UNTRUTHS OF MINISTER SANJA VLAISAVLJEVIĆ How did Čović’s sculptor swim to Venice?


While Minister Vlaisavljević claims that there was never a plan for the artwork “Where are we at home?” of the Sarajevo City Museums and Šejla Kamerić to be included in the Biennale, Interview.ba possesses a document stating the contrary. Did Skoko merit going to Venice with the bust of the “great Croatian figure”? What was the decision of the BiH Legislation Office?

Author:Ljupko MIŠELJIĆ

As of now, no one knows or chooses not to disclose the cost of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s participation in the 60th Biennale in Venice. This renowned biennial exhibition of contemporary art, which commenced on April 20, is considered the oldest and most prestigious in the world. Our country is represented by sculptor Stjepan Skoko, a choice that many credible and successful BiH artists still haven’t comprehended.

Surprised artists

Going to the Biennale is a project that the institutions of the state and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina did not undertake hastily.

This is evidenced by promises that the Ministry of Civil Affairs in the Council of Ministers of BiH will allocate BAM 180.000, and the Federation Ministry of Culture and Sports will fund an installation from the program whose budget is BAM 1.540.000.

The total costs will be known once the Expenditure program of the Federation Ministry of Culture and Sports for 2024 is adopted its spending program for 2024– claims this institution.

However, just before heading to Venice, the media and the artists were shocked and surprised Stjepan Skoko was chosen as our representative.

He was selected by the Commission for the selection of project proposals, commissioners, and special institution formed by Minister of Culture and Sports Sanja Vlaisavljević.

Skoko left for Venice with the art piece titled “the Measure of the Sea”.

“The first great Croatian figure”

But to the public, even those who are not interested in art, he is better known for the bust of the leader of the Croatian Democratic Union Dragan Čović.

It was the fall of 2021, and Dragan Čović did not oppose it.

Each artist chooses how to realize their idea, which is the freedom that art allows, including for Mr. Stjepan Skoko. Regarding this topic, my only involvement with the mentioned project is that I will attend Mr. Skoko’s exhibition if it is organized – said Čović then for Fena.

Skoko explained to the public that Čović’s bust was created as part of the project featuring ten great Croatian figures and three friends.

I began with Čović. He is among the greats, the first Croatian figure in this series. The rest of the project’s development remains a secret, as it is my own project, not funded by the state or anyone else. It involves a series of portraits, preferably using classic materials like bronze or stone, though I am uncertain where it will lead. I am also considering the use of new materials. Čović’s portrait will be included, likely towards the end– said Skoko.

Public call

It is premature to determine whether that specific bust paved his way to Venice. However, in June of last year, the Ministry of Culture and Sports announced a public call for the selection of the Commissioner/Curator for the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion at the 60th Biennale of Contemporary Art in Venice in 2024.

According to the public call, curators (or curatorial collectives), art historians or theorists, artists or artist collectives, cultural institutions, and other creators from the Federation were eligible to apply.

Applicants must have exhibition experience in Bosnia and Herzegovina and/or international experience, along with published works or awards in the field of contemporary art in Bosnia and Herzegovina– read the public call published in 2023.

Decision was taken

Decision followed several months later.

Notice of the Ministry on selection of Skoko as BiH representative

The Expert Committee for the Selection of Project Proposals, Commissioners, and Institutions from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Participation in the 60th Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art in 2024 has selected the project titled “Measure of the Sea”, submitted by the University Gallery of the University of Mostar. The project features the artist Stjepan Skoko, with Marin Ivanović appointed as the Commissioner and curator– read the notice published on the site of the Federation Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Speech of Borjana Krišto

This year’s Venice Biennale of Art placed special emphasis on projects capable of hosting performances during the pre-opening and closing of the exhibition.

However, the Pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina, curated by Marin Ivanović, opted instead to feature a speech by Borjana Krišto, Chairwoman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to witnesses of the pre-opening event, access was restricted to invited guests only, with stringent security measures in place, which is neither the practice of other pavilions nor the Venice Biennale.

Missed the topic

The theme of this year’s Biennale “Strangers Everywhere” was explained by curator Adriano Perdosa.

He succinctly outlined that the exhibition centers on the concept of the foreigner and explores related themes such as queer artists who navigate different sexualities and genders, often facing persecution or legal prohibition.

An outsider artist, who is on the margins of the art world, similar to the self-taught and so-called folk artist; as well as the indigenous artist, who is often treated as a foreigner in his own country. The production of the works of these artists is the primary focus of the 60th Biennale and represents the Core of Contemporary International Exhibition – explained Perdosa.

Curator and victim mentality

Curator of the BiH Pavilion, Marin Ivanović, interprets the theme in a distinctly different manner.

He explains the selection of Skoko’s work “Measure of the Sea”, which in no way corresponds to this year’s theme.

In a text titled “What is the importance of the Venice Biennale for Bosnia and Herzegovina” published on the University of Mostar’s portal, Ivanović discusses past projects representing BiH globally. He highlights that these projects predominantly revolved around the collapse of the Yugoslav industry and the war.

He asserts that this fact speaks volumes about our victim mentality and our perpetual subordination to supposed higher mentors and tutors. Even politically, they advocate for continuous discussion of these issues, as if Bosnia and Herzegovina has nothing beautiful to offer besides its problematic history and present circumstances.

