We have moved from the gallery space to the virtual museum space, and we transferred all our activities to this virtual world, that is, to various social media where we have been otherwise active.
We talked with the director the Matica Srpska Gallery about the current situation and how it affects the art galleries as well as the art itself worldwide. “The authenticity that the museum has and which no technology can make up for, namely direct contact and direct enjoyment of the work of art, will have added value, and I believe that visits to museums will go up more than ever before and that moments of enjoying the original artwork will actually be amplified after this period,” says Tijana Palkovljević Bugarski.
How did you organize your business activities, i.e. the operations of the Matica Srpska Gallery?
After a state of emergency was declared due to the pandemic that hit us all, the employees of the Matica Srpska Gallery, like employees of many other institutions, started working from home, so we have moved from the gallery space to the virtual museum space, and we transferred all our activities to this virtual world, that is, to various social media where we have been otherwise active. We launched a series of campaigns – first of all, we offered the public, not only in our country but worldwide, a virtual tour of the Matica Srpska Gallery’s standing exhibitions, namely, some exhibitions that have been staged before, which they may have missed or have seen but now are given the opportunity to reminisce about them. These are the exhibitions like “The European Phenomena” from the Matica Srpska Gallery’s collection or the exhibition about Đura Jakšić. We have also launched a series of activations. One of the most attractive currently going on is the global campaign of the world museums, launched by the J. Paul Getty Museum in the US, which inspires people to take photos of themselves depicting the well-known works of art and in some way reinterpret them and offer their own version of a painting or their own variant of the renowned work of art.
This campaign is currently taking place on our social media whereby people can peruse through the artwork from the Matica Srpska Gallery’s standing exhibition on the Gallery’s website, select a painting and then react to it in some way. On the other hand, we have turned our programmes, for instance for children and young people, into regular ones. On Saturdays, the Matica Srpska Gallery usually held creative workshops for children. We have continued doing so by providing a full description of a project and then sending the relevant material to parents, who regularly participated in our workshops, to do it at home with their children. In this way, we tried to preserve this lovely custom for them whereby Saturday is a gallery day. In any case, all our employees are working from home and are still engaged in transferring the Matica Srpska Gallery space and their activities into the virtual world, be accessible in some way and offer the public a whole range of attractive content that they can enjoy during this homebound period.
- How do you spend your private time during the pandemic?
I spend my private time in a way that is completely unlike me because otherwise, I spend very little time at home anyway. Now, I use this period, first and foremost, to be with my children, to do with them everything that I normally do not get to do on usual days, meaning that we cook a lot together, we are cleaning our flat and we try to spend as much quality time as possible together, at home. Working from home just means you have to worry about everything you don’t usually worry about when you’re at work. So, I’m somewhere in-between my computer, the kitchen and the kids 24 hours a day, which doesn’t leave much free time. However, I still manage to finish all those things that I usually do not manage to finish, which is a big spring cleaning, which also includes all the drawers, cabinets and other places in which I have managed to store, in some miraculous way, all sorts of unnecessary things over the years.
- What will you do first after the stage of emergency is abolished?
After the state of emergency is over, I will first visit my mum, hug her, kiss her, have coffee with her, and make up for all this time that I couldn’t see her and couldn’t spend as much time with her as I wanted. I think she really needs the company. I will also stroll down the Danube quay to get some fresh air, enjoy the spring that has arrived and finally go to the gallery, open all the doors and windows and announce that the entrance to the Gallery in the following seven days is free for everyone because I think that people won’t be only eager for virtual tours of the museum but also to see art in person.
- What do you think about the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the world’s galleries in the future? Can we expect to see some changes and novelties after the pandemic has ended?
In the museum world, there is already a serious debate among museum thinkers about how this pandemic, that is, all that has happened to the whole world, will affect the future work of museums. The fact is that many museums in the world have already closed, not only because of the pandemic but because the people who were temporarily employed and who were under a temporary job contract were fired, so the question is what the future of museums will look like.
There are two schools of thought. One, of course, is pessimistic and the other is optimistic. I believe in the latter optimistic version because I think that after these many days and many virtual opportunities to ‘walk’ through all world and European museums, which you maybe had only imagined in the past and now you got the opportunity to virtually see them, this virtual world will actually encourage people to visit all those places in the real world that they have seen only online, once the situation normalizes and people start travelling again. I believe that the authenticity that museums have and which no technology can make up for, namely direct contact and direct enjoyment of the works of art, will have added value, and I believe that visits to museums will go up more than ever before and that moments of enjoying the original artwork will actually be amplified after this period. I think that certain changes could take place in the sense that those museums that are not funded by the state and those institutions that depend on some other financial resources other than the state’s will not be able to survive a two-, three- or four-month-long closure. I also believe that, in the future, the authenticity of the works of art and the enjoyment of art will move people to visit museums even more and that it will only contribute to the better future of museums.
On the other hand, many people will turn to virtual technology much more, because people who have not been using it much so far and did not have virtual capabilities have been completely invisible in these last few months. In some way, the audience will be much more internationalized because of this and will simply get used to going to LA or Seoul or Japan or Paris to visit museums. They will keep the habit of visiting the places they used to visit which is why we all need to work harder on content virtualization and multilingualism, that is, to present all that we have to the public in world languages and make it accessible to a wider circle of social media users.