Women’s CEO Summit: Tijana Palkovljević Bugarski – at the Intersection of Art and Leadership

In the heart of Novi Sad, where art and culture pulsate through the centuries, there is the Matica Srpska Gallery, one of the symbols of Serbian cultural heritage. At the head of this prestigious institution is Tijana Palkovljević Bugarski, a woman whose work reflects a combination of passion, dedication and vision.

On the eve of the Women’s CEO Summit conference, which will be held on March 14, 2024, at the Madlena Art Palace in Belgrade, we had the honor of talking to Tijana about her experiences, challenges, and inspirations, both in the sphere of culture and in a wider social context. Her journey is a story of strength, innovation, and tireless advocacy for equality, which makes her an ideal interlocutor at such an important event.

As a successful woman at the head of one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in Serbia, can you share with us what were the biggest obstacles you encountered in your career? How did you overcome them?

I must admit that during my career I did not encounter any major obstacles as a woman because I have always moved in the sphere of women’s topics – culture and museums. Or maybe, as an eternal optimist, I didn’t see them as obstacles but as challenges. I have always believed in the importance of formal education, innovation, authenticity and courage as imperatives for developing a successful career.

How can your experiences serve as an inspiration to other women who aspire to achieve high positions in their fields?

I tried to show by my example that family and career are not mutually exclusive, but that they give a new quality to every segment of life. Therefore, I always encourage my female colleagues to start families with the belief that it will make them better and more successful in their jobs. And only a high quality of action leads to high positions.

Given that you are the head of the Matica Srpska Gallery, what role do you see for art and culture in empowering women in Serbia? How do Matica Srpska Gallery, and you personally, contribute to the promotion of gender equality through art and cultural initiatives?

Matica Srpska Gallery is one of the oldest national cultural institutions that sincerely believes that in modern society a museum is not only a place to store and display works of art, but also a place to create public policies. Therefore, we strive to continuously point out the role, place, and problems of women in the past and the present moment through our programs. So far, we have realized several such exhibitions, such as the Perception exhibition. A woman according to society? which we realized in cooperation with the British Council or Identiteti. Representations of women in Serbian painting 1918-1941. In such exhibition projects, through the narrative of the exhibitions as well as various accompanying programs, we pay special attention to various topics that we want to raise awareness of. The artistic narrative thus becomes a tool for creating a better and better society. Finally, through the implementation of such projects, we raised the awareness of our institution and employees about the necessity of constant work on the equality of the position of women in society, culture, and art. Based on these principles, we have developed a corrective for ourselves to take care of the representation of female authors and female themes at each exhibition. This is what we are currently doing during the process of creating a new permanent exhibition of modern Serbian fine art in the Matica Srpska Gallery. In this way, it seems to me that we contribute the most and become active agents of social change.

How, in your opinion, has the position of women in management positions in Serbia changed in the last few years? Are there specific initiatives or policies that you would recommend to be adopted in order to further improve the position of women in Serbian society, especially in the field of culture and art?

I think that the position of women in management positions has improved significantly in recent years. There are more of them, they are more visible and it seems to me that they have more public support. In the field of culture, the first woman in the position of Minister of Culture after 20 years also speaks about it. As a woman, she logically gives great support to women at the head of institutions and generally to women employed in culture, but also to women’s creativity. This is evidenced by the initiative to open the Museum of Women’s Creativity in Belgrade, which I think is a good idea. I sincerely believe that there is no need for special policies other than those that create a level playing field for all. And women will win the places that belong to them with their creativity, dedication, and charisma.

Registration for the conference is now open.

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Foto: Martin Candir

By Nikola Gudelj

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