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MERSAD BERBER 1940 - 2012 | Memorial Exhibition

MERSAD BERBER 1940 - 2012 | Memorial Exhibition

MERSAD BERBER 1940 - 2012 | Memorial Exhibition

Mersad Berber was the most considerable artist to emerge from the chaos the Balkan wars of the 1990s. He achieved a degree of international celebrity previously unknown for any artist who came from this region of Europe, with exhibitions in London (Albemarle Gallery), Hamburg, Istanbul, Chicago, Abu Dhabi, Moscow, Madrid, Zurich and New York. His last substantial showing before his death was a large retrospective, covering his whole career, held in 2009 at the CaixaForum in Barcelona. His achievement was the more remarkable because he was a Bosniak – a member of Bosnia’s Muslim community. He was born in 1940 in the Bosnian township of Bosanka Petrovac, in the then Kingdom of Yugoslavia. With a few months of his birth his family had to flee to Banja Luka, to escape the fighting as the Second World War spilled over into the Balkans. Berber’s mother was a gifted weaver. He inherited her artistic talent, and his skills as a draughtsman became apparent from a young age. From early adolescence he was producing virtuoso drawings and paintings on paper. In 1959 he began his formal art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, graduating with a BA, then an MA. In 1978 he began to teach at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo, and set up a spacious studio there. By then he had already achieved considerable international recognition, chiefly as a graphic artist, winning a Gold Medal at the First International Exhibition of Graphic Arts in Trieste in 1971, the Grand Prix at the 4th International Biennale of Graphic Arts in Florence in 1974, and an honorary prize at the 10th International Biennale of Engraving in Tokyo in 1976. This comfortable existence was abruptly torn apart by the civil wars that broke out in Yugoslavia in 1991, just over a decade after the death of Marshal Tito, who had held its diverse regions together for three decades. Berber’s house and studio were destroyed in the conflict, and he and his family escaped to Croatia on a UN transport plane. He rebuilt his life in Zagreb, where he created a new studio, plus another in Dubrovnik. Memories of the conflict, however, continued to haunt him, and provided material for his art. The artistic scene in Tito’s Yugoslavia, also in that of Tito’s successor, Milosevic, had been characterised not by anything resembling Soviet Socialist Realism but by a tepid adherence to middle-of-the-road modernist styles. Very few Yugoslav artists managed to create reputations for themselves outside their own region. Berber’s success in breaking out of this situation was altogether exceptional. Berber deserved his celebrity because he made heroic efforts to get to grips with the history of the region he lived in, and with his own personal relationship to that history. He employed a very wide variety of artistic techniques, from the most traditional to the most contemporary. For example, he made a couple of small animated films, and was fascinated by the possibilities offered by new techniques of digital printing, sometimes producing prints of enormous size.

His paintings frequently do not deal with single images but with conjunctions of images, in some cases simply placed side by side, but in others layered one on top of the other. He felt a strong allegiance to the values of Italian Renaissance art, which explains why his work always met with a warm welcome in Italy, because of its resemblance to the art of the Italian Pittura Colta movement, which derived from the later work of Giorgio de Chirico. Yet Berber’s paraphrases of Renaissance portraits and elegant images of classical nudes — one or two of them direct quotations from the work of David or Ingres — were often interspersed with figures in old-fashioned Balkan dress. His literary and religious references were equally complex. Some of his most impressive works offer directly Christian images, the figure of Christ, for example, being taken down from the Cross. Others were inspired by the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the most important Jewish medieval manuscripts in existence and now the chief treasure of the restored Sarajevo Museum. He also, towards the close of his life, made a hugely impressive series devoted to the brutal massacre at Srebrenica, the worst crime of the Balkan wars, in which 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, mostly men and boys, were slaughtered by units from the Army of Republika Srpska, under the command of General Mladic. The paintings shown here, as a memorial to his career and work, do not focus on this tragic phase of his art, but on other aspects of it that have brought him worldwide admiration. These include elegant female portraits, based on High Renaissance prototypes, with which he challenged the 16th century masters of the Venetian school; paraphrases of Velazquez, which express his profound admiration for the great Spanish master; and paintings of horses, which recall his love for the peasant life of the Bosnian countryside. There are also some touching and penetrating self-portraits, made shortly before his death. They give a good idea of the breadth of his cultural interests, but the frequent fragmentation of the images also makes it clear that these are the product of an extremely contemporary sensibility. Edward Lucie-Smith Art Historian, Critic and Author

All paintings are oil on canvas or panel and include elements of various mixed media, which on numerous occasions continue on to the frame.

