A few months ago, when I got offered to collaborate with an exhibition in Belgrade, I knew very little about this city and its contemporary art scene. And in a very typical Carlotta style, I was beyond thrilled to jump on this project. The exhibition, a solo retrospective by Belgrade-born artist Milena ZeVu, was a great success and I ended up working with some amazing people. We just opened the show a week ago, which gave me the chance to visit the city and enjoy local attractions. And believe me, I was chuffed!
Belgrade is the quintessential European city. With a history that dates back centuries, if not millennials, and traces of people, dominations, and allies that came and went over time, it is a perfect destination to include in any Balkan tour, and a great city to enjoy on its own as part of a weekend gateway. It is easy to reach, with direct flights from many European cities, and easy to navigate. The city center is not too big, and you can easily walk around, or you can also take a breathtaking Danube river cruise and experience the city from its two rivers, Danube and Sava.
But hey, this is not another generic travel blog! And to shift our focus to contemporary art, Belgrade is nothing short of amazing. I spent 5 days there, and I barely had the time to scratch the surface of everything it has to offer. The city is vibrant, and like other cities in the area, it is very young and active. The feeling I got from Belgrade and the many people I met is that of a city in full expansion, with many new galleries, art centers, and artsy spots popping up, but with equally as many well-established ones to pave their way. And if you don’t want to miss any of them, just ask a Belgradian, they are super welcoming and eager to share their city with tourists. I promise, you won’t get disappointed.
So, to give you a first idea of what you will find in Belgrade, and where to look for contemporary art, here are 4 destinations to explore the local art scene: a museum, an art center, a gallery, and an exhibition space and local spot for street art. Ready to explore?
The Museum of Contemporary Art – Belgrade
Easily one of the most beautiful museums I have ever visited, Belgrade’s contemporary art museum is a must-visit for every art lover in the city. Not only does it has an amazing collection, that comprises over 35,000 works of art, mostly from Serbian and Balkan artists, but it is also located in an incredible building.
The museum was originally founded in 1958 as the Modern Gallery, making it one of the first museums of this type in the world. Later on, in 1965 it was moved into the current building in the Ušće neighborhood of New Belgrade. The building, a modernist wonder with a peculiar shape and amazing windows overlooking the surrounding park, was designed by architects Ivan Antić and Ivanka Raspopović. It is located near the confluence of the rivers Sava and Danube, and it pairs well with a nice walk in the park along the river, where you can also find nice spots for coffee and food.
The museum collects and displays artworks produced since 1900 in Serbia and Yugoslavia. It also organizes international exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. When I visited, they had a fantastic exhibition by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm, that took up the full space of the museum, blending perfectly with the peculiar architecture.
The museum, due to its shape, architecture, and location, has been described as the “crystal at the confluence” or the “(architectural) jewel”, and it is indeed a jewel to discover.
Muzej Savremene Umetnosti (Museum of Contemporary Art)
Ušće 10, Belgrade
Info, tickets, and opening hours: msub.org.rs
SKC Gallery – Studentski kulturni centar
Another historical place in Belgrade that looks to the future, is the Studentski kulturni centar (SKC), or Student Cultural Center.
Originally opened in 1971 in the building of the former Officers’ Club, the opening of SKC at the time was seen by many as the communist regime’s concession to the youth of Belgrade following the 1968 student demonstrations. Since then, the center has served as the forefront for innovation in arts and culture for Belgrade, organizing several different activities.
The center, which has various programs ranging from visual arts to music, performance, video, and theater, attracts a younger population, as well as alternative and professionally focused culture consumers. The gallery space is a great place to discover local artists and possible future masters. Just to give you an example, Marina Abramović used to swing by the SKC when she was a student and young artist in Belgrade in the 70s and also participated in many activities of the center.
SKC Gallery – Studentski kulturni center
Kralja Milana 48 – Belgrade
Info and opening hours (only Serbian): www.skc.org.rs
Possibly the latest addition to the already flourishing contemporary art scene of Belgrade, Monolog Gallery just recently opened in May 2022. The gallery is located in a secluded court, right behind the Skadarlija area of Belgrade (a nice cobbled street with old buildings and nice restaurants). The court hosts a number of pubs, bars, and other interesting places to hang around and have a drink, while the gallery itself is located on the second floor of one of the buildings overlooking the court.
Supported by the Berlin-based Museum of Now Foundation, Monolog Gallery defines itself as “the black box of the art world, registering vibrations, recording turbulences and anticipating ongoing and future trends. Located in the epicenter of Belgrade’s nightlife – the Cetinjska district – the gallery offers an open space in which contemporary themes are articulated and enables a creative pipeline between Belgrade and Berlin.”
They are just at the beginning of their adventure, but I can already tell this is one of those places to keep on our radars, as it will be a key player in Belgrade promoting local artists to the general public.
Cetinjska 15, Belgrade
Info and opening hours: www.museum-of-now.com
The last place on this list is more of a mixed destination, where you can experience amazing street art, while also sipping a coffee or a drink and relaxing on the banks of the Danube. Silosi is where we opened the exhibition I collaborated with, and it is therefore a place I particularly enjoyed and liked.
Hosted in the former Belgrade port, it occupies a group of old grain silos (hence the name), which are being turned into an art center and fancy bar. The silos are decorated with street art by local artists, the bar is 100% plastic-free, and they also have their own bees producing honey that you can try at the cafe. The center hosts exhibitions, performances, as well as music and DJs.
You can come here for local artists, huge installations, and temporary exhibitions, but it is also the perfect place to relax. The Danube is an amazing view, and the cafe/bar is super cool and cozy.
Dunavski kej 46, Belgrade
All info: silosi.rs
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