120 is the number of artworks that are believed to be found in the National Palace of Culture building and the surrounding area. And we think it’s even more if we add the more contemporary artifacts such as graffiti and newer statues in the park. The interiors of the palace are in fact one of the most remarkable and well-preserved examples of the so-called “architectural-artistic synthesis” popular during the time of the socialist regime. What this means is that balance, coherence and harmony was achieved between the architecture and all levels of interior design with the works of art scattered abundantly throughout all corners of the National Palace of Culture.
Since the creation of the National Palace of Culture, some of the most gifted artists of their time have worked on the Palace, including Georgi Chapkanov, prof. Anton Donchev and Svetlin Rusev. Since it took place during the socialist era, their collaboration was led by a State Commission of the Union of Artists and Architects, headed by Acad. Dechko Uzunov.
The work of the large team of artists was carried out with the support of the representatives of the state power, personified by the greatest champion of Bulgarian art and culture of that time – Lyudmila Zhivkova, together with Georgi Yordanov. Contrary to the perception of this historical period, however, the artists had great creative freedom, which is why the artworks in the National Palace of Culture do not contain the artistic symbols typical of the first decades of totalitarian power.
Among the most notable symbols of the National Palace of Culture is the “Sun” by the sculptor Georgi Chapkanov. In his memoirs, Chapa claims that the work was initially met with disapproval. According to some political figures, the wheat ears used in the stylized sun symbolized the Bulgarian People’s Union of Agriculture, rather than the leading Bulgarian Communist Party. In fact, the sculpture is inspired by Renaissance carved ceilings and contains no party messages. The sculptor says that during her lifetime Lyudmila Zhivkova assisted in the temporary installation of the work, which took place in 1982 – a year after her death. In addition to The Sun, another work by Chapa can be seen in the National Palace of Culture – the metal sculpture “And We Have Given Something to the World” in the eastern lobby on the first floor. Since then, Georgi Chapkanov has created a number of elements of the Sofia cityscape.
In the central foyer of the Palace, visitors are welcomed by the bronze sculpture “Revival” by the master Dimitar Boykov, a student of Marko Markov and creator of the monument of Patriarch Evtimiy in Sofia. The statue symbolizes the new beginning of Bulgarian culture, the emblem of which is the National Palace. The background is the work “The Flames” by Mikhail Benchev. It was conceived as a complement to the Renaissance figure and, like many of the works in the Palace, uses the figure of fire as a symbol of light and culture. Due to the inability to use chemicals on the flooring in the central foyer, the panel was treated with a mixture of beeswax and bitumen to preserve it from oxidation, a technique known from the time of Babylon.
Many visitors to Hall 1 will undoubtedly remember the most lavish metal curtain – a panel of shimmering circular metal elements by Dimo Minkov Zaimov. However, few know that his work is called “Sun” and, in keeping with the theme of many of the works in the palace, builds on and develops the solar theme as a metaphor for culture and enlightenment.
In the first half of the 1930s, the sculptor Andrei Nikolov created the image of the lion from the Monument to the Unknown Warrior. The full-scale enlargement was made by his colleague Kiril Shivarov. The plaster original was kept for a long time in the yard of the sculptor Ivan Lazarov’s home on Blvd. “Vasil Levski” № 56. In 1996, the model was brought to the National Palace of Culture and today it is located at the A6 entrance of the Palace.
One of the most recognizable symbols of the National Palace of Culture is the emblematic zhar-bird (phoenix), formed by curved stripes-rays, which is depicted on the original logo of the palace. It can most often be seen on the door handles. The emblem is the work of the legendary Stefan Kanchev, who left a high standard in Bulgarian graphic design through the hundreds of logos and symbols that we still see everywhere today.
If we have managed to arouse your interest, continue your virtual tour in this phenomenal “gallery” on the National Palace of Culture website, where there is quite a bit of information about the works in the palace.
The articles for the project “NDK is #soSofia” were developed by Viktor Topalov, author at “Bohemian Sofia” in collaboration with the #soSofia team.
The project uses visual archives from the National Film Centre, the State Agency “Archives”, the Bulgarian Visual Archive and information from the following sources:
Miloshev, Yordan, NDK – memories of builders | Sp. 1 – 1982, 6 – 1984, 3-4 – 1986 | Mircheva, Simona, Palace in the Life of the City | Tromkov, Ilia. National Palace of Culture “Lyudmila Zhivkova” | Milev, Ivo. “The Life and Death of Lyudmila Zhivkova | BNT. Aleksandrova, Albena. Kovachev, Oleg. Study of beauty from within | omda.bg. Interview – Gyurov, Vasil. Gyurov, Konstantin. Places of everyday life. Cravaai. | Langova, Sonya. Shofelinov, Ivan. Cohen, Emil. Film – We from Kravay. | Trifonova, Teodora. BTV News. 18.07.2017 Ready project for the soldiers’ memorial has been there for years. | Veselinov, Veselin. Liternet. Memorial to the fallen of the 1st and 6th infantry regiments. | NDK Press Center | ndk.bg | newtheatre.bg | Thank you for talking to the NDK teams. | All Day NDK. | DJ GIORGIO. | Sofia Graffiti Tour.
The NDK is #soSofia project is realized with the support of the Cultural Heritage Entrepreneurship Programme of the National Culture Fund and the help of our loyal friends from Storytel, Fashion Days, Beefeater and DEVIN.