27/07/2023 - 29/10/2023

Emilia Nikolova-Bayer’s oeuvre presented in the current exhibition brings to our attention the under-researched synthesis of the monumental arts and architecture in Bulgaria in the period between 1956 and 1989. The decorative reliefs the artist sculpted for two iconic theatres − Sofia Theatre in the Bulgarian capital (1973 – 75) and the Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin (1982 – 84) − are featured. The exhibition seeks to cast a critical eye over the general perception of the female creator in Bulgaria during the second half of the twentieth century − as avant-garde, strong, and brave; it gives us the opportunity to delve for the first time into the colourful world of the artist, to become acquainted with her new visual language for that time, and to appreciate a novel experience of the public architectural space.

The stone reliefs of the Sofia Theatre and the concrete reliefs of the Friedrichstadt-Palast form elements playing a lively rhythm in the architectural ensemble. With her use of bas-relief in harmony with the proportions of the façade, Emilia Nikolova-Bayer has left her original mark on contemporary architecture.

Photographs from Emilia and Rainer Bayer’s personal archive are on display, ranging from decorative reliefs, ceramic panels, stone inscriptions and drawings to sculptures of various sizes in a range of materials. Current photographs of some of the sites, by the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning Berlin and the artist Kalin Serapionov, are included.

EMILIA NIKOLOVA-BAYER was born in 1934 in Sofia. She studied Ceramics under Prof. Stoyan Rainov concurrently with Decorative Monumental Sculpture under Prof. Lyubomir Dalchev, at the State Academy of Arts in Sofia, causing ceramics to become her great love, as she herself has stated. Her parents tried to dissuade her when they realised she intended to apply to the Academy without any prior training. However, even though she had not attended any preparatory drawing classes, she was immediately accepted. After graduating in 1958, she began freelancing as a sculptor. Simultaneously, she became engaged in applied graphics, printed graphics, and book layout. Her first assignment for the decoration of a building was a large-scale project by Arch. Nedelcho Paskalev for the Party House in Sliven. In the late 1960s, (along with Arch. Georgi Ganev), she produced decorative panels for hotels in the newly built Golden Sands Resort. She also worked with Arch. Zheko Zhekov on numerous projects in Smolyan, Vidin and Varna.

In 1975, Emilia Nikolova-Bayer left for Berlin and settled there. Throughout the following decade, she was commissioned for large sculptural works in public environments − parks and buildings. Her most well-known work is her group of four concrete reliefs for the new Friedrichstadt-Palast Theatre, (1982–84), one of the most beloved buildings in Berlin.

Since the 1990s, the artist has devoted her entire creative energy to small-scale sculpture. She continues to work in her studio every day.

Awards and honours
1958 Distinction for best work of art at the International Art Exhibition in Vienna.
1984 Award at the International Biennale of Contemporary Ceramics in Faenza, Italy.
1984 Sts Cyril and Methodius Bronze Medal.

Artworks by Emilia Nikolova-Bayer are to be found in the collections of the National Gallery, the Yambol Art Gallery, and the Museum of Humour and Satire in Gabrovo.

Her works are also owned by private collections in New York, Boston, Seattle, Paris, Hanover, Berlin, Leipzig, Wiesbaden, Munich, Moscow, Warsaw, Sofia; and museums and collections in Berlin, Poland, and Faenza (Italy).