A Celebration Of French Art


Politika, 24.03.1990

Much is unknown about the life of Erik Slomovic (1915? 1942?), indisputably the most successful collector of foreign art in the prewar Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The activities of this young man are connected with four years spent in Paris (19361940), when he collected a large number of art works. He concentrated on the elite of French Modern Art. Pictures, sketches and graphics by the likes of Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin, Derain, Picasso, Matisse, Vlaminck, Forain, Rouault and many others make up his collection.

Slomovic had the good fortune to get to know the artists and their works at source. He worked directly alongside the elderly gallerist and publisher Ambroise Vollard. Slomovic only once brought a selection from his collection to Yugoslavia. This was for an exhibition in Zagreb in 1940.

The fate of his collection in the war and immediate postwar years has been the cause of a whole series of articles, exclusives and filmed biographies. The unknown number of works, and several court cases involving prospective heirs have attracted public interest. The Belgrade National Museum has owned part of this collection since 1949; amongst these exceptional works the emphasis is on sketches and graphics.

Planning to exhibit their entire collection of works, the Museum has decided to satisfy the public's curiosity by showing the complete Slomovic collection. Firstly at a Zagreb Museum, and then in their own Belgrade Museum.

There's no doubt that Slomovic entered the Paris art world of the 1930's with skill and insight. He became one of the favourites in artistic and intellectual circles of various generations. Among his friends were numbered Vollard, Matisse, Vlaminck, Duly, Chagal, Cocteau and Le Corbusier. Slomovic wrote an article about Matisse as the "creator of a new aes thetic in modern art", for a Zagreb magazine in 1941. His article contained daily observations about Matisse's behaviour and thinking, and reveals a great understanding of the questions addressed by modern art.

The size and success of this artistic business relationship is shown by the large number of visits by famous artists to Slomovic. The fate of the second half of his collection is also evidence of this. In the exhibition catalogue the historian Irina Subotic comments, "In the face of the coming whirlwind of war, Slomovic decided to split his collection into two parts, one to be exhibited in Yugoslavia, and the other to be kept in a safe in the Paris bank.'Societe Generate'. Thus he showed the inbred wisdom of millennia of exodus, and the experience of the Diaspora….". The Paris part of the collection contains works of similar value to the Belgrade part. After the opening of the bank safe, and a partial exhibition in the Hotel Drouot in March 1981, the works war and immediate postwar years returned to the safe until the issue of ownership is resolved in court.

From this exhibition of Slomovit's collection in the Belgrade National Museum, througn a segment of a whole epoch of French art, we see the inimitable role played by chance in the selection of works. If the collector, a poet fleeing from the setting of his biography, leaves us meager information and then disappears into the Holocaust, then all the artistic material in this exhibition speaks of Slomovii's generous intention to open his own gallery.

In contrast with other more recent collections, whose works are attributed without complete certainty, Slomovic's French artists take us on a safe and rich visual adventure. In this adventure we can travel from Redon's symbolic "Profile of a Girl with Flowers", through Chagal's "Moses Throwing the Tablets", to Roualt's frightening Harlequin, "Of a Pierrot".'

by Nikola Suica

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