Colour is Joy – the Politeo Collection
Umjetnici : Yakov Agam, Arman, Philipe Berry, Corneille Beverlo, Boris Bućan, Christo, Salvador Dali, Gudmundur Erró, Jean-Michele Folon, Gilbert & George, Keith Haring, Shen Jingdong, Peter Klasen, Manabu Kochi, Jannis Kounellis, Kriki, Fernand Leger, Helge Leiberg, Karl Erik Lindström, Andras Markos, Patrick Moya, Mimmo Palladino, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Bernard Rancillac, Fukao Rikizo, James Rosenquist, Daisuke Samejima, Roger Selden, Antonio Segui, Jesus Rafael Soto, Haruhiko Sunagawa, Richard Texier, Victor Vasarely, Zlatan Vrkljan, Andy Warhol
Curator: Branko Franceschi
The National Museum of Modern Art is opening the year 2021 with a celebration of colour and form in works of art selected from Toni Politeo’s Collection. The Politeo Collection of paintings, objects and graphic art pieces comprises over 400 works by Croatian and foreign artists, and was collected in an international cultural environment that Politeo has been surrounded by, unburdened by the investment aspects of collecting art. The aesthetic criterion based on which the collection has been built is personal, which means that it does not take account of trends and a set of established values, and that it fully reflects the personality of its owner. For people like Toni Politeo, being part of the arts scene is a way of living life to the full. He lives from and for art, he collaborates and associates with artists, does business with them, works of art are produced, exchanged and enjoyed in his private space. However, although Politeo’s life is primarily tied to Croatia’s arts scene – and bipolarly so with him spending winters in Zagreb and summers in Stari Grad on the Island of Hvar – his collection features an intense international dimension. The wide range of Politeo’s work and business activities in the field of fine arts (let us not lose sight of the fact that he was one of the first private gallerists and graphic art folio producers) have led him to global art centres where he made acquaintances, formed friendships and initiated collaborations thanks to being a jovial interlocutor and art enthusiast, without ever being impeded by provincialism typical of Croatia. Politeo is the embodiment – in his very own way – of an international cultural practice which is based on equal collaboration which Croatia lacks. Like any collection, Politeo’s Collection reflects the spirit and worldview of its collector. Anyone who has ever been to his basement studio in Zagreb’s Medulićeva Street has been refreshed like I have by the colourful chaos of works of art, memorabilia, design objects, multiples, graphic sheets, dedications, photographs and, last but not least, the colourful character of the collector himself who – given his style – fits perfectly into the environment of the intensity of gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art in translation from German). Regardless of the fact that Politeo’s Collection is a product of his path of life and style more so than the result of a collection strategy, it clearly reflects the modernist aesthetic code which he cherishes and which does not discriminate between works of art created around Zagreb’s British Square and those that have been birthed at different European, Asian and American destinations – Politeo treats them all equally.
Toni Politeo was born in 1951 in Belgrade. After having graduated from the School of Applied Arts and Design, and the Teachers’ Academy of Fine Arts, in 1974 he became a member of the Croatian Association of Artists of Applied Arts in Zagreb and a professional freelance artist. He worked as a graphic designer and external associate on the design of posters and packaging for the clients of Zagreb’s Interpublic design studio. In the same year, he held the first auction of works of art at the Forum Gallery, which laid the groundwork for all further auctions in both Yugoslavia and Croatia. With the approval of the then Minister of Culture, Stipe Šuvar, in the Renaissance castle of poet Petar Hektorović in Stari Grad on the Island of Hvar, in 1978 Politeo opened a private gallery, the first in Yugoslavia and the entire Eastern Bloc. The Olympic Committee appointed him as selector of the Naive Art exhibition held in Sarajevo during the 1984 Winter Olympics. In 2003, celebrating at Zagreb Airport the centenary of the Wright brothers’ first flight, he organised the international Air Exhibition presenting 230 models of airplanes hand-painted by artists. As a gallerist, he exhibited at international gallerist festivals and fairs: Art Expo, New York, 1981; Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, 1984; SAGA 89, Grand Palais, Paris; 1st Tokyo International Art Fair (TIAF), Tokyo, 1991; Ars-Antiquitas-Flora (AFA), Ljubljana, 1991; ARCO, Madrid, 1993; Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum, Japan, 2008; Shenzhen, China, 2018. In 1996 the Politeo Gallery became the Politeo Collection, whose holdings boast over 400 works of art and artefacts, all thanks to Politeo’s social connections and collaborations with world artists. The specificity of the Politeo Collection is the publication of graphic art limited edition folios, of which the following should be singled out: Homage to Petar Hektorović in Celebration of the 500th Anniversary of His Birth, 1987; Mare Nostrum – Zlatko Prica, 1988; Homage to Paris, 1989; Boris Bućan – 30 of His Most Beautiful Posters, 1990; Pope in Zagreb, 1994 and 1998; The Golden Gate of Split – Walter Valentini, 1995; 1700 Years of Split, 1995; Jakov Bratanić – The Small Churches of the Island of Hvar, 1997; Homage to Federico Garcia Lorca, in collaboration with 50 contemporary artists, 2004. He is currently working on a folio dedicated to Bertolt Brecht. Most of the collection is mounted in the castle of the Renaissance poet Petar Hektorović on the Island of Hvar. Toni Politeo lives and works commuting between the Island of Hvar and Zagreb.
Translated by: Ana Janković