The international exhibition of the visual arts in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, this year's main event in Moderna galerija, provides an overview of painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, photography, and film from the time the king's dictatorship was set up (6 January 1929) to the beginning of World War II on Yugoslav soil (April 1941). This period, also due to the dictatorship, heavily influenced the so-called conflict on the artistic Left.
The thread running through the exhibition is – in addition to the art scene – the view of Yugoslavia as presented by Louis Adamič in his travelogue The Native’s Return, published in 1934 in the United States, where it became an instant bestseller, reprinted many times. It was forbidden in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Native’s Return enables us to juxtapose the “objective” and “subjective” in the question of what actually is context. Adamič reveals the Kingdom of Yugoslavia – also through his encounters with artists such as sculptor Ivan Meštrović, writer Miroslav Krleža, and painter Petar Dobrović, as well as the king, one year before his assassination in Marseilles – as a country on the brink – a country of stark contrasts, caught between old, premodern customs and the grip of capitalism, with the premonition of its imminent end, also in a broader European and global context. But this turbulent pre-war period, when everything was coming apart at the seams, with different and conflicting ideas of Yugoslavism, from the king's integral Yugoslavism to more egalitarian views of society, also represents the time when the first official shared history of art of all the Yugoslav nations emerged, a history associated with the art historian and curator Milan Kašanin, the Venice Biennale (1938, 1940) and the international cultural policies of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.