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News > Culture

Portraits of Communist Albania's Women Recall Different Reality

  • Visitors stand in front of the painting

    Visitors stand in front of the painting "The Brigadier" by Albanian artist Spiro Kristo during the "Documenta 14" art exhibition in Athens. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 May 2017

The paintaings are in a sense modernist icons for the only society in the world that was officially atheist.

Three women stare down from the gallery wall ; colorful, defiant and imbued with a spirit of working for the many not the few.

They are a brigadier, a factory worker and a youth volunteer with a hoe. They are paintings of socialist realism. They are also all Albanian women from the time of Enver Hoxha, who created one of the world's most closed societies until his death in 1985.

Visitors to Greece's capital have a relatively rare opportunity to see Hoxha-era art on display outside its regular home in Tirana's National Gallery of Art.

The portraits are part of documenta 14, the Kassel, Germany-based exhibition of Western European modern art that this year is being hosted both in Kassel and Athens.

Hundreds of documenta 14 displays are to be found in museums across the Greek city until July, with the three women portraits among the offerings at EMST, the National Museum of Contemporary Art located in the old but renovated Fix brewery building.

As Edi Muka, an Albanian art critic and curator notes of Shoshi's factory worker, "representations of motherhood as constitutive of women’s central role in religious art are carefully removed."

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