1 Self-portrait II (2011) | 100 x 90 cm (39 x 35 in)

2 Floras and Horses (2012) | 80 x 100 cm (31 x 39 in)

3 Lady from Florence (2012) | 71 x 71 cm (28 x 28 in)

4 Lady and the Horse (2009) | 105 x 154 cm (41 x 61 in)

5 Flora’s Profile (2012) | 77 x 57 cm (30 x 22 in)

6 Bosnian Allegory X, polyptych (2010) | 30 x 151 cm (12 x 59 in)

7 Bosnian Horses (1989) | 104 x 152 cm (41 x 60 in)

8 Bosnian Allegory V (2010) | 93 x 65 cm (37 x 26 in)

9 Flora from Dubrovnik III (2000) | 120 x 60 cm (47 x 24 in)

10 Flora with Flowers (2001) | 160 x 120 cm (63 x 47 in)

11 Self-portrait IV (2011) | 61 x 81 cm (24 x 32 in)

12 Dervishes in Bosnia, diptych (2010) | 130 x 82 cm (51 x 32 in)

13 The Horse III (2010) | 55 x 73 cm (22 x 29 in)

14 Self-portrait IX (2012) | 144 x 40 cm (57 x 16 in)

15 Self-portrait V (2011) | 61 x 81 cm (24 x 32 in)

16 Self-portrait III (2011) | 74 x 54 cm (29 x 21 in)

17 Horse Riders I (1998) | 60 x 120 cm (24 x 47 in)

18 Homage to Velasquez II (1999) | 138 x 208 cm (54 x 82 in)

19 The Horse I (1997) | 72 x 92 cm (28 x 36 in)

20 Portrait of Ada Berber (1996) | 227 x 100 cm (89 x 39 in)

21 Renaissance Profile II (1998) | 124 x 153 cm (49 x 60 in)

22 Self-portrait VII (2012) | 174 x 78 cm (69 x 31 in)

23 Floras (1999) | 177 x 212 cm (70 x 83 in)

24 Horse Riders II (1996) | 160 x 110 cm (63 x43 in)

25 Head of the Horse II (2009) | 52 x 62 cm (20 x 24 in)

26 Head of the Horse I (2009) | 52 x 62 cm (20 x 24 in)

27 The Horse IV (2008) | 55 x 73 cm (22 x 29 in)

28 Head of the Horse III (1991) | 35 x 44 cm (14 x 17 in)

29 Ladies from Florence III (2007) | 213 x 110 cm (84 x 43 in)

30 Ladies from Florence I (2007) | 212 x 111 cm (83 x 44 in)

31 Ottoman Bosnia (2010) | 30 x 115 cm (12 x 45 in)

32 Flora from Dubrovnik I (2006) | 51 x 81 cm (20 x 32 in)

33 Self-portrait X (2011) | 115 x 79 cm (45 x 31 in)

34 The Girl (2012) | 57 x 78 cm (22 x 31 in)

35 Lady from Bosnia (2009) | 35 x 33 cm (14 x 13 in)

36 Ottoman Bosnia II (2010) | 50 x 70 cm (20 x 28 in)

37 The Horse II (2009) | 47 x 63 cm (19 x 25 in)

38 Flora from Dubrovnik IV (2001) | 120 x 60 cm (47 x 24 in)

39 Flora from Dubrovnik II (2000) | 160 x 120 cm (63 x 47 in)

40 Ada Berber – Tempo Secondo (1985) | 144 x 193 cm (57 x 76 in)

41 Homage to Velasquez I (1999) | 120 x 130 cm (47 x 51 in)

42 Flora from Dubrovnik VI (2012) | 66 x 83 cm (26 x 33 in)

43 Flora from Dubrovnik VI (2005) | 93 x 114 cm (37 x 45 in)

44 Homage to Bukovac (2004) | 140 x 137 cm (55 x 54 in)

45 Lady (1996) | 85 x 73 cm (33 x 29 in)

Mersad Berber was born in Bosanski Petrovac, a small town in western Bosnia, on January 1, 1940. Devoted to artistic expressions of most different kinds, he enrolled in the study of architecture but the very next year he took a painting course at the Ljubljana Academy of Fine Arts. His professors included Bozidar Jakac, France Mihelic, Gabrijel Stupica and Maksim Sedej in whose class the then 23-year old Berber received a degree. The same year the young man started a postgraduate course in graphic arts in Rika Debenjak’s class and his choice of that technique was to significantly mark his entire opus. Selected Solo Exhibitions:

