Museum Night at the Serbian Military Club

For the 12th Museum Night, the Odbrana media centre, as in previous years, prepared a program at the Serbian Military Club for true enjoyment of culture fans, who traditionally visited the splendid edifice in large numbers.

The doors of the former Veterans Club opening at five o’clock kicked off a kind of performance of revealing hidden messages that were brought to the two galleries of the monumental building by the exhibitions Social Art and Socialist Realism from the Vujičić collection and Little Stories from the Great War, which were enhanced on the Museum Night by the multimedia show Memory Lane.

Many of the paintings and drawings from the Vujičić collection, which boasts more than five hundred works of Serbian art of the 20th century set up at the Big Gallery of the Serbian Military Club, appeared in front of the audience for the first time. The Social Art and Socialist Realism exhibition, authored by Professor Jerko Denegri, PhD, and Jasmina Jakšić-Subić, was seen by a large number of art admirers who recognized the mobilizing nature of engaged paintings, sculptures, drawings, and engravings created during the search for the driving forces of the new post-war society.

It was recognized also by a law student from Paraćin, Radovan Skendžić, who, together with a friend, started his tour of the places of culture on the evening titled Open Your Eyes in the Night at the former Veterans Club.

“It is quite clear that artists who create in post-war periods have memories, feelings, and inspiration that are conditioned by war horrors that many of them experienced and survived themselves, and I can almost feel that time through the predominant motifs and colours,” says the young man from Paraćin and adds that he is happy with the programmes that are continuously organized by the Odbrana media centre at the Serbian Military Club.

Great interest among many visitors was also caused by Small Stories from the Great War, the exhibition set up at the Small Gallery, which presented direct testimonies of ordinary, human, but ageless “piquancy” and sometimes sad, or even tragic, ornaments that the then greatest conflict in the history of civilization brought about. The exhibit is actually a result of the collaboration between the Odbrana media centre, the Military Museum, the Osečina Museum (Department of the National Museum of Valjevo), and the Alliance of the Descendants of Soldiers of Serbia from 1912-1920.

The exhibition, to the joy of many visitors, included also authentic war pieces: black and white photographs, handwritten Military Handbook, short and long bayonets, Colts, rifles, carbines, swords, helmets, medals, and other weapons and war souvenirs. Special value is bestowed by the direct testimonies and stories of soldiers that convey the most private feelings, thoughts, sorrows, hopes, and fears of ordinary people, heroes of the time.

One of the accounts that drew the attention of visitors is that of Veličko Ilić: “I passed through Albania in a peasant coat and with rags on my feet, 42 days of walking with two pieces of cornbread. In my pocket was a candle from my home, so that someone can light it if I was to die. I ate it while passing through Albania!”

“You see, that is what those times were like. Life and survival were hard,” explains a Radoje Popara, a retired teacher from Kordun, to his nine-year-old grandson Stefan after reading Veličko’s writings.

An art project of sorts titled Memory Lane, conceived as an elaboration or extension of the exhibition at the Small Gallery, grew into an entirely unexpected performance, filled with emotions and astonishing energy, created by linking two sensibilities—the civic one of Serbia at the beginning of the 20th century and the social realist—which grew into an entirely quality. The visitors truly enjoyed the dance of the spirited members of the Kolo Ensemble, who performed in the costumes from the time of the Great War, showing all the beauty of the traditional Serbian dance accompanied by the chamber orchestra of the Art Ensemble of the Ministry of Defence Stanislav Binički. They danced one magnificent piece after the other: Knez Mihailo’s kolo, Queen Natalija’s kolo, Srbijanka, Jeremija, Kreće se lađa francuska… Apart from the audience, which was leaving the monumental edifice touched by obviously unexpected emotion, Assistant Art Director of the Kolo National Ensemble Vladan Životić talked about his impressions.

We have been collaborating with the Binički Ensemble for decades, and I am glad that tonight we shared the same emotion. Dance, music, songs… These are not paintings on the wall, these are living things, always intensely touching the audience, which, I am certain, will have something to take away from this wonderful evening.

All the guests of the Military Club were also welcome to visit the ceremonial salons, as well as the permanent display of artwork from the collection of the Gallery of the Military Club of Serbia, which boasts more than 1,500 pieces.

Those who, on the other hand, decided to go to the Aerospace Museum in Surčin on the Museum Night had an opportunity to learn more about the accomplishments of two pilots from the Second World War—Miloš Žunjić and Zoran Radosavljević—and as an extra feature, the permanent display of sailboats was supplemented by only now exhibited artefacts that speak about the origins of sailing in our country.