The new times. 90s and 2000s

By In 2000s, 90s, Biography

The new times. 90s and 2000s

Geopolitical changes in the world and specifically in Bulgaria also affected art. In a relatively short time, the state radically changed its attitude towards all types of art and, in particular, towards monumental arts. Political uncertainty and the economic crisis almost completely block this activity, because without state funding and politics, it cannot be done.

All possible commissions for the synthesis of the arts and the urban environment have been closed, and the “Combinat for Decorative and Monumental Arts” in Plovdiv has also been closed – through which all the activity, realization and financing of such objects as the Buzludzha Monument passed. State procurement stagnates, the interest of the institutions is redirected to other spheres – show business, sports.

Naturally, Viktor Todorov was also involved in these processes. He found a partial way out in painting. In the mid-1990s, in 1995, he held a large solo exhibition in Plovdiv, at the Exhibition Hall on Gladstone Street. He presented painterly canvases, sculptural figures, heads and busts. During the same period, he participated with paintings in other smaller galleries and art spaces. The motifs were mainly landscapes, he also included scenes from his stay in the Kingdom of Morocco. All those paintings were bought immediately and we have no photographic material.

The new time and realities in the 1990s forced a new attitude towards art. My father very often made gifts or sold his paintings at symbolic prices. This altruistic attitude and broad-mindedness of his own affairs most likely came from his lack of financial care in the earlier periods of his life. In most cases this lack of mercantilism was not appreciated. Rather, those who acquired these works were happy that they went cheap and did not understand the real value of the work, nor the content, nor the gesture. Even so far, some artists in Bulgaria experience difficulty in evaluating, managing and forming a market value in art.

About KDMA, its importance for the public environment and its end.

“Viktor Todorov is one of the best Plovdiv sculptors, who has been present for a very long time in the artistic life of our city. I have known him since I graduated from the art academy in 1990, just when the stormy changes in our society took place. I started working at the former “Kombinat for decorative and monumental arts (KDMA)” in Plovdiv and officially attended the art council. At that time, the chairman of this council was Viktor Todorov. He held this position until the system completely disintegrated. And the entire artistic life and everything that was done in the public space was organized on this system.

At that time, the law stated that for each public building, 2% of its value should be set aside to realize a synthesis between architecture and art. This law ensured the publicity of monumental art, i.e. in every new building, art should be present in some way, be it as sculpture, mosaics, wall paintings, woodwork, metalwork, ceramic panels, etc. In this way, CDMA was able to maintain both its artistic council and its collective of people, most of whom were professionals – artists who undertook the implementation and realization of winning projects and competitions. It was a very serious form and organization so that random things would not enter the public space, there would be no kitsch, bad taste and unprofessionalism. I would like to say that unfortunately there is no such structure at the moment.

Viktor Todorov was the man who chaired this art council, and for me it was a real-world education and unparalleled experience of how art took on its directly applied character in the synthesis of public space. Since then, I have also been in contact with Viktor – always well-intentioned, cordial, always ready to help a younger colleague, to make corrections, to come to the rescue. In general, Viktor Todorov was indeed a colleague with high artistic taste and a very positive attitude towards creativity, regardless of whether it was created by young or old. Qualities, I would say, that others of his rank could not boast of. After these artistic councils ceased to work and the structure and organization of artistic life changed, I have seen Viktor only on a friendly basis.”

interview with George Trak, artist, sculptor, owner of TrackArt Cultural Center, January 2023.
Viktor Todorov (below) before the opening of the Monument to Kocho Chestimenski

The missing bust of Ivan Vazov

“I remember that in the 1990s, metal shafts began to be stolen from municipal areas, parks, alleys, streets and sidewalks. Even in front of the municipality they had stolen a lot and a big scandal broke out. One morning I went to work and saw that the bust of Ivan Vazov is not on the pedestal in the Dondukov Garden. It turned out it was stolen because it was made of bronze. Those were turbulent years. Money was devalued and such a mafia was born for mass theft of ferrous and non-ferrous metals from municipal property.

I talked to Viktor and asked him to restore the bust of Ivan Vazov. He agreed and said that he would do the project and the author’s performance without fee, but he would not be able to finance the stone and the stonemasons. Then I talked with the chairman of the Municipal Council and we decided to create an Initiative Committee to raise funds and restore missing and damaged monuments. Not all organizations were willing to donate funds, but some responded. Thanks to my contacts with the mayor of Bratsigovo at that time, he agreed to donate the necessary stone block format. Viktor went to pick it up and we arranged and financed the transport. The monument was done in no time, thanks to Viktor, who waived any royalties and we practically only paid what was necessary to the stonemasons. This happened around 1997-1998.”

interview with Kiril Hristozov, January 2023.

Involuntary orders

The first years of the transition are filled with vulgarity, tastelessness, mediocrity and lack of any aesthetic criteria. A social layer emerged from the underground world, which legitimized itself as the bearer of the new values, thanks to the quickly acquired financial opportunities and corruption addictions.

Viktor did not give up sculpture, but he had to “choose” the form and scale. There were orders for decorative and not so decorative (since he was not a decorator) statues – mostly of female reclining figures: for villas, courtyard spaces, fountains. Clients were people who wanted to rub themselves in his work and often ordered unsustainable aesthetic plots. Some of them were also financially incorrect due to the nature of the stratum from which they originate.

Princess Diana.

Viktor received an order from a businessman in Markovo to make a monument to Princess Diana, whose death was very recent, in front of his villa. The municipality must coordinate permits and discuss the project. The information reaches the mayor of one of the neighboring villages, which leads to a competition: “As soon as the people of Markovo build a monument to Diana, we will build a monument to Monica Lewinsky.” The monument was never completed.

Triumph of the hormone

Once my father asked me to help him make a quick order – “The topic is stupid, but I need the money.” The order was “Triumph of the Hormone” and consisted of shapeless objects in the shape of “barbarones” in different colors – an absolute shocker. A photo from some western magazine was provided, as a model. I spent some time preparing the “work”, but this “guarantor-patron” never appeared again.

The dagger

An example of customer orders and wishes can be seen in Viktor Todorov’s sketches for the planned (unrealized) monument in honor of Hristo Stoichkov (football player, with nickname “The Dagger”), Link:

The new monuments

Despite the changed working conditions and vicissitudes of the new era, Viktor Todorov has continued to create monumental art. The monuments are located in an urban environment, and orders came from initiative committees and private donors.