Museum  July 19, 2018  Chandra Noyes

Stepping into a “Concrete Utopia” at MoMA

Personal archive of Jovan Ivanovski

Exhibition poster for the retrospective of architect Janko Konstantinov, 1984. Collage diazotype and tracing paper.

This week the Museum of Modern Art debuted the first major US exhibition devoted to the architecture of Yugoslavia. Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980, uses over 400 objects related to architecture and design to examine this critical period in the nation's history. 

Having broken with the Soviet Bloc in 1948, Yugoslavia sought to recover from World War II through rapid modernization and economic growth. Under leader Josip Broz Tito, a new postwar nation that welcomed a future of immense growth and a new ethnically integrated society was created. Socialism was a key tenet of this vision, and modern architecture with a utopian goal aimed to achieve this. Part of neither the capitalist West nor the communist East, Yugoslavia and other nations in the Non-Aligned Movement had a unique position in the Cold War years, one that gave them the space to create cultural artifacts outside of this dichotomy and specific to their goals as a country.

Janko Konstantinov. Telecommunications Center. 1968–81. Skopje, Macedonia.
Photo: Valentin Jeck, commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, 2016

Janko Konstantinov. Telecommunications Center. 1968–81. Skopje, Macedonia. View of the Southwestern Block façade.

Miodrag Živković. Monument to the Battle of the Sutjesk
Photo: Valentin Jeck, commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, 2016

 

Miodrag Živković. Monument to the Battle of the Sutjeska. 1965–71, Tjentište, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Berislav Šerbetić and Vojin Bakić. Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija
Photo: Valentin Jeck, commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, 2016

Berislav Šerbetić and Vojin Bakić. Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija. 1979–81. Petrova Gora, Croatia. Exterior view.

Ivan Vitić. Apartment Building on Laginjina Street. 1957–62
Ivan Vitić Archive, Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Ivan Vitić. Apartment Building on Laginjina Street. 1957–62. Zagreb, Croatia. Perspective drawing, 1960. Tempera, pencil, and ink on paper.

Andrija Mutnjaković. National and University Library of Kosovo
Photo: Valentin Jeck, commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, 2016

Andrija Mutnjaković. National and University Library of Kosovo. 1971–82. Prishtina, Kosovo. Exterior view.

The exhibition includes stunning photographs by Valentin Jeck, newly commissioned by MoMA (above), three video installations by renowned filmmaker Mila Turajlić, and contemporary artworks by Jasmina Cibic and David Maljković. Through the themes of "Modernization," "Global Networks," "Everyday Life," and "Identities," the exhibition explores how architecture impacted the country, its people, and the world. A focused look at a distinctive moment in the history of architecture and the world, Toward a Concrete Utopia digs deep and provides complex insights, as well as extraordinary views.

Installation view of Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980
© 2018 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Installation view of Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 15, 2018–January 13, 2019.

Installation view of Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980
© 2018 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Installation view of Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 15, 2018–January 13, 2019.

Installation view of Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980
© 2018 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Installation view of Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 15, 2018–January 13, 2019.

Installation view of Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980
© 2018 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Installation view of Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 15, 2018–January 13, 2019.

Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 is on view at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, through January 13, 2019.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra is managing editor for Art & Object.