« iPhone 4 SLR mount | Home | What is it? »

September 8, 2011

World's most expensive art gallery cost $4.6 billion and took 20 years to build


How is it that you've never heard of it?

That's because it started life as a last resort WWIII redoubt that almost no one knew existed until recently.

Excerpts from Ginanne Brownell's story in Monday's New York Times follow.


Begun in the 1950s and completed in the late 1970s, the bunker is built into the green and lush hillside overlooking the tumbling Nevetra River, an hour from Sarajevo, near Konjic, in central Herzegovina, where it's surrounded by conifer peaks and valleys. Costing more than $4.6 billion, it was intended as a shelter for President Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia and 350 elites of the army in case of a nuclear attack.


The existence and location of the bunker remained top secret during and even after the wars that broke up Yugoslavia, and few people outside of the military were allowed into this cold war relic until now. 

Since May it has been open for the contemporary-art exhibition "No Network: Time Machine Biennial," a mainly site-specific project exhibiting 44 artists from 17 countries through Sept. 27. Edo Hozic, the director of the show, said he hoped that the D-O ARK Underground, the name for the bunker complex (using an acronym for the Atomic War Command), would become a permanent museum for contemporary art.

"I think this is the most expensive museum ever built in human history," he said jokingly. 

Mr. Hozic said that organizing the show involved more than 500 meetings with the local government, the Ministry of Defense (which remains in charge of the bunker but has plans to decommission the site), regional governments, the European Union and international agencies.

The atmosphere of creativity they developed focused on more than the physical space of the bunker. The compound, designed in the shape of a horseshoe, is cooler than the temperature outside. It is musty, with a slight smell of mildew, and at the entrance of the bunker there are wet patches on the floor from condensation.

Screen Shot 2011-09-06 at 2.16.10 PM

The exhibition has posed logistical problems. Bosnian soldiers based at the bunker have been charged with guiding visitors, meaning that anyone who wants to stop and reflect a bit longer on a piece can get left behind in the echoing corridors. It is also difficult to find information because the tourism authority in Konjic sets tour times and organizes transport to the bunker, but it does not have a Web site.

Mr. Lulic, however, said that it was amazing that the project happened at all.

"I think one should not forget it is still a military complex," he said. "That is the advantage and disadvantage of a country in transition. It's chaotic, but then maybe it's easier to do a show like this than in a more regulated country. You could never do a biennial in Fort Knox."


That is the understatement of the century to date. 


September 8, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference World's most expensive art gallery cost $4.6 billion and took 20 years to build:


Ah yes, the Yugoslav stop is one past Cockfosters on the Picadilly Line.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Sep 8, 2011 1:04:04 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.