Artistic director of Škuc Gallery from 1978 – 1980
Taja Vidmar-Brejc (1947 – 2016) studied art history and ethnology at the Faculty of Arts, graduating in 1973. In 1969 she went on a study specialization at the Institute of Modern Art in Nűrnberg. In 1970 she collaborated in the organization of a large international exhibition of conceptual art, entitled ˝Information˝, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In that period she organized exhibitions of works by the group OHO in New York an Munich. Between 1975 and 1980 she organized several exhibitions as head of the fine art section of ŠKUC. Together with Peter Mlakar she acquired and renovated the current premises of Škuc Gallery. She has run Equrna Gallery as a programme director for the last fourteen years, during which time she has devised and organized some 350 exhibitions.
It all began with the OHO group. It was only after they exhibited in Zagreb and Belgrade that they were also presented in Ljubljana, at the Museum of Modern Art. That was when we started to look for a place in Ljubljana where new directions and innovations in fine arts could be presented. This was some three years before the acquisition of the premises at Stari trg /Old Square/.
It was then that I started my cooperation with ŠKUC (Student Culture & Art Centre). The first one to exhibit his works was Andraž Šalamun – this took place in the premises of Emonska vrata /Emona Gates/. We staged three exhibitions there, but the space was not suitable. Then I found the empty premises at Stari trg, where not long ago there had been a bakery. We went to Staninvest (the relevant city authority) and applied for the premises. They agreed to it on condition that ŠKUC proved to be financially capable of renovating the premises. The then president of the Ljubljana Administration of Culture, Mr. Mitja Rotovnik, showed some goodwill and signed a guarantee, although there was no money granted for this purpose. In this way we were assigned the premises. I signed a rental contract for an unlimited period of time. Later, Ljubljanska banka /Bank of Ljubljana/ became interested in the premises and Staninvest wanted to cancel the contract. Peter Mlakar and myself were publishing articles in newspapers, and this publicity made them pull back. So, ŠKUC finally acquired its own premises. At that time ŠKUC had one office desk, and its order forms were issued by ZSMS (Association of Socialist Youth of Slovenia). Three persons were really active in ŠKUC in those years: Peter Mlakar, Igor Vidmar, and myself. The premises were in very poor shape, and needed reconstruction. This was where our problems began… The idea of a youth work drive did not gain any ground, so we launched a campaign at the Academy of Fine Arts. However, it was only three professors that came to help and no students. Final help came from the part of the ZSMS: they promised to cover all the costs of reconstruction if we managed to open the gallery in September 1978, at the time of their congress in Nova Gorica. Of course, we did not sign any papers in this connection… I was the president of ŠKUC then and I was signing order forms without hesitation. The reconstruction was quite expensive since the premises were in rather bad shape. We opened the gallery in September with the OHO group. It was slightly nostalgic since OHO was already defunct at that time – although in fact, they initiated the whole thing. A nice catalogue was published. There were a lot of people at the opening. People started climbing through a freshly painted window in the back room to the backyard. I got upset a few times because of that, and after a time I saw three mud-stained and disheveled people there. They had been beaten up by some non-uniformed members of UDV (Internal State Security) – no one knows why. At the same moment, we cut short the event and closed the gallery.
However, ZSMS did not keep its promise and would not pay the bills. Somewhere we found the note signed by Mr. Rotovnik and brought it to light. In the following two years I was attending meetings at the SZDL (Socialist Association of Working People) Council of Culture, and finally we reached an agreement – the expenses were shared by the Ljubljana Administration of Culture, Republic of Slovenia, Student Service, and sponsors. In the meantime, the programme ran with almost no resources, and all the work done was voluntary. Within ŠKUC there were permanent problems with the literati. For instance, the publishing section of ŠKUC had been criticising me as being bourgeois for wanting to keep the gallery tidy. I was quite tired of all this. On the other hand, I was already a bit older and was covering only a certain circle of artists. I decided to find another place to exhibit works of the middle generation of artists, which could also be kept clean, for example, if I wanted it that way. In this way the story of the EQURNA Gallery began, founded in 1983, while the current premises were acquired in 1984.
The Škuc Gallery plays a very important role in Slovene fine arts. It introduces young authors, asks new questions… ŠKUC is an indispensable and unique example of a gallery with a radical programme. It is a place where art lives, and it must also maintain this position in the future. It is engaged in a typical activity that requires funding by the state. This sort of programme is not possible without subsidy – but without experimental projects, no others will develop, either.
*Based on interview with Taja Vidmar-Brejc, respectively, put down on paper by Alenka Pirman.