2014 2013 2011 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Albemarle Gallery, London (UK) Palazzo Milesi & Gallery Kula, Split (Croatia) El Claustre, Girona (Spain) Albemarle Gallery, London (UK) Fundacio La Caixa Forum, Palma de Mallorca (Spain) Fundacio La Caixa Forum, Barcelona (Spain) Galeria de Arte, Mada Primavesi, Madrid (Spain) El Claustre, Girona (Spain) Albemarle Gallery, London (UK) Galeria de Arte, Mada Primavesi, Madrid (Spain) Galerija, Stradun, Dubrovnik (Croatia) Albemarle Gallery, London (UK) Galeria de Arte, Mada Primavesi, Girona (Spain) 2004 Eleanor Ettinger Gallery, New York (U.S.A.) Fundacio, Centro Cultural CAIXANOVA, Mersad Berber Retrospective, Vigo (Spain) Stucker Gallery, Zurich (Switzerland) 2003 Moscow Museum of Contemporary Arts, Moscow (Russia) Galerija Stradun, Dubrovnik (Croatia) 2002 Albemarle Gallery, London (UK) Eleanor Ettinger Gallery, New York (U.S.A.) 2001 Greuze Gallery, Geneva (Switzerland) Museum wor Moderne Kunst, Oostende (Belgium) 2000 CFM Gallery, Soho New York (U.S.A.) Sammer Gallery, Marbella (Spain) Albemarle Gallery, London (UK) Cultural Foundation, Sheikh Zayed, Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.) International Print Triennial Society (SMTG), Krakow (Poland) The Studio of Long Grove, Chicago (U.S.A.) 1999 Albemarle Gallery, London (UK) Gallerie Hans Hoeppner, Frankfurt (Germany) 1998 Isetan Gallery, Tokyo (Japan) Albemarle Gallery, London (UK) Akbank Sanat Merkezi, Istanbul (Turkey) 1997 Asahi Gallery, Tokyo (Japan) 1995 Grand Hyatt Hotel, Jakarta (Indonesia) 1994 Galerie Hans Hoeppner, Hamburg (Germany) Shangri - La Gallery, Jakarta (Indonesia) Galerien Haas, Essen (Germany) 1993 Galerie Hans Hoeppner, Frankfurt (Germany) Galerie Hans Hoeppner, Hamburg (Germany) 1992 Muzej Mimara, Zagreb (Croatia) ` Paviljon, Zagreb (Croatia) 1988 Umjetnicki 1986 Das Marburger Universitatsmuseum fur bildende Kunst, Marburg (Germany) Galerie Hans Hoeppner, Hamburg (Germany) Galerie Hans Hoeppner Munchen (Germany) Hilton Hotel, Geneva (Switzerland) 1985 Taimei Gallery, Tokyo (Japan) Galerie Hans Hoeppner, Frankfurt (Germany) Galerie Weber Geneva (Switzerland) 1984 Galerie Hans Hoeppner, Hamburg (Germany) Galerie Haus des Rundfunks, West Berlin (Germany) Galerija Sebastian, Dubrovnik (Croatia) 1983 Art Gallery, Dallas (U.S.A.) 1982 Inter–American Development Bank – Staff Association, Washington (U.S.A.) Galerie Hans Hoeppner, (DALI – BERBER), Hamburg (Germany) Das Marburger Universitatsmuseum fur bildende Kunst, Marburg (Germany)




