58th International Art Exhibition—Venice Biennale 2019 / Igor Grubić

11 May–24 November 2019, Venice, Calle della Regina

Artist: Igor Grubić

Igor Grubić (Zagreb, 1969) is a multimedia artist and performer, engaged in photography, video, and artistic activism. From 1997 to 1999, he studied Multimedia at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, in 1999/2000, he studied Editing at the Academy of Dramatic Art in Zagreb, and at the Jesuit Faculty of Philosophy, also in Zagreb. In 1998, he was awarded the 2nd prize at the 33rd Zagreb Salon. He is an author of numerous projects (“Black Peristyle,” “Book and Society–22%”), as well as of individual and group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad. A heated controversy arose in public in 1998, after he painted the Peristyle in Split black, which was an homage to the Red Peristyle, a famous action against totalitarianism. For this reason, he was sued by the State Attorney’s Office. Due to a strong public response, the charges for the “destruction of public property” were dropped, and he was awarded for his work at the 33rd Zagreb Salon. By using site-specific interventions, video installations, public space actions, informal conversations with passers-by or even prisoners, the artist raises the issues of human rights, the modern political system and global capitalism.

Grubić’s art project has strong foundations in the humanistic dimension of documentary photography, combining poetics, politics, and social reality. The project for the Biennale adds to his already significant contribution to the socially engaged documentary work and keeping the memory of the Croatian architectural history, work, and culture. His scope is local, but also ecumenical. It analyses changes under the threat of globalisation, privatisation, and consolidation of neoliberalism. Lastly, the project points to new situations replacing the old ones, and at the same time, it makes us think about the future ways of imagining and inhabiting our world.


Curator: Katerina Gregos

Katerina Gregos is a curator and writer, originally from Greece. She studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art, King’s College City University, London. As an independent curator, she has worked in Brussels since 2006 as the director of Argos—Centre for Art & Media, and as the artistic director of Art Brussels fairs. Also, she has curated numerous international exhibitions, including the First Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Göteborg Biennial, Manifest Thessaloniki Biennial, and was the curator of National Pavilions of Denmark, Belgium, and Croatia at the Venice Biennale.

She helped organise the Athens Independents Art Index in 2017 at the time of Documenta fair. However, she returned to her homeland, Greece, only in 2021, as the artistic director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens.

Project: “Traces of Disappearing (In Three Acts)” by multimedia artist Igor Grubić
Igor Grubić’s project “Traces of disappearing (In Three Acts)” took thirteen years to finish, from 2006 to 2019. It consists of three interrelated photo-essays and an animated film, set within a specially designed mise-en-scène. In 2006, the artist started to document the post-war, transitional reality in Croatia, in particular, the transition from socialism to capitalism, from the centrally, state planned economy to the free market economy. The project explores the influence of transition to changes in housing, urban tissue, public space, and social relationships.

“Wild House”, Act I, examines changes in homes, housing, and public space after privatisation of ownership and consolidation of neoliberalism in Croatia. “Filigree Sidewalk”, Act II, is about traditional crafts such as local manufactures and specialised workshops, emphasising those occupations that have survived, and those that have vanished in the new economic circumstances. “Deconstruction of the Factory”, Act III, presents several defunct factories, monumental reminders of the transition from the industry to the post-industry era and of different work conditions. That is also the setting of Grubić’s short film “How Steel was Tempered”, which weaves together the issues of worker history, family bonds, and generational shifts, suggesting the productive potential of future relationships based on solidarity, common social space, and creative cooperation. The multiple award-winning film was made with the support of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre and its new version is to be presented in Venice for the first time.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with texts by Katerina Gregos and the What, How & for Whom/WHW curatorial collective, which was graphically designed by Rafaela Dražić. The publisher of the catalogue is Sternberg Press, and the co-publisher is the National Museum of Contemporary Art.