Gallery Square

The original the Gallery Square was formed after the World War I, in the period of city growth when Novi Sad was developed in contemporary style. According to the 1933 city plan, this square was envisioned as a business center. A testimony to that are two buildings from that period, the Stock Exchange and «Habag» building, the focal points of city commerce. The square also had a beautiful park, with a flower garden and a vista of trees. During the period of sudden urban development of Novi Sad after the World War II, square’s connection with city thoroughfares was severed by building of the Maršal Tito Boulevard, today the Mihajlo Pupin Boulevard. In the meantime, Stock Exchange building became Gallery of Matica Srpska in 1947, and in 1961, Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection was officially opened. In 1974, a third exhibition space was opened in the building on the corner of nearby Vasa Stajić Street and Mika Antić Street – The Endowement Collection of Rajko Mamuzić. Only a small number of cultural metropolises can boast three such respectable institutions only a dozen meters away from one another; those three art collections represent the entire modern history of Serbian art: The Gallery of Matica Srpska represents art from the period from 17th to 20th century, The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection shows works from the first half of 20th century, and Rajko The Endowement Collection of Rajko Mamuzić represents the period after the World War II. It could be said that those three museum spaces represent the local version of the «Museum Mile». Their physical proximity and theme continuity are an important prerequisite for organizing joint activities, like theme exhibitions, film projections, promotions, exhibition openings, as well as guided tours. Finally, we should mention the manifestation «Night of the Museums», during which in 2009 around 20000 people passed through these three museums. Besides their artistic value, both temporary exhibition with following programs and permanent exhibitions have an enormous educational potential. It is evident that the significance of exhibited artworks surpasses the local level and that they are recognized as an important cultural factor of an entire region.

We must also mention that the collections are kept in three architecturally interesting buildings, which would certainly present an exceptional view if the square had kept its original look. Additional development intervention enabled the raising of a corporate building that severed the connection between The Pavle Peljanski Memorial Collection and the boulevard. That is why the opposing side of this square is closed off by backside facades of several business buildings. The only thing that brings back the memories of once beautiful square is the park overgrown with trees. The rest of the space is designed for car parking and garbage disposal. For a while, one of the parked cars had a permanent resident, until the vehicle burned down. Such surroundings show us that we live in a world of stark contrasts and conflicted demands which sets up the need to preserve our tradition and culture against everyday needs of an urban environment. But that should not make us resigned with the existing situation. The square itself has a unique urban potential, but for a purpose that is completely different than the one it has now: it should become a place that breathes together with the museums that surround it, but also has a life of its own, just as exciting and sophisticated as the life that goes on behind museum walls. This open space could be a theater or concert stage, a meeting place, a market or a playground, an exhibition space for ambient sculpture, or a place for a fountain and benches – even more desirable for being in the very center of the city, but still away from business or residential areas. It seems that nobody had yet thought of the fact that cars could be parked under the square just as well. The building of an underground garage is the necessary condition for structural synthesis of the square and surrounding museums. On the other hand, the square could provide some of the objects lacking in the museums themselves: a museum library, a gift shop, and a café in which the visitors could rest. The idea of changing the function is not new, neither it is unrealistic. In a city left without its squares for want of parking space (except for the main city square) it is necessary to convince citizens that they are too precious to be used for parking lots and garbage disposal. The squares should be returned to pedestrians, especially Gallery Square, which could offer so much more to people of this city.