Vatra Gallery, 1991-97



Art can be a way of surviving, it can be a way of making meaning when nothing else makes sense, it can be a system of talking to each other in despair. That is what guided the lawyer and activist Adnan Abrashi to found Vatra Gallery in 1991 in the north of Prizren. This initiative came as a reaction to the political circumstances created by the violent annexation of public cultural and educational institutions, among others, by the Serbian authorities. Across the country, cultural activities in public spaces and institutions were nearly banned. Thus, the artistic community responded by opening private galleries, which played a significant role in the continuation of artistic production. The small intervention on the facade recalls the important local people, artworks, ideas, and dreams that went through those doors. It conveys Vatra Gallery’s program and its focus on exhibitions, concerts, and literary activities. Some of the artists who had solo exhibitions there include Nysret Salihamixhiq, Xhevdet Xhafa, Esat Valla, Nevzat Belegu, Maksut Vezgishi, Fatmir Krypa and Zefi Toçi among others. Abrashi was a lawyer by profession, but his passion and dedication to the arts fueled his patronage, which extended into organization and production. Abrashi’s commitment went beyond just presenting artists’ work; he created a program for acquisitions, and the gallery purchased a work in every show—but didn’t make any profit. Abrashi’s legacy to find ways to communicate through art continues with Autostrada Biennale, since he was the father of Vatra Abrashi, one of its founders.

Text by Joanna Warsza

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