13 October 2016

Sofia - Monument to the Soviet Army

Built in 1954, on the tenth anniversary of the 'liberation' of Bulgaria by the Soviet Army, the monument to that army features a central pedestal, 121 feet high, topped by a statue featuring a soldier and a Bulgarian family. 

This is surrounded by a large enclosed area, now somewhat ruinous, on the leading edge of which are two secondary but still monumental sculptures. The figures are secretly painted from time-to-time to indicate solidarity with various peoples and countries subjected to present-day Russian totalitarianism.

12 October 2016

Sofia - Museum of Socialist Art

Originally to be named the Museum of Totalitarian Art, but concentrated solely on communist works, the collection of the museum is hidden away in a nondescript block in the outer Iztok district of Sofia. It opened in 2011, and consists of paintings, busts and statues from 1944 to 1989, the period of the USSR's control of Bulgaria.

The collection includes a statue of Georgi Dimitrov, first General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party (more snappily Stalin's Puppet), by Lubomir Dalchev (late 1960s, above); and the statue of Lenin, by Lev Kerbel (1971), that used to dominate Nezavisimost (Independence) Square. Pride of place goes to the five-pointed star that topped Party House in the same square from 1954 to 1989.

09 October 2016

Sofia - Living at a Snail's Pace

On Boulevard Simeonovsko Shose in Sofia is a five-storey building in the form of a snail, which appears to crawl from a side road. The architect was Simeon Simeonov, who heads the Bulgarian practice Nommad.

Completed in 2009, the apartments took ten years to build. The principal material is light-weight concrete. Atop the antennae are street lamps which double as lightning conductors, and riding the snail's back are a bee (the chimney) and a ladybird.

Suspended from the drooping eyelids are spinning cowls for the ventilation systems. Beside the doorway is a mosaic duck, and the pavements are painted the same mad colours as the building, and elaborated with snail plant pots.

08 October 2016

Sofia - National Art Gallery

The National Art Gallery of Bulgaria is housed, along with the Ethnographic Museum, in Sofia Palace. This started life as the local headquarters of the Ottoman Empire. After Bulgarian independence in 1878 the building was remodelled as a palace for Prince Alexander Battenberg, the first post-independence monarch. The principal architect was Viktor Rumpelmayer, of Vienna.

Only the foundations and part of the façade were retained. The style is decidedly Second Empire. The palace was inaugurated on 26 December 1882. In 1894-96 the next monarch, Prince (later Tsar) Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg Gotha had the architect Friedrich Grünanger, also of Vienna, add the north-east wing. Neo-Baroque crept in.

The National Gallery moved into the palace in 1946, after the communists abolished the Bulgarian monarchy, and following destruction in 1944 of the gallery's original home. The exhibition space utilises the ballroom, a number of drawing and dining rooms, and one of the winter conservatories. All the rooms boast gorgeous tile or parquet flooring, and unique marble fireplaces.