16/07/2024 - 20/10/2024

Curator: Yana Bratanova
Opening on Tuesday, 16 July, at 6 p.m.

The National Gallery continues its mission and policy of introducing the public to artists of Bulgarian origin who have won professional recognition beyond the country’s borders. Bistra Lechevalier is one of a few contemporary conceptual artists who have risen to international prominence. This retrospective exhibition presents her art in Bulgaria for the first time.

For Bistra Lechevalier, freedom is a prime code. Her early compositions from the 1970s—‘Flight of Birds’ (1964), the iconic Window Series (‘Blocked Window’, ‘Burned Window’, ‘White Window’) and ‘Injured Chairs’—are expressions of her overwhelming desire to be free. Everything she has created represents a powerful vehicle for flight beyond limitations.

The artist’s works are made of both natural and industrial materials. She combines gypsum with wood, straw and glass, lending them a particular exquisiteness. It is by skilfully handling paper, resin, caoutchouc, cast iron, lead, cast aluminium and bronze, polyester, neoprene rubber, mirrored surfaces, fabric, ropes, etc., that she realises her dreams and ideas. Possessing an innate ability to search for new forms, she transforms matter in smooth transitions from volume to flatness, and vice versa.

Iconic sculptures, objects, drawings and installations from Bistra Lechevalier’s studio and the Enseigne des Oudin Endowment Fund collection in Paris have now arrived at the National Gallery. The emblematic series include ‘After’ (2024), a large-scale installation, never shown before, and fully adapted to the spatial characteristics of the exhibition gallery. Its twenty sculptural forms, rising to a height of 2.5 metres, symbolise the future, that ‘new, bright beginning that always rises above the ruin’, about which the artist writes in her narrative, ‘The Blue Planet’.

Bistra Lechevalier was born in Sofia in 1933. Following the events of 15 September 1946, her father disappeared without trace. In the early 1950s, she was admitted to the National Academy of Arts, but was later suspended and denied access to the educational institution. Determined to continue her studies in the hope that her father would come back and see her sculptures, Lechevalier graduated with a degree in Sculpture in 1962. She describes those years as ‘a dark period’ in her life.

In the mid-1960s, she settled in Paris, where she began exhibiting extensively in major galleries and working on her own projects for French public spaces. These exhibitions did not go unnoticed by local critics: Alain Oudin, Denis Caminade, Dora Vallier, Jacques de Longeville, Michèle Pinson and Sébastien Doubinsky are among those who have written about her over the years. Their positive reviews and her distinctive appearances expanded the number of galleries around the world where she still exhibits to this day.

Over the years, she held numerous solo and joint exhibitions in Japan (Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, Nishinomiya). She collaborated with famous artists Takesada Matsutani and Sadaharu Horio, leading members of Gutai, the legendary Japanese avant-garde group. She and Takesada Matsutani exhibited together at the Rosa Turetsky Gallery in Geneva.

Bistra Lechevalier’s artworks are to be found in prestigious world galleries and private collections, including the National Foundation for Contemporary Art (FNAC), Paris (France); the Toms Pauli Foundation, Lausanne (Switzerland); The National Gallery, Sofia (Bulgaria); the Enseigne des Oudin Endowment Fund, Paris (France); the Rosa Turetsky Gallery, Geneva (Switzerland); the Yoko Hoshida Collection, Kyoto (Japan); and the Horio Collection, Kobe (Japan).

The exhibition was made possible with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture, the Culture Programme of Sofia Municipality, the French Institute in Bulgaria, and UniCredit Bulbank.

Media partner: BTA / Bulgarian News Agency