Students, alumni, faculty and friends stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they crowded the hallways of the Visual Arts Studio for the latest exhibit “Contemporary Icons: Recent Art from Bulgaria.”
Jeff Hughes, art professor and Hunt Gallery director, smiled as he explained the significance of the exhibit that he has been planning for the past two years.
“It’s a major art community event in St. Louis and the first time that there has been Bulgarian contemporary art outside of New York City,” he said.
The exhibit featured seven artists, examples of their work including paintings, photographs and videos. All seven artists are from Bulgaria, but they traveled from all over the world.
The artists held a panel discussion earlier in the day to explain their work process and its significance.
Consulate General of Bulgaria Siemon Stoilov came to the exhibit opening.
“There are lots of Bulgarians throughout the states,” Stoilov said. “With this event, it’s really impressive because we now have seven Bulgarian artists at one time and in one place. They have really contemporary works that show their feedback, responses and feelings about the world around us.”
President Beth Stroble greeted Stoilov at the reception. She said his presence and the presence of the Bulgarian artists at Webster was an honor, and that the exhibit was iconic for the university.
“To see the contemporary art from Bulgaria gives us a chance to see the hopes and aspirations and identity of the people that see Bulgaria as their home, their roots,” Stroble said.
One of the seven artists, Houben Tcherkelov, spent the days leading up to the exhibit opening at Webster making prints of his paintings. He said Webster’s exhibit was different from other times his work has been shown.
“It’s fantastic showing my work with all these students because they’re very critical,” he said. “In New York, they all just flatter you but being here with these 20 year olds brings you better criticism.”
Brigid Gerstenecker, sophomore art history major, worked as a gallery assistant during the event. She said being around these international artists was exciting for her.
“It definitely speaks of Webster’s mission to incorporate a global dialogue,” Gerstenecker said.
Tatiana Neumann, sophomore art major, said she noticed the international connection.
“The dialogue between (our culture and theirs) will help bring new ideas,” she said.
Hughes said the Hunt Gallery has been showing international art in the past year because art is international.
“It’s a part of what we do and the education of the university but also an engagement with the art world, which is very international,” he said. “Artists move all over the world right now.”
The exhibit will run in the Hunt Gallery until April 21.