with Juan Antonio Samaranch

with Family

with Edward Lucie-Smith

with Tony Pontone


1979 1978 1977 1976 1975


1973 1972

1971 1970 1968

Gallery Nodiers, New York (U.S.A.) Gallerie Vetter, Duren (Germany) Galerija Sebastian, Dubrovnik (Croatia) ` Galerija: Samostalna Izložba dobitnika nagrade, Nikola Božidarevic, Umjetnicka ` Dubrovnik (Croatia) Galerija Sebastian, Dubrovnik (Croatia) Galerija Umjetnina, Split (Croatia) Galerija Labirint, Ljubljana (Slovenia) Galerija Sebastian, Dubrovnik (Croatia) Galleria d’Arte Ghelfi, Verona (Italy) Palazzo Strozzi (retrospektiva grafike M. Berbera na V. Biennale Internazionalle della Grafica), Firenza (Italy) Galerija Forum, Zagreb (Croatia) Galleria Comunale d’Arte Contemporanea, Sasso Marconi, Bologna (Italy) Galerie Hans Hoeppner, Munchen (Germany) Kunstmarkt, Koeln (Germany) Galerie Hans Hoeppner, Hamburg (Germany) Galleria la Magiolina, Alessandria (Italy) Galleria Studio 80, Bocca di Marga (Italy) Galleria Forum, Trieste (Italy) Galleria Comunale d’Arte Contemporanea, Sasso Marconi, Bologna (Italy) Gallery Akhnaton, Cairo (Egypt) Galleria Comunale d’Arte Contemporanea, Sasso Marconi, Bologna (Italy) Mala Galerija, Ljubljana (Slovenia) Galleria la Magiolina, Alessandria (Italy) Galleria d’Arte, Cremona (Italy) Galleria Comunale d’Arte Contemporanea, Sasso Marconi, Bologna (Italy) Centro d’Arte Mediterranea, Torre del Greco (Italy) Galleria d’Arte Cartesius, Trieste (Italy) GALLERIA LA LOGGIA NUOVA PER GRAFICA, Bologna (Italy) Galleria il Tribbio, Trieste (Italy) H.& S. Canvers Art Gallery Montreal, Vancouver (Canada) City Council, Vasteras (Sweden)

Selected Awards 2010 2009 1997 1996 1991 1982 1983 1980 1978 1976 1974 1972 1971 1967 1961

By virtue of a Decision of the President of the Republic, pursuant to Article 97 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, Mersad Berber was awarded the Order of the Croatian Interlace on 1 June 2010 Grand Prix d’Honneur – International Print Triennial Krakow (Poland) Grand Prix MTG – International Print Triennial Krakow (Poland) Decoration of the Republic of Croatia, Order of Danica Croatia bearing the image of Mark Marulic` Award of ZAVNOBIH, Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) Prize of the Olympic Committee of Spain, VIII Bienal Internacional de Deportes en las Bellas Artes, Madrid (Spain) Bronze medal for the illustration of a book in the field of children’s literature – “LEIPZIGER BUCH MESSE”, Leipzig (Germany) 1st prize for book illustrations - “World Book Fair”, New Delhi (India) Grand prize of the Lalit Kala Academy at the 5th Indian Triennal, New Delhi (India) Award of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) at the XIII GRAND PRIX INTERNATIONAL, Monte Carlo (Monaco) 10th International Biennial exhibition of prints, Tokyo (Japan) Grand Prix, IV Biennale Internazionale della Grafica d’Arte, Florence (Italy) IV Prize of the Warsaw National Museum, V. Miedzynarodowe Biennale Grafiki, Krakow (Poland) Prize of the City of Krakow at the IV Miedzynarodowe Biennale Grafiki, Krakow (Poland) Gold medal and honorary diploma at the International Graphics Exhibition, PREMIO CESARE SOFRAKOPULU, Trieste (Italy) PREMIO AQUISICAO NUGRASP, XI Bienal Internacional de Sao Paulo (Brazil) First prize, VI Mediterranean Bienniale, Alexandria (Egypt) Prešernova Prize, Academy of Fine Art, Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Collections / Memberships CAIXA VIGO Museum (Spain) - 2 paintings TATE Gallery (London, UK) - Modern Collection - 2 paintings Numerous museums throughout ex-Yugoslavia countries 2007 Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Arts, 2009 Member of World Academy of Art & Science


Š Albemarle Gallery 2014


Mersad Berber 1940 - 2012 | Memorial Exhibition  

Mersad Berber was the most considerable artist to emerge from the chaos the Balkan wars of the 1990s. He achieved a degree of international...