’Gračanica: The Brilliance of Art in the Age of King Milutin’

21 DECEMBER 2022 – 26 FEBRUARY 2023

Author: Aleksandra Davidov Temerinski

The exhibition has been realized in cooperation between the SASA and the Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Serbia – Belgrade. There have been several recent reasons for its organization. Conservatory works on the entire Gračanica wall paintings have recently been completed (2010-2018),  in the organization of the Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Serbia – Belgrade, an institution which marks the 75th anniversary of its work in 2022. The exhibition on Gračanica, at the SASA Gallery, represents the finale of this important anniversary celebration. Furthermore, the year 2021 marked seven centuries since Gračanica’s paintings had been completed, as well as the end of an important epoch of Serbian medieval history – a four-decade-long reign of King Milutin (1282-1321), who passed away shortly after the completion of painting works on his last church. This major jubilee was the occasion for the originally planned date of the exhibition.

Bearing in mind that Gračanica’s aesthetic values of architecture and fine art paintings can only be indirectly presented, the dominant part of the exhibited materials consists of large-scale new-technology-aided architecture and paintings printouts. Tri-dimensional representation of architecture is a particular challenge; therefore, a video animation of the construction of one of the most significant medieval endowments offers a chance for visitors to gain an insight into the construction process, i.e. construction elements and its structure. The external narthex, which was added sometime later, is displayed in a quite summary form, according to the degree of preservation of its original looks and its aesthetic scope.

Although the circumstances of it being indirectly presented can be interpreted as a disadvantage, when it comes to Gračanica paintings from King Milutin’s times, it may turn out to be an advantage, since the audience will have an opportunity to see large-scale compositions closely, as well as recently restored and conserved fresco paintings, in some cases, in 1:1 scale.

The concept of the exhibition encompasses the presentation of fresco paintings according to spatial areas of the church: from the narthex, which was possible to reconstruct to a certain point, to the nave and the altar area, along with a specially designed ‘portrait’ gallery. During the selection of compositions and individual figures, the focus was on the best preserved, artistically and historically most valuable compositions and sole figures. Virtual reality technology in the church’s interior presentation contributes to the understanding of the painted ensemble, while the conservation works on fine art paintings are illustrated by a documentary.

The author of the exhibition set-up is Borjana Šuvaković, with Miroslav Lazić being the author of the accompanying catalogue graphic concept.

The exhibition is realized under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia and the Secretariat for Culture of the City of Belgrade.