Ljiljana Dabić, Administrator of the Milena’s Home Foundation: 59th anniversary of the Milena Pavlović Barili Gallery

The Gallery has 894 works of art by Milena Pavlović Barili in its collection, 40 of which have the status of “great significance for the republic”

The Milena’s Home – Milena Pavlović Barili Gallery Foundation was established as a sign of gratitude and in memory of the famous painter Milena Pavlović Barili following the wishes of her mother Danica Pavlović Barili to donate the property she inherited from her parents and the art collection of her deceased daughter to the Serbian people and to preserve this legacy as a whole. The Gallery has 894 works of art by Milena Pavlović Barila in its collection, 40 of which have the status of “great significance for the republic”. We talked with the Foundation’s administrator, Ljiljana Dabić, about the Gallery and the plans for the construction of a new one.


Ljiljana Dabić, Administrator of the Milena’s Home Foundation

The story about how the Milena Pavlović Barili Gallery came about is an interesting one. Could you tell us more about it?


Milena’s mother, Danica, carefully preserved Milena’s artwork, even during the Second World War when she kept it in boxes in the basement of the house, fearing that someone would steal it. Her wish was that, after Milena’s death, her artwork would be presented to the public. She tried to do that in every way possible, but at that time, it was not allowed for a private person to establish a foundation, so she contacted President Tito and asked him to send someone to evaluate the artwork. Tito subsequently sent the culture committee, whose members visited Danica and determined that close to 40 works were absolutely invaluable. They then decided to allocate funds towards constructing a gallery. The construction began in Požarevac in 1955, and the Gallery is now located in the courtyard extension.


The construction of the other part of the gallery was supposed to be financed by the Požarevac authorities, but the local government was under considerable pressure to deal with the consequences of the floods, so mysteriously, the gallery is today being used for completely different purposes. It was first appropriated by the Svetlost Company (today’s Elektromorava power distributor), so our fellow citizens are actually paying their electricity bills at the Milena Pavlović Barili Gallery. Danica was shocked by what was done and out of revolt, sold 16 of Milena’s works to the National Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. When the town leaders concluded that a big problem was looming ahead and that Požarevac would lose this artwork, they offered Danica to demolish the old part of the house, that had fallen into disrepair, and to build a temporary gallery in its place, while the rest of the house would be remodelled so that Danica could live in it for the rest of her life. Danica agreed to that and bequeathed all her movable and immovable property to the town authorities. Thus, in 1962, this front space was transformed into a gallery as a temporary solution and has remained so to this day.


What artwork can we see at the Milena Pavlović Barili Gallery which we cannot do in other places where Milena’s artwork is exhibited?


Here you can see her artwork arranged in chronological fashion, from the academic, school period all the way to the American period. Other galleries showcase just segments of her creative opus. Besides, here you can experience an authentic atmosphere in which Milena was born and grew up. Visitors can get a complete picture of where she came from and what kind of family she had. As she herself said, “nowhere is the sky as beautiful as in my yard”.

Nowhere is the sky as beautiful as in my yard!”

You can really see that if you come to the Gallery. Visitors can also see her library, the dolls she played with, her first shoes, her easel on which she painted, her crayons that are still in their original box… The gallery has 894 pieces of artwork, currently, about 40 are on display, but we hope that with the construction of the new gallery we will have the opportunity to show the public up to 400 of Milena’s works.


The Milena Pavlović Barili Gallery is also engaged in publishing. What have you done in that respect so far?


Through publishing, we tried to point out other aspects of Milena’s work that are not so well-known to the public, such as the fact that she wrote poetry. We have published her book of poetry in five foreign languages. We also published the book “A study on high fashion and high art” which was created on the basis of the awarded best Master’s thesis in art by the young art historian Stefan Žarić, who wrote an excellent paper on Milena’s fashion design and its beginnings. This is the first time that someone has researched that part of her work. Also, our fellow citizen Miodrag Kovačević, who has been researching the character and artwork of Milena Pavlović Barili for years, wrote the book called “Discovering Milena, new fragments about Milena Pavlović Barili”, which we also published.

“Architect Milorad Ugrinić, who designed the new gallery, beautifully blended the traditional with modern architecture”

Last year, we published her mother’s diary called “Milena’s Life”. Furthermore, together with the Historical Archives, we made a 35-minute documentary about nana Bosa, Milena’s grandmother, who was the founder of Kolo Srpskih Sestara charity organization. The film is very emotional and shows the character that Milena developed thanks to her traditional upbringing. The film also shows the environment from which the family originated, who firmly adhered to traditional values. This year, we plan to publish the diary of her uncle Boža, who was a soldier on the Salonica front. This is important for Milena because she was very close to her uncles. We also found Milena’s correspondence in the archive, which our writer Mirjana Mitrović adapted in a phenomenal book that will be promoted when we mark the 59th anniversary of the Gallery’s establishment. Also, we recently published a book written by our famous writer Maja Herman Sekulić, which we plan to translate into English.


In addition to the collection of Milena’s artwork, we also have a contemporary painting collection, because, every other year, we hold a biennale in honour of Milena. That particular collection has 60 works for which we need a space to exhibit.


The construction of a new gallery is also planned. Tell us a bit more about this project.


When Milena Pavlović Barili’s mother left all her movable and immovable property to the Požarevac authorities, she was promised that one day they would build a gallery worthy of her daughter. We are approaching the 60th anniversary of that promise and fortunately for us, for the past 5 years, we have had a great understanding of both the local government and the Ministry of Culture and Information. We finally have a designed project for the first time in 60 years, which was recently given a building permit. Now, we are working towards obtaining a permit for the execution of works. Architect Milorad Ugrinić, who designed the new gallery, beautifully blended the traditional with modern architecture. Once this project is implemented, we will have a small cultural centre in the town with all the hallmarks of Milena’s work and life. For the first time, we will have the opportunity to chronologically present more than half of Milena’s artwork to the public.

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