The Building of the Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection

The Agreement Pavle Beljanski signed with the officials of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina on 18 November 1957 included the clause concerning the construction of the exhibiting area in Novi Sad. Pavle Beljanski also requested that he is involved in the choice of the project and the location, as well as in overseeing the construction.

Three architects from Belgrade, Milorad Macura, Rata Bogojević i Bogdan Bogdanović sent their proposals for the design of The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection building to the open competition organized by the National Board of Novi Sad Municipality, and opened on 6 May 1957. On June 8th, the members of the Elective Comitee awarded the first prize to Bogdan Bogdanović, but none of the proposals satisfied the criteria for the actual realization. Pavle Beljanski, the President of the Elective Comitee, asked Ivo Kurtović, an esteemed architect, painter and Professor at the Belgrade School of Architecture to submit his project proposal at a later date. Altough Kurtović was not eligible for this award, his project was chosen as the best solution for storing and displaying the collection.

The construction of the Memorial Collection was approved by the Decision of the Project Revision Commitee on 5 January 1959, and the building was opened for public on 22 October 1961. The building site was placed at the former Proleterskih brigada Square (which is called Gallery square since 1992). As further construction took place, the square was closed off and The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection was no longer in the forefront, so it no longer dominated the area like it was intended at first. In his project, Kurtović envisioned a one-story building, slightly shifted along the street alignment line, at the same time having in mind the purpose of the object itself and how it would fit in its immediate suroundings. The building is made out of two parts that merge the entrance and the hall, shifted to the side at the central axis. According to the original plans, the ground floor was intended for the curators’ offices and the storage space, while the right portion was intended for the exhibition area. The 1st floor area comprises of six display rooms positioned in such way to create a continuous circular flow. Unevenly partitioned, the floor area has natural clerestory lighting by way of horizontal roof windows. The room on the northeast part of the upper floor was intended for Pavle Beljanski's office, but he never used it. In 1971, this room was turned into the Artists’ Memorial Hall, and has since then became an integral part of the display of the Memorial Collection.

After Pavle Beljanski's death in 1965, his heirs donated paintings, furniture and personal items from his apartment to the Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection. As a result of this donation, it was decided to build another display area, e.g. to construct a new, southeast complex. The new anex was realized according to the project of Katarina Babin and it was finished in September 1966, when the builiding of the Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection was opened for public for the second time. It was harmoniously fitted with the existing object without violating its basic composition. Another curators’ office and storage space were placed on the ground floor of the new annex, and the Pavle Beljanski Memorial Hall was positioned on the 1st floor area of the new annex. The Memorial Hall was opened on 24 November 1968, when the first Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection Award was presented. The exhibition of the Pavle Beljanski Memorial Hall has been opened for public ever since, except during the period of the NATO bombing in 1999, and in 2002/03, when it was temporarily closed for restauration of the exhibited items and the reconstruction of the Hall. During the reconstruction, the roof windows were closed, so today this area is artificially lighted. The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Hall was re-opened for public on June 19th, 2003, on the anniversary of Pavle Beljanski's birth. At that time, Pavle Beljanski’s diplomatic uniform was exhibited for the first time along with other restored items.

The entrance to The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection has a wide marble staircase and a plateau with eaves, supported by two metal posts. Wide glass windows of the portal lighten the hall and the vertical staircase in the bottom of the entrance hall.

Right portion of the space is divided by columns and lighted by wide glass surfaces of the nortwest and the southeast façade. In designing the display areas, Kurtović had in mind different perspectives you get when walking around through the display areas. He also had in mind the needs and the requirements of the Pavle Beljaski’s Collection itself.

From the street, the glass area of the ground floor display area portion is slighty shifted inward and in front of it is a colonnade which supports the shelved portion of the upper floor. The segments of the façade on the left part of the entrance, vertically broken against the plain of the wall, are accented with a balcony on the floor area. The façade of the floor area is shaped as a closed wall membrane. The roof is shifted backwards, and its constructive base is lined with a string of windows. It is topped off with a straight concrete plate.

The discrete architectural shapes of the building were visually enriched with the finishing touch on the façade: the big areas of the building façade were covered with smooth rock plates. In contrast, the entire area of the vertical plain of the eastern façade was covered with rustic stone tiles. The fence of the balcony is a big stone plate with a shallow relief with the monogram of The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection. The rustic stone tiles cover the inside of the hall and the staircase area, while the other areas are mostly smooth and plastered.

Kurtović created the dynamism of space and the contrast between light and darkness by combining modernist architectural motifs from traditional rustic architectural construction, the differences in the processing of the external and internal surfaces, as well as with the use of different textures. As a result, the building of The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection is an exceptional model of the fusion of function, structure and shape.

This somewhat stern look of the building is embelished and subdued with the surrounding greenery. A monumental statue of Nadežda Petrović, built in 1995, stands on the lawn in front of the entrance to the Memorial Collection.

The building of the Memorial Collection is the first building in Novi Sad, and among the first in Yugoslavia, which was built exclusively as a museum space. The value of the object was confirmed with the Decision of the Municipality of Novi Sad on September 24th, 1992, to proclaim it a cultural monument. With its status as a cultural monument and its function The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection represents a significant architectural landmark of Novi Sad, and the whole project of this Collection is among the most successful projects of gallery and museum buidings in the postwar period.