On 13 October, after negative reactions towards the comic art exhibition Imali su oko sebe taj neki sjaj / They had that kind of glow around them created by the underground cartoon group Momci, it was vandalised in the Belgrade Stara Kapetanija Gallery, by 15 masked men, reported N1 Info.
Some of the artwork being part of the exhibition was shared on social media, and the attack came after negative reactions, including death threats towards the group members, to the exhibition’s content. A drawing called Kenjkavac, which shows a bloody baby with an axe in his head, was a primary subject of the critique.
The attack happened while one security guard and one artist Anita Bunčić were at the gallery.
Marco Somborac from Momci wrote on his Twitter account that the attack happened despite the threats reported to the police.
Upravo je, uprkos prijavljenim pretnjama smrću(!), na minut od policije(!), grupa mladića upala i izvršila vandalski napad na izložbi,gde su bili dežurna umetnica i jedna osoba iz obezbeđenja. Pošto su prvi put zakasnili @NesaStefanovic MUP neka sada obezbedi lice mesta nadalje. pic.twitter.com/TN0GGvleaH
— Marko Somborac (@somboracmarko) October 13, 2020
The destroyed original artworks were the result of five artists working together for nine years and they now struggle to restore at least some of the destroyed works.
“This has been a retrospective of the work of our group from the 1990s. We existed in period 1993-2001, so we wanted to show our work to people who followed our work back then and maybe to some people who had not had a chance to see it, but wanted to see how the underground strip looked like back then,” Goran Rajšić from Momci told Freemuse.
“We did it now on the invitation of the festival Novo Doba (New Age). We did it for ourselves without any huge expectations. It was a nostalgic reason behind this exhibition.”
According to Danas, on 15 October six suspects for this attack were arrested, and the next day two people pleaded guilty. They were sentenced to a three-month suspended sentence, with a probation period of one year.
“I find it as a warning sign, not appropriate sanction for the deed they committed. But we know that the attack itself was organised by someone from outside. Boys who attacked the exhibition show no emotional reaction when they entered the gallery,” Rajšić commented the sentencing and further added that “we believe that someone ordered it, but do not expect to find out who that was. This was not an angry mob. They did not even touch the illustration that caused a problem in public [Kenjkavac]”
Serbian Ministry of Culture published a press release about the events from 13 October condemning violations of artistic freedom, but they highlighted that “showing and affirming disgusting and immoral content, wrapped in a cloak of alleged artistic creativity, rightly provokes negative reactions from the majority of the public.”
“They were not even able to fake that they do not support the attack on the exhibition,” Rajšić commented the Ministry of Culture’s press release.
“They openly stand on the side of hooligans. That was the end of the discussion about protection here in Serbia.”
When asked about obstacles for artistic freedom in Serbia, Rajšić focuses on traditional authorities and climate of fear by saying: “we do not tolerate anything that is not traditional for our society, and what contradicts what our authorities imagine how Serbia should look like. Everyone who is not in line with that should be silenced. It serves to cause fear with those who want to oppose the authorities.”
As discovered by Freemuse, one of the key issues within artistic freedom in Serbia is the majority of violations that are carried out by government-financed bodies.
On 22 October, Freemuse addressed the letter to Serbian authorities on the attack on art exhibition Imali su oko sebe taj neki sjaj.