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Moderna galerija is the Slovenian national museum of modern and contemporary art. Our choice of the two works is based on the violent persecution by press and social media the two artists experienced after winning the prestigious national Prešeren Foundation Award.

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Background information on the selection process

The selected work Note to an Entirety was part of Simona Semenič’s 2009 performance, but became widely known in 2018, when Semenič received the prominent national Prešeren Foundation Award. Due to what was seen as inappropriate and offensive usage of the national flag, she became the target of many conservative, especially far right, media and the victim of brutal hate speech on social media. Almost a decade after it was taken, the photograph thus became controversial primarily for those who view art by more than a century-old standards and deny the potential of (contemporary) art to function as a mirror of society. In support of the artist and the freedom of artistic expression, Moderna galerija displayed the work in the vestibule of the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova in 2018, as part of the Commentary series.

Maja Smrekar won the Prešeren Foundation Award for her three-month-long project K-9_Topology, which included, among others, breastfeeding her puppy. This was not only followed by extensive coverage in the Slovenian media, but also triggered a barrage of hate speech on social media. All this happened in spite of the fact that the project had won the Golden Nica award in the hybrid art category at the Prix Ars Electronica Festival a year prior to that. It was not by chance that the two artists, who comment on their identity as mothers in their art, experienced such a brutal reaction of the public and became targets of ridicule in the media in the time of increasing conservatism, which ended with a systematic campaign against contemporary art during the mandate of the government of Janez Janša. For this reason, Moderna galerija as a national institution sees the importance of underscoring again and again the vital necessity of artistic freedom and of tolerance for and understanding of contemporary art, which must be critical to society and its decision-makers.

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