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Museum of Contemporary Art - Sofia Arsenal Front facade, Source: TodorBelomorski on Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Bulgarian ministries team up to bridge the gap between art and business

Bulgarian ministries team up to bridge the gap between art and business

Sofia Arsenal – Museum for Contemporary Art will get a total makeover to become the go to place for young artists and entrepreneurs in the cultural sector

Yesterday, the Bulgarian Minister of Economy Kiril Petkov and Minister of Culture Velislav Minekov visited the Sofia Arsenal – Museum for Contemporary Art and announced plans to revitalise the fledgling institution, giving a substantial boost to the visual art scene in the city. The plan features renovations, a scholarship programme and the creation of ties with investors and private patrons.

According to the ministers from the caretaker government, there is enormous potential in Sofia Arsenal as a place where business can meet culture, promoting patronage and supporting young artists. They presented their new concept, including finishing the building’s reconstruction and expanding its functions as a modern art space.

From artillery munitions’ factory to cultural hotspot

Sofia Arsenal was built in 1916 and the building has served as a munitions factory and warehouse. Since the building was spacious with its three floors, from the 1930s until the end of World War II, it was home to the Academy for Reserve Military Officers.

In the 1970s, the Communist government handed the building over to the newly created National Gallery for Decorative and Applied Arts and they managed the location until 2003.

Then, after an eight-year period of uncertainty, the Sofia Arsenal - Museum for Contemporary Art started operating at this location.

The reconstruction of the building started in 2009 and lasted until 2014, however, the project covered only the façade and first floor. Sadly, the other two floors remain unpainted, with bare bricks and exposed loadbearing wooden columns.

Planning for a multifaceted future

The plan for Sofia Arsenal envisions the building becoming a meeting place of culture and economy, leading to a more sustainable sector. It should be a place for contemporary artistic innovation, as well as a breeding ground for entrepreneurs in the art sector.

To foster this spirit of innovation, the Ministry of Economy will lead the charge in finding investors and representatives of the cultural industry as well as corporate and private patrons, directing them all to the new hotspot.

Kiril Petkov, Bulgaria’s Minister of Economy, remarked that authorities are already working on an architectural plan for the reconstruction of the second and third floors. Preliminary estimation totals out at around one million euros - a good deal considering the project’s ambitious goals.

Yet the added value in the ministers' overarching strategy does not come from the money they will invest there. Instead, this strategy involves creating a space where actors from the cultural sector can meet and develop on their own, without the state’s help.   

Culture Minister, Velislav Minekov said that there is currently no money in his ministry's budget for the project, however, he is working hard and his intention is to secure the funds. According to him, the project can be helped along with investment from cultural foundations and private patrons or with EU funds.

At the same time, he expressed his opinion that Sofia Arsenal can be much more than a gallery. It could become a stage for concerts and film festivals, or it can even offer space for studios on its attic floor.

He promised to pursue the creation of a scholarship programme with the National Culture Fund for supporting young artists for at least three to five years.

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