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Press Release - November 1995

Following its well-established tradition of fostering peace, contacts and goodwill, Switzerland has been the catalyst of an important international cultural event in Belgrade, after the suspension of cultural sanctions against Yugoslavia. In September 1994, at the initiative of and in cooperation with the Swiss Embassy, the Belgrade Ex-libris Circle launched two international competitions in the field of applied arts under the title World of Ex-libris. Ex-libris, or bookplates as they are often called in English, are small art graphics which a person pastes into his books in order to identify them as his property. Information as to the competitions was sent directly in 17 languages to several thousand artists all over the world, and owners of ex-libris were informed through the channels of societies of ex-libris collectors, in particular the Bookplate Society, London, the Slovak Ex-libris Society, Graphia magazine (Belgium) and many others.

The project was curated by Benoît Junod, Chargé d'Affaires of Switzerland in Belgrade, and carried out in cooperation with the Graphics department of the Faculty of Applied Arts of Belgrade University of Arts, the Belgrade Ex-libris Circle and a great number of helpful volunteers. The main sponsors of the project were Bel Pagette, Biomed, B&Z Graphic Studio, Fond Madlena Jankovic, Jugopetrol, JAT Yugoslav airlines, M Import/Export, Pierre Cardin international cigarettes, Publikum Printers, SBM Studio, The Soros Foundation, Swissair, Swiss Concept, The World Serbian Community.

Over 1200 artists from 63 countries submitted some 6500 ex-libris for the artists' competition, making it the largest event of its kind ever held in this specific field of applied graphic arts. In June 1995, it took the five international Jury members four days of intense work to select the winners of the ex-libris competitions for artists and owners. Six successive rounds of selection were necessary to reduce the number of candidates for prizes to about 60 artists. In view of the impressively high quality of all the works of these persons, beyond the eight prize-winners, the Jury decided to create categories of `most highly commended' (five artists, one per technique) and of `very highly commended' (48 artists) to honour the best work of those who did not win prizes. The work of all 500 artists included in the 303-page catalogue are already the result of a tough selection (less than one out of two).

The names of the laureates were announced at the end of September, just before the exhibition opened, and they were the following:

  1. First prize:
    Yuri Nozdrin (Russia)

  2. Second Prize:
    Igor Piacka (Slovakia)

  3. Third Prize:
    Peter Ford (Great Britain),
    Jean-Pierre Humbert (Switzerland),
    Oleg Denisenko (Ukraine),
    Shigeki Tomura (Japan).
  • Special prize for the best ex-libris by an artist from the Balkans:
      • Nikolai Yanakiev (Bulgaria)
  • Special prize of the Bookplate Society, London,
      • Stjepan Fileki (Yugoslavia)
On October 6, 1995, thanks to the generous help of JAT and Swissair, all prize-winning artists were in Belgrade for the ceremony at the National Museum during which the awards were distributed.

34 Yugoslav artists' works were included in the exhibition Ex-libris and their artists, which was presented in the Museum of Applied Arts of Belgrade from September 28 to October 31 1995. It contained the 750 best ex-libris resulting from the artists' competition. A second exhibition, Ex-libris Yugoslavia, presented in the Ethnographic Museum of Belgrade the 125 best works by Yugoslav artists, and the 80 most significant are illustrated in a catalogue. The exhibition and catalogue also contain a study of the history of ex-libris in the southern Slav countries by Dr. Caslav Ocic, president of the Belgrade Ex-libris Circle. Special prizes were awarded to Ilija Knezevic, Olivera Stojadinovic and Ivan Miladinovic.

The competition for owners of ex-libris, which is the first of its kind ever held, also produced an excellent response (close to 100 owners, over 280 ex-libris). The texts sent by owners with their plates give the reader a fascinating insight into what lies beyond the image and the name contained in an ex-libris. The texts and graphics were exhibited at Zepter Gallery, Novi Beograd, from September 28 to October 24, 1995. The Jury considered the material so interesting that the Belgrade Ex-libris Circle found additional sponsorship to enable the 286-page catalogue to reproduce nearly all the texts and illustrations submitted. The laureates were

At the same time, from October 2 to 23, Graficki Kolektiv Gallery exhibited an outstanding selection of 50 ex-libris by the great Slovak master Albín Brunovsky. This one-man-show allowed the Belgrade public to get a deeper insight into the ex-libris opus of one of the great artists of our time. All the works exhibited are illustrated in colour in a 96-page catalogue.

These four exhibitions were complemented by a historical retrospective of ex-libris from 1470 until today, consisting in the 600 finest pieces from the collection of Mr. Benoît Junod. It was exhibited in the National Museum, Belgrade, from October 6 to November 5, 1995, and enabled viewers to understand the fascinating evolution of this form of applied graphic arts from the time of Dürer to that of Giacometti. Many works by major artists and for interesting personalities, from Schopenhauer to Charlie Chaplin or Einstein, were on show and are illustrated in the two-volume catalogue (454 pp) published for this event.

The World of Ex-libris exhibitions in Belgrade in October 1995 gave the public one of the most outstanding shows of this art ever brought together. It was, moreover, the largest single visual arts event ever held in this city, with 1800 graphic works of art exhibited simultaneously issuing from a single project. It also enabled graphic artists and amateurs here and abroad to resume contacts after two years of severed cultural relations. Public interest was very high for this event, and figures of public attendance will be available in mid-November. It has already been established by three of the venues that the exhibitions shown there have been the most visited events since the beginning of the decade. Media coverage was equally very high, with a total of more than 290 minutes of television screening and some 50 press articles. A 60-minute video film of the whole project will be available on VHS in January 1996 for members of FISAE, the international federation of societies of ex-libris collectors.

As from January 1996, the three exhibitions issuing from the two international competitions will start touring and will be presented in London, Buenos Aires, Glasgow, Ljubljana, Lausanne, Bristol, Montreux and later in Belgium, Italy and elsewhere.

The catalogues of the exhibitions, with more than 1000 pages and over 1450 illustrations of which many in colour, constitute a veritable encyclopaedia of ex-libris, reflecting the hisory of this form of applied arts from the Middle Ages until today. They are being presented by Vreme Knjige at the Frankfurt book fair, and at the same time by Ekonomika at the 40th Belgrade book fair. At the latter, they were awarded first prize for the best design and the Makarie Prize for the best printed books in Yugoslavia in 1995. They will be available at exhibition venues, and as from January 1, 1996 from Exlibrisbuch-Versand Klaus Wittal, Fliednerstr. 27, D-6200 Wiesbaden, Germany, from Antiquariaat In de Roozetak, Rijksstraatweg 128A, Postbus 82, NL - 6573 ZH Beek (Ubbergen), Holland, and from James Wilson, 22 Castle St., Berkhamsted, Herts. HP4 2DW, Great Britain. As was foreseen in the competition rules, artists and owners whose ex-libris are illustrated in the catalogues will receive a complimentary copy of the corresponding volume, within the first three months of 1995. Before the end of 1995, there will be more information available on Internet about the World of Ex-libris project with examples from the catalogues, and the five catalogues will be available on CD-Rom in early 1996.

One print of each ex-libris submitted for the competitions will be auctioned in 1996, and the proceeds - as forseen by the competition regulations - will be remitted to UNICEF for a humanitarian operation in ex-Yugoslavia.

Further information as to the World of Ex-libris is available from the

Belgrade Ex-libris Circle,
Obilicev venac 27,
YU - 11001 Belgrade
Tel. / Fax. (+381 11) 651584.
E-mail address: eciric@ubbg.etf.bg.ac.yu