1960s-1970s: Yugoslav War Memorials

‘During the 1960s and 70s, thousands of monuments commemorating the Second World War – called ‘Spomeniks’ – were built throughout the former Yugoslavia; striking monumental sculptures, with an angular geometry echoing the shapes of flowers, crystals, and macro-views of viruses or DNA. In the 1980s the Spomeniks still attracted millions of visitors from the Eastern bloc; today they are largely neglected and unknown, their symbolism lost and unwanted. Antwerp-based photographer Jan Kempenaers travelled the Balkans photographing these eerie objects, presented in this book as a powerful typological series. The beauty and mystery of the isolated, crumbling Spomeniks informs Kempenaer’s enquiry into memory, found beauty, and whether former monuments can function as pure sculpture.’

- Roma Publications

Curated by Natalia Hervás

27 Responses

    • dr

      You are being brainwashed with that book you linked, it’s even more propaganda than all the communist stuff. Communism is just an ideology. Some examples of communist art are even more vivid than modern day America.

      Reply
    • Artic

      I see you know a lot about art and design! Dull and lifeless…. how can you say? You are just indoctrinated and not further than surface of the matter.

      Reply
    • Artic

      charles, have you ever been somewhere else, I mean away from your farm? You are farmer , no?

      Reply
  1. Chafir

    “dull and lifeless”? I think you must have mistaken the blog topic for a turnip or a brick, or something else dull and lifeless around you.

    Or perhaps you just want to find any way to bash Communism, and will appropriate some epic war memorials in your crusade. These are awesome.

    Reply
  2. rodrigo

    @Charles: yeah, what a source of ideas, I ‘ve been reading from the link you posted and wow! hope you are not buying all that.
    On the other hand, the isolation and bad state of these sculptures doesn’t really allow one’s positive opinion on the aesthetics and experimental composition of forms.

    Happens all the time with the modern architecture (what johnson called the international style). they are photographed today very gloomy with dirty and grey concrete, easily forgetting how colourful the projects were just when finished.
    look up some constructivist / suprematist buildings and works…without it we wouldn’t be where we are now.

    Reply
  3. Aleks

    These sculptures (serbian for spomenik) remind me of bits of debris left behind by a retreating tide. They look uncomfortable and out of place now that the ideology has gone. However, they have artistic merit and personally, remind me of my childhood and simpler times.

    Reply
  4. Vlad

    The excellent pieces of art. No matter what idea it has or had. If you cant see the deep of it, just dont name it dull.

    Reply
  5. Daniel

    Awesome stuff. Definitely not dull! I would like a miniature one in my garden.

    Would love to learn more about these, now that I’ve found out about them.

    Reply
  6. Dan

    What amazing things these will be 200 years from now.
    I wish I was a film maker so I could incorporate many of them somehow.

    Reply
  7. George

    It was a better time in those days. Nowadays, what is there for the Balkans?

    Reply
  8. Elroy

    @ Rodrigo- I couldn’t agree more, the influence of Constructivism can still be seen in modern bridges and buildings.

    As for the subject matter above; I have never seen these sculptures before or seen anything like them. It’s all quite amazing.

    Reply
  9. Dan

    Wow these are just astounding! One commenter said that they looked weird and out of place. I can see why someone would feel that way but I happen to find the contrast of the ultra-modern forms and shapes to underscore the contrast between them and their surroundings, thus heightening their impact. It’s like some sci-fi supersoldiers from the future came back & jammed these things into the ground & then swiftly disappeared. Too cool…

    Reply
  10. Marko Jevtić

    Spomenik means monument. Simple as that. There are “spomeniks” that are predating communism, since they are simply monuments.
    And yes… these are very cool. I don’t miss the opportunity to stop and visit some WWII communist monuments every time pass by all around ex Yugoslavia.

