Contemporary Art

Influences and non-influences: Recollections and reflections of Robert Smithson exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, 1983

Beginning with the exhibition titled “Savremena umetnost u SAD” (“Modern Art in the United States”), which was held in the summer of 1956 at the Art Pavilion in Kalemegdan, up until the end of the seventies, a multitude of significant exhibitions were held in Belgrade as offered by American institutions  through the United States Information Agency (USIA). One could conclude that another such packet of “public diplomacy” had arrived with Robert Smithson’s retrospective exhibition, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade (then MSU, today MSUB) in the fall of 1983; however, this was not the case. Although the American government supported the exhibition, the idea for the exhibition came, above all else, from an initiative that was set into motion by two experts: Robert Hobbs, the curator of the exhibition and professor at Cornell University; and Professor Ješa Denegri, who, at that time, was the curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade. As such, unlike earlier projects and exhibitions the American side unilaterally offered, this exhibition arose based on the interest of both parties. For the history of art in Yugoslavia and Serbia, it is important to mention that Smithson’s retrospective was the one and only retrospective exhibition of any artist related to the New Art Practice movement that was in Belgrade in the 20th century.

Presentation and Discussion

Taking part in the discussion:
Branislav Dimitrijević, Prota Škart, Ješa Denegri, Ana Miljanić, Milica Tomić, Jelena Vesić, Ljubica Slavković


  • 1973 -

    Robert Smithson dies in a helicopter crash near Amarillo, Texas, along with his cameraman and pilot, while filming the artist’s final work, Amarillo Ramp.

  • 1980 -

    Robert Smithson’s retrospective exhibition at in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The curator of the exhibition is Robert Hobbs.

  • 1981 -

    Cornell University Press publishes the monograph Robert Smithson—Sculpture with texts by Robert Hobbs, Lawrence Alloway, John Coplans, and Lucy R. Lippard.

  • 1982 -

    Smithson’s retrospective is taken to the American Pavilion at the 40th Biennale in Venice. The curator of the exhibition is Robert Hobbs. At this event Hobbs meets the curator of the Yugoslavian Pavilion, Ješa Denegri, which brings about the idea for the exhibition to be taken to Belgrade in the following year.

  • 1983 -

    From September 1 through October 30 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, the exhibition Robert Smitson: Retrospektivni pregled (Robert Smithson: A Retrospective View) is held. The United States Information Service (USIS) and the Republic’s Association for Culture of the Socialist Republic of Serbia (Republička Zajednica Kulture Socijalističke Republike Srbije) support the exhibition.



Dr. Branislav Dimitrijević is a professor of history and art theory at Visoka Škola Likovnih i Primenjenih Umetnosti Strukovnih Studija (The College of Fine and Applied Arts) in Belgrade and a guest lecturer at art institutions and universities abroad. His research is in the field of modern, avant-garde and contemporary art, and above all, in art and culture in socialist Yugoslavia. He has written books and exhibition catalogues including: O normalnosti – Umetnost u Srbiji 1989-2001 (About Normality: Art in Serbia 1989-2001) (2005); Ovo nikad nije bilo – Slikarstvo Predraga Neškovića (This never even happened: The Paintings of Predrag Nešković) (2014); Protiv umetnosti: Goran Đorđević – Kopije (Against Art: Goran Đorđević – Copies) (2015), among others; and, from the mid 1990s, he has served as the curator for contemporary art exhibitions including: Gud Lajf – Fizički narativi i prostorne imaginacije (Good Life: Physical Narratives and Spatial Imaginations), 52nd October Salon (Geozavod, Belgrade, 2012); No Network (Atomic bunker, Konjic, Bosnia and Hercegovina, 2011); FAQ Serbia (ACF, New York, 2010); U raskoraku – izmeštanje, saosećanje i humor u savremenoj britanskoj umetnosti (Breaking Step – displacement, compassion and humour in recent art from Britain) (MSU, Belgrade, 2007), and others. His published books include: Potrošeni socijalizam – Kultura, konzumerizam i društvena imaginacija u Jugoslaviji (1950-1974) (Consumed Socialism: Culture, Consumerism and Social Imagination in Yugoslavia (1950-1974)), Fabrika Knjiga, 2016; Slatki film Dušana Makavejeva (Dušan Makavejev’s Sweet Movie), MSUB, 2017, among others.

The main impetus for his interest in contemporary art and art theory was Robert Smithson’s retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade in 1983.


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