Thirty years after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the traces of the regime seem increasingly few and far between. Among the still existing monuments, conditions are mixed: some remain pristine, others are worn away after years of exposure to the elements.
Spomenik: The Latest Architecture and News
MoMA to Explore Spomenik Monuments With "Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980"
The Museum of Modern Art will explore the architecture of the former Yugoslavia with Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980, the first major US exhibition to study the remarkable body of work that sparked international interest during the 45 years of the country’s existence. The exhibition will include more than 400 drawings, models, photographs, and film reels culled from an array of municipal archives, family-held collections, and museums across the region, introducing the exceptional built work of socialist Yugoslavia’s leading architects to an international audience for the first time.
For many years, Yugoslavia’s futuristic “Spomenik” monuments were hidden from the majority of the world, shielded from the public eye by their remote locations within the mountains and forests of Eastern Europe. That is, until the late 2000s, when Belgian photographer Jan Kempenaers began capturing the abstract sculptures and pavilions and posting his photographs to the internet. Not long after, the series had become a viral hit, enchanting the public with their otherworldly beauty. The photographs were shared by the gamut of media outlets (including ArchDaily), often attached to a brief, recycled intro describing the structures as monuments to World War II commissioned by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s.
This accepted narrative, however, may not be entirely accurate, as Owen Hatherley writes in this piece for the Calvert Journal. In the article, Hatherley explains the true origins of the spomenik, and how this misconception has affected the way we view the structures and the legacies of the events they memorialize.
Read the full piece at Calvert Journal, here.
Built in the 1960s and 70s under former president Josep Broz Tito, these monuments commemorate the communist resistance during the German occupation. While their sculptors and architects vary (Vojin Bakic, Jordan and Iskra Grabul among others), all of the monuments memorialize WWII battle sites or former concentration camps. Although the monuments attracted a high rate of visitors in the 1980s, many of them have been abandoned or poorly preserved after Yugoslavia’s split. Jonk’s photographs illuminate both the decay and beauty of these sculptures.