Date: 10. August 2020
Time to read: 3 min
In 1920, a group of young artists from Novo mesto held an art event that shook the local and Slovenian cultural space. With their talent, the artists went beyond the framework of the then regional art and outlined the foundations of the Slovenian avant-garde.
The cultural and artistic events in Novo mesto were in a way an echo of the wider artistic avant-garde, which for the most part began its artistic revolution in various European cultural centres before the First World War.
This movement, which is inscribed in Slovenia's cultural history as the Novo mesto Spring, took place soon after the war and expressed the hope that the cruelties of the conflict would never happen again.
A spring awakening in autumn
The Novo mesto Spring actually took place in the autumn of 1920.
It was the first provincial art exhibition, which was open from 26 September to 11 October 1920 in the Windischer Salon in Kandija, Novo mesto, under the auspices of the painter Rihard Jakopič.
The exhibition involved the participation of ten artists: Rihard Jakopič, Božidar Jakac, Marjan Mušič, France Zupan, Ivan Čargo, Jože Cvelbar, Zdenko Skalicky, Franjo Ančik, Boris Grad and Ferdo Avsec, showing 337 works of art.
This was followed by a concert at Kamen Castle, where Marij Kogoj played music and Zdenka Zikova, a member of the Ljubljana Opera, sang a number of arias. A literary evening of the avant-garde poet Anton Podbevšek and the poet Miran Jarc took place in the town’s Narodni dom, built in 1865, the first on Slovenian soil. This was followed by stormy discussions about art and its essence and significance for man and society, in the company of the critic Josip Vidmar and the painter Fran Tratnik.
The one-off event was followed by several local events, and in November the exhibition was repeated in Ljubljana.
The literary historian and theorist Dr. Marijan Dović says that artistic events represented something of a shock for a provincial city, such as Novo mesto was at the time. The repetition of the Novo mesto event in Ljubljana in November stirred up and polarised the Slovenian artistic public. It was a time when newspapers were not yet able to report on all events on a daily basis, but this one nonetheless resonated strongly among the public, with political effects.
Thus a century ago a group of artists did something unimaginable.
"This was a generation that was truly committed to art and many of the individuals also became prominent artists on a Slovenian scale," says Dr. Dović.
Events in celebration of the centenary of the Novo mesto Spring
The Municipality of Novo mesto has declared 2020 the thematic year of the centenary of the Novo mesto Spring, during which a number of events will be organised by various organisations and institutions.
The Municipality has entrusted the Miran Jarc Library in Novo mesto with the organisation.
The library director, Luka Blažič, says that the Novo mesto Spring is a source of local pride, and one could even say a source of justified local patriotism. "The Novo mesto Spring is regarded as part of the identity of not only the city of Novo mesto, but also of its people, since they came into contact with the participants in the related events on a daily basis," adds the library director, who explains that numerous institutions in Novo mesto are named after these artists who set new standards in Slovenian art. The Novo mesto Spring is also a significant milestone and a source of inspiration for future generations.
- May the Novo mesto Spring be an inspiration to the city of Novo mesto, which may soon become the socioeconomic and cultural generator of the Slovenia of tomorrow. Photo: Municipality of Novo mesto archives
- The artists after which the gallery, theatre, and library of today’s Novo mesto are named represented the apex of Slovenian contemporary art with their reinterpretation of man after the First World War. Photo: Municipality of Novo mesto archives
The focal point of the thematic year will be the presentation of contemporary interpretations of avant-garde art, the foundations of which were laid by the participants in the Novo mesto Spring. As written in the programme for the year, the Novo mesto Spring should primarily serve as "an inspiration based on the previous experience of the Spring Awakening, making Novo mesto the socioeconomic and cultural generator of the Slovenia of tomorrow".
- 26 September 2020 – The central event of the thematic year, which is to take place on the same date as a century ago, organised by the Anton Podbevšek Theatre.
- 26 September 2020–8 February 2021 The main exhibition 100 Years of the Novo mesto Spring in the Museum of Dolenjska presents a combination of three different forms of art: the visual, literary and musical. It is an attempt at staging a retrospective on the first provincial exhibition in Novo mesto.
- 28 August–8 February 2021 The exhibition of the Museum of Dolenjska entitled The Young, the Unknown, the Avant-garde is conceived as an accompanying exhibition to 100 Years of the Novo Mesto Spring, and describes the life, work, and personal traits of all the participants