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Franciscan gallery Široki Brijeg

Franciscan gallery at Š. Brijegu has its beginnings in the monastery's treasury, which was opened in 1979. It consists of paintings by old masters, church utensils, vestments and old books. During the 1980s, various exhibitions were organized in the monastery premises, and the monastery acquires works of art of more lasting significance. Finally, in 1990, the building was completed, in which the permanent exhibition of the Franciscan Gallery Široki Brijeg was soon opened. In addition to the already mentioned treasury, the permanent exhibition consisted of exhibits of painters and sculptors of Croatian modern and contemporary art, artists of naive art and works of avant-garde artists. In the third part, the works of Herzegovinian painters are exhibited. At the beginning of the Homeland War, the permanent exhibition was removed, and the works of art were moved and stored. The Gallery also received numerous works of art from other museums and collections that were endangered due to war activities. From the opening of the Gallery until today, numerous exhibitions of well-known and lesser-known artists have been organized in the gallery spaces. The foundation of the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of Mostar at Š. is connected with the Gallery. Brijeg.

The origin and work of the Franciscan Gallery

The Franciscan Gallery of Široki Brijeg was founded by a community of monks and there were no large financial investments in the acquisition of art. The main sources were personal friendships and the trust that artists and art owners had in the Church.

The space where the exhibitions were held was designed and arranged in the new part of the monastery at a time when the state did not allow large construction investments.

The gallery was opened under the slogan: Art for artists and friends of art on July 25, 1990 in the presence of numerous artists, art lovers and people who work in the departments of culture without church and state leaders. Among those who were there were famous names from Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Milan and many cities of the former Yugoslavia. Writer and literary critic Vitomir Lukić gave a speech on philosophy, religion, art, and especially on the role of the Franciscan Gallery. The gallery was opened on July 25, 1990 by the person most responsible for its opening, the first and so far only director, Fr. Jozo Pejić. Three days after the opening, on the same day that the Youth Pilgrimage was held, it was solemnly blessed by Cardinal Franjo Kuharić with Bishop Ordinary Pavlo Žanić and Provincial Drago Tolja.

The first art exhibition included modern art, with an emphasis on the first half of the 20th century. In addition to modern art, in a somewhat separate space, the exhibition also included avant-garde artists. It was the only permanent installation of its kind in the former Yugoslavia.

The Franciscan Gallery has never had professional staff nor has anyone worked full-time in it. It has always been run by monks with the occasional help of expert friends who are always careful not to neglect their religious and priestly duties.

The gallery is known for the frequency of exhibitions and other artistic and cultural events (such as concerts, book promotions, documentary film screenings, chess tournaments, exercises, graduation exams...). With the Franciscan breadth, it also accepted less valuable contents, but it always reached for quality programs, and quite a few of them were very significant, such as the exhibitions of Vlaha Bukovac, Emanuel Vidović, Pictures of old artists of the Split Art Gallery, Celestine Medović, Slavko Kopač and avant-garde artists Southeastern Europe.

Even before the establishment of the Gallery, exhibitions were held in the monastery Treasury, starting in 1979. They held two art colonies and collaborated with many artists and several galleries. The first foreign performance was in Edinburgh in the fall of 1990. After a break in the first year of the Homeland War, the Gallery continues with guest appearances and exchange exhibitions, and by participating in the Šimić Encounters program, the Gallery becomes a strong link. between the towns of Široki Brijeg and Vinkovci. The gallery has been part of the international event Spring with Mother in Mostar several times.

During the Homeland War, the Gallery was the only active gallery in Herzegovina and continued to send messages of peace. The gallery also received several collections from Mostar and Konjic for safekeeping, as well as works of art rescued by the Croatian Army from numerous broken-in apartments.

In July 1990, the Gallery was opened to the public and housed almost 1,000 works of art. Today there are more than 4,500 of them, two-thirds of which are cataloged electronically.

The conditions for preserving art should be much better. We need to get dehumidifiers and air conditioners, and we need more space for art, but also for work. In the depots, a lot of attention is paid to the micro climate. Part of the art has been restored and conserved. However, due to the lack of funds, nothing could be done for a long time.


In the monastery treasury, a separate part of the Gallery, there is an exhibition of old masters - about twenty of them, among which are artistically shaped metal sacral objects and mass vestments, old books, including an incunabula from 1493. The art treasures of the Gallery require a larger space and it is crucial that the current display be modernized.


The Franciscan Gallery donated more than 2,000 books to the Academy of Fine Arts in 1996, the same year that the Academy was opened and thus the Academy's library was founded. A few years later, the Library of the Franciscan Gallery was opened, which is mostly filled with gift books. Today there are about 5,000 titles, and only 50% are in digital form.


The Gallery has created a small catalog for each exhibition, but the page itself does not mean that the content is not rich. The period from 1988 to 2013 was analyzed in three almanacs and in annual articles in the Academy's journal, while the first eight years are in editing before printing. Two monographs were also published in the Galerija edition: Sister Marija and Brother Mirko Ćosić and another small monograph by Brother Blaga Karačić. Every year, the Gallery prints calendars with artistic reproductions. They also published several novels. The Academy magazine was published in cooperation with the Academy of Arts from 2006 to 2013. It stopped when the eco-publisher quit after issues 6-7.

From the gallery to the academy

The Academy of Fine Arts/Široki Brijeg of the University of Mostar was founded in the Gallery. The director of the Gallery should be thanked for bringing famous artists and experienced professors from Zagreb, Stipe Sikirica, Vasilij Josip Jordan and Miroslav Šutej, who helped to get everything started and became professors at the Academy. The newest professor is Nada Pivac. These four renowned artists made a great contribution to the promotion of art in Herzegovina and beyond.

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