits above the entrance to the National History Museum in Tirana. Unfortunately, the artwork has fallen into a state of disrepair and several parts of the mosaic are in need of renovation.