Ivan Kožarić is possessed of a gigantic artistic charisma. His sculpture of the Sun in Bogovićeva ulica is probably his most famous work.
In 2007 the Zagreb city authorities bought Kožarić’s atelier in its entirety, with over 6,000 works, and entrusted it to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where it will be kept on a permanent basis. Here, the collection is on display as part of an exhibition called “Collection in Motion”.
Mr Kožarić was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
Is there any specific moment in the history of Croatian art which has inspired you?
The first of the greats who occurs to me is Meštrović, although… I didn’t think that he was contemporary enough to be my role model. Maybe also for the reason that he wasn’t free. He was too locked into the ruling powers, where there money is.
On 10 June you celebrated your 90th birthday. What can still lead you Over the Line* into uncharted waters? (*title of an exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art, on until 21 August)
I don’t feel old, although I am old. Not much has changed regarding my endeavours. I haven’t stopped, nor do I think one should stop.
(Shows new drawings, among which is the slogan “Freedom is a rare bird”).
For example, in the performance Breaking Frames, I smashed the frames of my pictures. I wanted to show that we should break old forms to create new ones.
What role has art played in shaping and transforming our urban landscape, at a time when our understanding of the “city” is changing: the pace of our lifestyles, the layers of our culture?
If the art in question is an independent, successful sculpture, then yes, it affects our space.
What does the Zagreb of today and the Zagreb of times past mean to you, and does the city offer enough space for freedom of expression?
In Zagreb the situation is so-so. Zagreb is a city which is expanding and it does have possibilities, but for art collectors the situation is quite poor. After my sculpture of the Sun had been put in place for the first time in the 1970s, it was removed because it was judged a “hindrance to traffic”. There are a lot of versions of what exactly happened. I think that artists today are not motivated to work with the city’s fabric. There is no real coexistence and there are few links between artists and those who decide how the city will look. Some sculptures which have been erected shouldn’t have been because they don’t represent contemporary sculpture.
Do you follow the young art scene today? How do you think it will change?
I do follow them, and I will follow them as long as I live. I bought a sculpture by Kristijan Kožula when he had one of his first exhibitions, and I have it in my home today. I feel that young artists today, with a few notable exceptions, are not active enough. The fact that there are no opportunities is beside the point: I didn’t have everything on a plate either.
You have worked a couple of times with the rock group Roderick Novy. How much has music influenced your work?
Working with Roderick Novy was a very interesting, brief but creative period for me. Music and the visual arts are compatible. However, I don’t need music while I’m working, I don’t feel I need something to “help” me. I have never collected records or albums, although I like music. I don’t have a particular time when I listen to music, it happens by chance.
Your works are known for radiating freshness and wit. Is that connected with your character, is that your approach to daily life?
Yes, they are connected. They grew out of my artistic freedom. I approach work and life in the same way; it’s all so connected you can’t separate them.