Bucarest’s Curtea Veche Gallery

Curtea Veche Gallery.

Only a small area of the old medieval Bucharest, featuring narrow streets and historical buildings, escaped the demolition campaign initiated by Ceausescu in the 1980s. During the “black period” of Communism, intellectuals who enjoyed old books and old objects could view and buy them at a small gallery, named “Curtea Veche” [“Old princely court”] because it was placed opposite the medieval princely court, right at the center of historic Bucharest. This gallery is in fact a room of an old building, full of second-hand books, old maps, and modern art objects.

From the early 1980s through the present day, Marius Nicolescu, a man who found his vocation buying and selling old books and modern art objects, coordinates the activity of this gallery. In the summer of 2001, Marius Nicolescuhad a great idea. He added a new function to his old bookshop, transforming it into a contemporary art gallery.

Consequently, half of the shop still displays books, maps, and old objects, and the other half has become a small gallery where important Romanian contemporary artists display their works. The first exhibition that took place in that gallery was in fact a performance, as the painter Virgil Parghel had been working inside the gallery, in front of his easel, surrounded by his paintings and drawings.

People could thus see the artist working and his works ready to be displayed. For two weeks, the gallery became a workshop, primarily because Virgil Parghel is teaching painting at the Fine Art Academy in Bucharest.

After Parghel’s exhibition, another contemporary artist, Vasile Muresan Murivale, had a video art exhibition there, and he also had the idea to digitally record any exhibition displayed in the Curtea Veche gallery. In the autumn, Marius Nicolescu and a group of young artists organized an interesting exhibition of graphic illustration for books made by Romanian artists of all generations. A part of the exhibition was displayed in the shop window, so the works could be seen from the street.

After this exhibition, three important artists had one-artist exhibitions there: Mihai Sarbulescu, Horea Pastina, and Horia Bernea. Bernea was the founder of The Romanian Peasant Museum in Bucharest in 1990. He died in December 2000, and the exhibition in the Curtea Veche gallery, containing previously unknown paintings and drawings, was organized in his memory.

Bernea’s paintings are concerned with the spiritual essence of the material world. The motifs of his paintings can be classified as postmodernist interpretations of religious themes. He painted interiors of churches and peasant houses, trying to retrieve their lost atmosphere.

The art critics suggest that Bernea’s painting belongs to the “post-Byzantine” trend because he always uses motifs from Byzantine icons and frescoes. Bernea is not the only Romanian artist concerned with these kinds of subjects, though his style and his vision are original indeed.

A group of painters named “Prolog” has been active since the 1980s. Its members have similar concerns: their artwork could be characterized as embodying a sensitive vision of nature, human beings, and the spiritual aspects of life.

In early 2002, Curtea Veche is hosting a drawing and watercolor exhibition signed by the Prolog group, which includes Paul Gherasim, Mihai Sarbulescu, Horea Pastina, and Constantin Flondor.

For a short time, Horia Bernea and other painters such as Ioana Batranu or Ion Grigorescu were members of the Prolog group, as well. Over the last few years, the group has held few exhibitions. Therefore, the present exhibition is a cultural event and provides a rare opportunity for the spectators to see the refined works of some of the best contemporary Romanian painters.

This project, initiated by the Curtea Veche gallery, is in fact a bridge that joins the old and the new. The gallery itself is a special place, where anyone can be reminded of the old Bucharest and enjoy the best works of contemporary art. Put simply, Marius Nicolescu has good taste, and his selection guarantees the real value of the authors and of their works of art.