Permanent exhibition

Dechko Uzunov. Accumulations

Dechko Uzunov House Museum

28.3.2023 — ∞

The current permanent exhibition organized in the Dechko Uzunov House Museum, a branch of the Art Gallery – Kazanlak, should be thought of as an attempt to present a summarizing fragment of the collection of the artist’s works comprising part of the institution’s main inventory. But in carrying out this leading mission of the museum, efforts have also been made to highlight numerous facts that help provide knowledge of both these works and their author. An artist whose life path, which began at the threshold between the 19th and 20th centuries, was marked by dozens of political processes, both local and global, by several wars, countless personal and social changes and cataclysms, and of course by essential civilizational shifts – such as the discovery of the Theory of Relativity, antibiotics, television, and the landing of the first man on the moon. That is precisely why, in his waning days, Dechko Uzunov stated, “I am old for the past; I am young for the future. And that seems to explain everything.”

The permanent exhibition Dechko Uzunov. Accumulations is a kind of story about the formation of a collection. The development of any public art collection is a long-term process, based on two extremely important phenomena in human society – donations and purchases. The first can be accomplished both by the artist himself and by the owners of his works – collectors and relatives, and it is quite often marked by subjective factors – personal biases and the sentiments of the artist, the inability of the artist to preserve his work, etc. Purchasing is the second mechanism by which an art collection is enriched, being first of all a purposeful process, most often initiated by the team of experts working in the museum institution or at the personal initiative of a prominent specialist in the field. When making a purchase or accepting a donation, a number of factors are considered, among which are the aesthetic qualities of a work, its relevance to the scope and goals of the museum, the possibilities for its adequate preservation and public presentation, copyright, and a number of other characteristics defined in various legislative frameworks and normative texts.

But this new permanent exhibition, arising to take the place of the old one – which functioned almost thirty-five years unchanged, as a testimony to our political transition after 1989 – is also a look at the artist’s personality and the creative achievements he bequeathed to us. A look at his pencil and ink drawings, at his watercolours paintings and oils on canvas. At people, places, and events. It is a look at the artist’s accomplishments in the field of applied graphics, in the art of scenography, in monumental wall painting. At Dechko Uzunov’s social and political activity, his wanderings around the world, and his reflections on what was happening around him in the turbulent 20th century. In other words, this is an exhibition in which, albeit in a synthesized form, a portrait is presented of one of the most significant figures on our country’s cultural scene in the past century. A micro-narrative, another “individual case” that brings us closer to a more informed and critical reading of the multiplicity of past processes that continue to mark – sometimes intrusively, and at other times, seemingly invisibly and unconsciously – our own present. A present erected supposedly “cleanly,” but actually as if based on a concept of our past that is fabricated or constructed on some kind of vague memory.

A vivid example of all this is the very territory that you have entered to view the permanent exhibition Dechko Uzunov. Accumulations. The idea for the Dechko Uzunov House Museum was born in the late 1960s, when the artist, who had entered his creative maturity, visited him hometown, only to find his father’s home gone. The home in which he had grown up and taken his first steps in the art world had fallen to ruin. Together with the city’s administrative board at that time, the decision was made to restore it according to the artist’s memories. This is how his painting Memory of the Native House was born, today one of the artist’s key works in the collection of Art Gallery – Kazanlak. The rooms in which he listened to his mother’s singing, the staircase he used to descend while staring into the mirror in his hand to look at the sky and the clouds in it, the basement, the sink, the rivulet draining from it – all these were drawn again from memory. But if we turn to the documentary photographic material, in which the actual image of the real home demolished in the 1940s is immortalized, we cannot help but notice a number of differences. What’s more, the newly built “native” house of the artist is in a completely different place in Kazanlak. It has “moved” from the city centre to the Kula neighbourhood, which was created in the 1970s as a kind of ethnographic complex. In other words, an artist’s memory was created of his native home, faded under the pressure of the years. A memory as an idea of all that had been lost and learned on the long road from growing up to old age.

Dechko Uzunov did not live to see the official opening of the “native house” he remembered. Nevertheless, in its more than 30 years of existence, the Dechko Uzunov House Museum has become an important part of the city’s cultural infrastructure. What’s more – we have every reason to think of it as a repository for the spirit of the artist, who himself wished for nothing in it to resemble a museum. And the permanent exposition, simply called Accumulations, is our attempt to fulfil his covenant.