Ilija Bašičević Bosilj

Ilija Bašičević Bosilj
Ilija's Breath
11–31 October 2017

Ilija’s Art

“The paintings signed Ilija (in Cyrillic letters) by a shaky hand have been, ever since they appeared back in 1957, an inexplicable mystery for their numerous critics who can claim with certainty only one thing about these paintings: they exemplify a stunningly high-quality art, which evades all constraints of its origin, stylistic classification, historical movement and cultural context…
The scenes and figures, which have no recognizable features of our world, are introduced (distributed, or lined alongside, above or beneath each other) on a strictly two-dimensional plane, in which there is not a single trace of spatial illusionism and where the substance of color applied with extreme sensitivity is the direct bearer of the expression and sensibility, or in a word, of the very fascination of the painting. Bosilj’s paintings are indeed painted or visualized stories, but in these paintings which fundamentally speak of the two-sided human destiny and the two-faced human nature (life-death, good-evil, beautiful-ugly, truth-lie, etc.), which are existential basics, all narration is condensed into emblematic figures, archetypal images and timeless symbols…
Whether Bosilj is a supposedly “naïve” artist, or some other kind, is totally irrelevant today, at the end of a century which has seen enormous extremes in art, but also great achievements within those extremes, what matters is that Bosilj is a very idiosyncratic artist, who is easily recognizable as such in the contemporary world of art in general.”

– Ješa Denegri


Ilija Bašičević Bosilj
(born 1895, Šid, Austro-Hungarian Empire, died 1972, Šid, Yugoslavia)
Born into a peasant’s family, Ilija spent most of his life working on land and in his vineyard. During World War II, Ilija had to flee from his hometown to Vienna, due to the fact that the Nazi regime sentenced both Ilija and his two sons to death. While living in Vienna, Ilija contracted severe tuberculosis and had to return home, where his hard working life had to be slowed down because of the illness. After the communists took away his land, Ilija began a new chapter of his life and started to paint. Since 1957 when the first drawings were made, till his death in 1972, Ilija was a painter. The fact that his older son was a well-known art critic Dimitrije Bašičević (today much better known as an internationally acclaimed conceptual artist Mangelos) made people doubt that Ilija was really the author of his paintings, so in 1965, Ilija was forced to paint in front of a commission in Zagreb. It is the only case in art history, when an artist was put in such a position in order to prove that he is really the author of his paintings.
As a painter, Ilija painted passionately, every day and most often late at night. Art became his religion and his profession. His works were exhibited worldwide and very early he got his first professional contract, namely he was represented by the Galerie Hilt in Basel. Jean Dubuffet acquired seven Ilija’s paintings in 1963 and Max Bill included Ilija in his private collection.
Ilija has created over 2000 paintings and drawings. A significant part of them is being kept in the Ilijanum Museum in Šid, Serbia. In 2007, the London-based Raw Art Magazine selected Ilija as one of the top 50 classics of art brut in the world. On several occasions, his works were exhibited alongside those of Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky, Chagall, Darger, and Rousseau.


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Ilija Bašičević Bosilj, Ilija's Breath
11–31 October 2017
KiBela / MMC KIBLA, Ulica kneza Koclja 9, Maribor

Opening 11 October 2017
Kurated by Ivana Bašičević Antić and Peter Tomaž Dobrila
On display until 31 October 2017

Production: Association Code Blue and Fond Ilija & Mangelos.

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KiBela / MMC KIBLA, Ulica kneza Koclja 9, Maribor, Slovenia
Monday–Friday: 9:00–22:00 / Saturday: 16:00–22:00

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ACE KIBLA is co-funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Maribor. Project RISK CHANGE (2016–2020) is co-financed by the Creative Europe program of the European Union.

ACE KIBLA is a member of M3C, Multimedia Centers Network of Slovenia; International Platform X-OP eXchange of Operators and Producers; and McRU, Network of Slovenian Arts Research Centers.

Photo: Kristijan Robič, Kibla archive



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