An Art Lover's Guide to Romania

Take a walk in Romania's art gallery © Pavel Bibiksarov / Flickr
Take a walk in Romania's art gallery © Pavel Bibiksarov / Flickr
Romania is a country that never ceases to surprise. In recent decades, the art scene has become very dynamic, with famous artists, film producers, and international festivals that have caught the attention of the worldwide media. From classical to contemporary art, from music to theatre and cinema, from painting to sculpture and photography, Romania offers a broad artistic scene that can satisfy any art lover.

Folk art

What is absolutely great in Romania is that both traditional and contemporary art are complementary and defining for the national art scene. If you want to discover the authentic local art, there are some not-to-miss places where you will be immersed in the folk artistry: the National Museum of Romanian Paysan in Bucharest, introducing you to the traditional and naive art and the National Museum of Painted Eggs in Moldovita, an exhibition of the local artist’s Lucia Condrea stunning artworks.

Painted eggs © KLMircea / Flickr

On the other hand, if you want to learn how to wood-carve, play traditional music, sculpt and paint crosses, or weave, then you should sign up for the “Long Way to the Merry Cemetery” festival in Maramures and attend the craft workshops. Become a traditional artist yourself!

Contemporary art

While contemporary art galleries have opened all over the country in recent years, there are two cities where every contemporary art lover should go: Bucharest and Cluj. The capital houses the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the biggest one of his kind in the country, featuring art exhibitions, concerts, film projections, artists talks, workshops, and contemporary performances. The contemporary art scene of Bucharest is completed by contemporary art galleries and art-related events like Art Safari, an annual exhibition that gathers national and international artists invited to display their work. In 2017, the Notes on a Landscape exhibition offered visitors an opportunity to explore Romanian artworks and artists, from classic paintings to contemporary art.

On the opposite side of the country, Cluj offers an array of art galleries and a remarkable Paintbrush Factory, an old factory converted into an independent cultural space, counting 20 contemporary artists, five galleries, four cultural organizations, and two performance rooms. The world-known artist Adrian Ghenie has his artworks exhibited in the Plan B gallery of the Paintbrush Factory, together with other widely exhibited Romanian artists like photographer Alexandra Croitoru and sculptor Rudolf Bone, best known for his quaint sculptures.

Adrian Ghenie artwork © Sergio Calleja / Flickr

New Wave cinema

Romania’s art is not only about art galleries and museums. It’s also about amazing movies. New Wave film directors like Cristian Mungiu and Cristi Puiu had their productions selected for the Cannes Film Festival in 2016. For Cristian Mungiu, it wasn’t the first time on the red carpet, since in 2007 he won the Palme d’Or for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, and in 2012 he won the Best Screenplay prize for his film Beyond the Hills. The 2016 edition brought him the Best Director prize for his film Baccalauréat.

Even if Cristi Puiu’s film Sierranevada didn’t win at the Cannes competition, his movie The Death of Mister Lazarescu has marked his career, winning four prizes at international festivals like Cannes or the Chicago International Film Festival in 2005. With authentic, inspired-from-real-life stories, their films are showcasing the society’s evolution after the fall of Communism in a way that is both striking and original.

Street art festivals

If spending your time in a cinema or art gallery doesn’t please you, then get out and be surprised by the amazing performances and festivals that bring art into the streets. The Bucharest Street Theatre Festival is the biggest festival of its kind in the country, and during the entire month of July 40 shows and 300 artists enliven the city’s neighborhoods. In Sibiu, the Sibiu International Street Art Festival, organized by the Transylvania Art Factory, aims to “Revitalize the urban space through art.” During the festival, exhibitions, workshops, concerts, live painting sessions, and a street art tour are organized.

Graffiti in Bucharest © Giuseppe Milo / Flickr

Classical music events

Every year, in September, Bucharest hosts the George Enescu Classical Music Festival, an event that pays tribute to Romania’s most appreciated music composer. The event gathers world-famous orchestras and opera companies like the Russian National Orchestra or Scala di Milano for three weeks that are filled with heavenly concerts and marvelous operas. Cluj, for its part, through the Transylvanian Philharmonic, organizes the “Cluj’s Musical Autumn” festival. The second most important classical music event in Romania, the festival features symphonic concerts, vocal-symphonic representations, chamber music recitals, a Classical Jam Session, and a CineConcert. In recent years, the festival has also included jazz concerts, traditional music concerts, and movie music, in an attempt to diversify what they offer and to attract a wider public.

A festival for photography lovers

Photo Romania Festival is the biggest event dedicated to the art of photography in Romania. During a week in October, the organizers bring together hundreds of photographs willing to show their artwork and to promote the art of photography. During the festival, both Romanian and international artists expose their work and specialized workshops, conferences, an international meeting of the photography festivals’ managers, and concerts are organized. Moreover, one of the goal’s of the festival is to give specialized photography training. For this, the Photo Romania Academy was created, offering several workshops in October held by professionals.

Wall of photos. { #phr2015 #phrfestival #picturemore #clujnapoca }

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