    Reply
  11. Monoki

    Bellísimo! I feel sorry for those who can’t appreciates this beautiful pieces. Product of communism? yes, in the same way capitalism has its owns. i care about art, not ideologies.

    Reply
  12. Scott Baughman

    You know, these are beautiful and majestic in a weird, derelict way. I love the way nature is encroaching on them. Do you think some of the ancient structures scientists have uncovered in Egypt, etc. were actually monuments left over like these and we’ve totally misinterpreted what they were doing there? Anyway, these are amazing and I agree someone needs to film a sci-fi epic (or even just a good Dr. Who episode) with the monuments as epic backgrounds. It would probably be pretty cheap/qualify for tax subsidies or breaks in the Balkans. They could use the economic boost, no?

    Reply
  13. Stacey

    Wow! These are amazing works of art! Art is art, regardless of who constructed it, or what it meant to them. All art should be approached by asking “What was the artist trying to say?” “What context was the art created in (political, economic, personal, cultural, ideological, current events, etc..)?” and “What does it say to me, in my context?”

    Scott: I’m not sure how you mean we have misinterpreted Egyptian monuments as well as other ancient constructs as they are considered monuments, creative efforts, and are often analyzed by experts in archaeology, art, and history within the context that they were created in (eg. The Colliseum in Rome, The Parthenon, The Temple at Angkor-Wat) As laymen, we don’t often appreciate the full significance of the monuments and art of different and past cultures, but I’m sure that those members of the academic fields who specialize in such things are quite up to date on their understanding of the significance of these ancient works of art.

    As for having a miniature in my garden, or using them to shoot scenes in a sci-fi flick, I agree, they are all quite pleasing to the eye and evoke a feeling of otherworldlyness. I imagine that in the right light and weather (imagine #23 backlit through light fog as the sun rises behind it) they would seem quite alien!

    Regardless, the artists that created these works were quite talented and had a vision that spoke of the great chaos of war and the resiliency of the human spirit of those who suffered under it. Out of something so horrid and unspeakable, a quiet, stoic beauty emerged throughout the slavic countryside. That in itself is quite remarkable.

    Reply
  14. Robert Day

    Agree with many of the earlier posters. i have just finished reading a book on 1970s/80s Soviet architecture, and these monuments have a similar architectural language.

    At the very least, they need to be recorded.

    Reply
  15. tiggy

    ..again, if i’d have the ways and means i’d buy these and create my own “Neverland”. i’ve grown up with the “communist architecture”, it has a familiar touch, like being in a place like home. never been in Russia and it has changed too much for me or i just can’t appreciate it. it’s no more the safe place i visited in my sunny childhood days. as for a child there are no negative sides like criminality, hunger, political control, in a country. we were visiting a neighbor country that was friendly, i remember how soviet/estonian icecream tasted. paintings never really appealed to me and lately i’ve found my true love is in the sculptures. have made some by myself and would like to continue some day, and these just bring great happiness into my heart. i’m also sad they get forgotten and are unwanted and as such they will decay or get demolished. it’s also sad the modern time architects have forgotten how great stuff can be built simply by using concrete – not everything must be steel and glass. when i go to any city i only see steel and glass in the new buildings. it’s so boring. people have become scared of new ideas, new structures and really developing the city. why not build a wooden shopping center? or massive concrete building as a school? why not set a sign instead of getting lost in the mass? :/

    Reply
  16. @karlvoet

    Absolute timeless.
    These designs just remind me that being original and having an independent mind never goes out of fashion.

    Reply
  17. ThatDarnCat

    Aging memorials that celebrate non-existent victories.

    If I had money I would build things like this all over the world and in 1000 years historians will look back at them and try to give them significants when there was none. Kind of like the markings on the Nazca plain…

    Reply
  18. Campbell

    If man was wiped from the earth and extraterrestrials came after we were gone, I hope they would find these monuments much more so than the stupid Washington monument. They are unique and awesome( and by that I mean aw inspiring).

    Reply

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