– And amidst all this beauty—natural, cultural, monumental, artistic—they continue to pity us, offering money and space. Today’s art is dominated by post-colonial theory, minority rights, migrations, and various social issues through which the West attempts to cleanse its guilty conscience. These issues are political rather than artistic in nature. The success of the “Measure of the Sea” project is particularly noteworthy because it asserts itself through aesthetics, symbolism, beauty, poetic conciseness, material concreteness, and a provocative appeal. It isn’t concerned with being “current”, as contemporary relevance often toxifies art; instead, it is timeless. The project reconnects with the almost forgotten identity of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s people, making them aware of the beauty that surrounds them – concludes Ivanović, the individual tasked with ensuring dignified representation of our Pavilion, as outlined in the public call.

“The measure of the sea, the sea of nepotism”

And this is how Stjepan Skoko, the creator of the work “Measure of the Sea”, has established himself as the sole representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly since he has neglected the Biennale’s theme?

The protocol for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s participation in the Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art and the Venice Biennale of Architecture mandates that line ministries alternate in submitting proposals for representation no later than one year before the Biennale begins.

Two months after the deadline

Two months after the expiration of that deadline, the Federation Ministry of Culture and Sports issued a Public Call for the selection of the Commissioner/Curator of the BiH Pavilion and completed the selection procedure a month later.

It must be noted that there are inaccuracies being spread regarding the method of selecting the project/work to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the selection process itself.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Sports, their Commission evaluated three works and chose among them. They clarify that at no point during the selection process did they consider the possibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina participating with two or more positions, nor did they intend to seek approval from the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Council of Ministers of BiH for such a scenario.

There were no plans for additional works to be presented at the Venice Biennale alongside Stjepan Skoko’s “Measure of the Sea”, as this would have violated the protocol for selecting Bosnia and Herzegovina’s representatives. The Federation Ministry of Culture and Sports exclusively proposed Marin Ivanović for the role of Commissioner and the project “Measure of the Sea” by Stjepan Skoko. This selection was made by an independent expert commission, which awarded the project the highest number of votes– read the response of the Ministry.

Pure fiction

The office of Minister Sanja Vlaisavljević subsequently stated that the Federation Ministry of Culture and Sports forwarded its proposal to the Ministry of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina on July 17, 2023, for further processing, in accordance with the Protocol on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s participation in the Venice Biennale.

Responses from the FBiH Ministry of Culture and Sports

Based on the documents obtained by the Interview.ba portal, this appears to be pure fiction.

Evidence suggests that Minister Vlaisavljević requested support for another work to be presented in Venice alongside Skoko’s. As the portal Interview.ba learned, Minister Vlaisavljević submitted a request to the Ministry of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina in June of last year for the inclusion of an additional project in the Pavilion (in addition to Skoko’s).

Considering the exceptional quality of the project “Where are we at home?” and after consulting with the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Canton Sarajevo, which is prepared to provide financial support for this project, I request that you facilitate the participation of the Sarajevo City Museums project in the same Pavilion. This collaboration would greatly strengthen the team of Bosnia and Herzegovina – said Vlaisavljević in the request submitted to the BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs on July 28, 2023.

Who gave up on another piece and why?

The Ministry of Civil Affairs of BiH submitted this request for consideration to the Legislation Office of the BiH Council of Ministers, which responded on September 19, 2023.

The response reads:

– In accordance with Article 4 of the Protocol defining the principle of alternating presentation, and upon the proposal of the Federation Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the 60th Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art in 2024 consists of the project “Measure of the Sea” by academic sculptor Stjepan Skoko and installation curator Marin Ivanović, as well as “Where are we at home?” by the Sarajevo City Museum, developed in cooperation with the author Šejla Kamerić –  read the opinion of the Legislation Office signed by the director Džemail Čibo.

“Where are we at home” was on the list

The Ministry of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirms that the Federation Ministry of Culture and Sports had, at some point, planned to propose several projects or works for presentation at the 60th Venice Biennale.

– The Federation Ministry of Culture and Sports initially submitted a proposal for the artist Stjepan Skoko and his work. Later, they also submitted a letter requesting consideration for the participation of artist Šejla Kamerić with a suitable installation. However, the Federation Ministry eventually withdrew this additional proposal. The Council of Ministers subsequently concluded that the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina for this year’s Venice Biennale is Stjepan Skoko and his work, which aligns with the Protocol on participation– reads the response of the BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs to the portal Interview.ba.

Kamerić: They are not in power for themselves

World-renowned visual artist Šejla Kamerić confirms to Interview.ba that all these details are accurate. She further emphasizes that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s representatives at the Venice Biennale should be selected based on quality assessed by a competent international jury, rather than suitability veiled under an ethnicity based criterion.

– The success of BiH art on the international stage has been primarily driven by the dedicated and honest efforts of individuals. What is lacking, however, is systematic support. The issue isn’t merely financial; it’s the absence of expertise and transparency among those in leadership roles. It’s crucial that they recognize their positions of authority as a means to serve the citizens and advance the interests of the state, rather than for personal gain or party benefits– said Kamerić.

The City Museums of Sarajevo and Šejla Kamerić discovered that they were not going to Venice when it was already too late. They did not receive any official notification or explanation



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