Shkolloli, director of the National Gallery, feels “threatened” by the works of art – Exit


Erzen Shkolloli, director of the National Gallery of Arts (GKA), is trying to file a complaint against the Albanian artist Armando Lulaj, who represented the country at the 2015 Venice Biennale, for “threats” and “intimidation”. Shkolloli became director of GKA in January, after proving he was a staunch ally by hosting an exhibition in Rama’s private gallery in the Prime Ministry, the Center for Openness and Dialogue now largely defunct.

The Origin of Terror by Shkolloli, who is the former director of the National Gallery of Kosovo and curatorial advisor to documenta 14, is a work by Lulaj which in many ways can be seen as a sequel and a commentary on the work “Large Glass”, which was included in the 2015 exhibition “SiO2 – The reason for fragility”, organized by VestAndPage at GKA as part of the Onufri Prize, the most important contemporary art prize in Albania (until recently canceled by the Rama government).

“Le Grand Verre”, whose title refers to the work of Marcel Duchamp, consists of a large piece of bulletproof glass mounted on a steel support, similar to those used by heads of state for protect against assassinations. The work addressed not only issues of “transparency”, at one point in vogue as a political slogan, but also the violence and paranoia rooted in Albanian politics and exemplified by the figure of Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Lulaj is no stranger to controversy. In 2001, Lulaj was expelled from the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence for presenting a provocative piece during his second year exam. His work was then noticed by a well-known curator at the time, Pier Luigi Tazzi, co-curator of documenta 9 in 1992. Lulaj’s career therefore began with an institutional expulsion and the institution has always made the mark. object of analysis and criticism in his work.

The work that terrified Shkolloli so much – to such an extent that he refused to speak face to face with the artist – is called “Bullet in an Envelope”. The work, a collaboration between Lulaj and Marcel Duchamp, consists of an envelope intentionally containing errors, including a play on Lulaj’s name as Luaj (which means “to play”), the address intentionally misspelled Jordan Mijsa nr . 3., 1., 3, which refers to both the art school on this street and the Jordan Misja 313 penitentiary. The envelope included a metallic object in the shape of a ball that the artist had found there. is one year old walking in the streets of Tirana, near the GKA, and a letter written in invisible ink, signed by Lulaj containing the message: “The price of this work of art is estimated by the author at twice the projected value of the museum’s contemporary art collection.

Lulaj mailed the express envelope to GKA on November 29 and the same day published the work on the website of the DebatikCenter of Contemporary Art, after which Gazeta Shqiptare cultural journalist Fatmira Nikolla published an article on work. The concept statement on the website includes the following paragraph:

In these times of fuzzy democracy and total state control over art, on this historic day of the country’s liberation from Nazism and Fascism, which coincides with the 44th anniversary of the inauguration of this building, I sent the institution a little piece of reality.

In other words, the whole context and nature of the work acts against the easy and malicious interpretation as a threat. Both the artist’s statement on the website and the Gsh article contextualize it as an artistic gesture. Moreover, the work exhibited by Lulaj only a few years ago at GKA deals with very similar themes – but it all went completely over Shkololli’s head.

The following reconstruction of events is based on an email exchange with the artist.

“Envelope with bullet” arrived at GKA on Monday December 3 and the next day Lulaj was summoned to police station 1. There he was confronted with the fact that Shkololli, accompanied by a lawyer, wanted to file a complaint against him. At the same time, Shkololli refused an invitation from the police chief to have a face-to-face conversation with Lulaj. A curious observation for the director of an institution who has exhibited Lulaj’s work on several occasions!

Lulaj made a statement to the police, explaining the work.

I explained to the policeman that the real work of art here is not the object, the envelope, the traces and Mr. Duchamp, but the experience we are living. The denunciation, the prosecutor, the director and his legal representative, and of course you, the police, are part of a work of art, which I can no longer control. The confrontation is between a work of art and the state with all its mechanisms, and I’m ready to explore whatever the state will put me through. It is only by doing this that they will bear witness, once again, to the violent reality that has forced us to live in this society. The play wanted to capture the real violence we live in and I wanted to be sincere with the audience, and the only way to do that was to simulate a bullet in an envelope. I’m really sorry that this is being challenged in the first place by an artistic institution, by the GKA which I really care about.

According to Lulaj, the police chief, along with a second police officer, tried to dissuade Shkololli, explaining the work. Lulaj quotes it:

Look, this is a work of art, not a threat. The artist has his name, address, phone number, fingerprints and everything in there. Look at the name, he wrote LUAJ not LULAJ on the envelope!

Shkololli declined the explanation, saying it was not a work of art but simply a threat. Despite several other back-and-forths, Shkololli refused to budge and refused to have a conversation with Lulaj.

So the rather ironic end result was a situation in which an acclaimed contemporary art curator refused to consider Lulaj’s ‘Bullet in an Envelope’ as a work of art, when the police chief could not. see it as a threat. As Lulaj said: “It’s beautiful that for the police it is a work of art and for the director an act of terror.”

As a result, Shkololli filed a threat and intimidation complaint, while Lulaj’s statement contains an explanation of the work, its content and meaning. The case has now been referred to the Prosecution, where “Armando Luaj” and “Marcel Duchamp” (sic!) will be called upon to defend their work against the accusations made by Shkololli.

Lulaj suspects that Shkololli’s eagerness to move the case forward has a political motive:

I was waiting for the phone call from Shkololli. I got the impression that he is a very careful bureaucrat and a brilliant curator who can read the reality we live in, the space of a gallery, and most of all any work of art, the mine included. Oddly enough, Shkololli seemed to be under a lot of pressure. He did not want to meet, chat in front of the police, but pushed the denunciation. As I have no conflict with him or the institution, his behavior was very suspicious in the eyes of the police. Anyway, I really have to thank Shkololli for completing my art work.

Exit reached out to Shkololli and the GKA for comment, asking for corroboration of the events described by Lulaj and the reasons for exposing the artwork. The GKA declined to answer any of Exit’s questions, instead providing catch-all bureaucratic language:

On December 3, 2018 at the National Gallery of Arts arrived by the postal services an envelope of the citizen Armando Luaj. The protocol office specialist, after opening the envelope, identified a bullet-shaped object placed in transparent paper. For this reason, the envelope was resealed, and the institutions filed a report with the police on December 4. Police are currently investigating the case.


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