Pristina is not a city which charms you immediately. Before having been there I mainly made associations with the war in the Balkans and with the high number of NGOs which established themselves in the post-war period. But Pristina has a lot to offer I found out. The best about Pristina are the people you get to know. Kosovo is not only the youngest independent republic in Europe, it also has the youngest population: more than half of the Kosovars are under 25.
I travelled to Pristina on the occasion of the opening of an exhibition of contemporary art. The National Gallery of Kosovo invited Kontakt, the art collection of Erste Group and ERSTE Foundation, to present 31 works which were selected by the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and the Kosovar artist Petrit Halilaj. With or without the big names of curators, this exhibition is very impressive and made me again aware of how outstanding the works in the collection are. I want to mention Petrits work here who comments on the pieces of the collection with his drawings and thus creates a starting point for future exhibitions of Kontakt. Also the display and the whole layout of the show is brilliant, you could see how much effort was put into it by the Kontakt team together with Erzen Shkololli, the artist and director of the National Gallery.
I also met Austrians that came to Pristina to stay. Katharina Schendl is a curator who just recently opened the art space LAMDALAMDALAMDA, she moves and shakes up the local art scene with this new initiative, and brings the local and international artist crowd together.
As many post-communist countries Kosovo experienced an intense wave of privatisation after the Balkan Wars. Up to this day in Pristina you can see the side-effects of this turbo-capitalist modernisation. As Bekim Ramku, head of Pristina Architecture Week, explained, the city is suffering from a lack of urban planning. But he showed us also some exceptional parts of Pristina, like the National Library, a unique modernist building, covered in cupolas.
The exhibition is still running until 21 July. It is not the only good reason for a weekend trip to Pristina.
Maria Derntl, ERSTE Foundation
Credits: all photos by Maria Derntl. Exhibition view: by Enver Bylykbashi © National Nallery of Kosovo