National Art Gallery, Sofia
The National Art Gallery, located in a long yellow building right in the city center, showcases over 50,000 pieces of Bulgarian art. Even if you are not a fan of Bulgarian art, you should take a quick look to this building: in fact in the past it used to be the country's royal palace.
The original location of the gallery was somewhere else, but when the monarchy was abolished in 1946, it quickly moved. The reason for this move was simple: the original National Gallery building had been destroyed by the bombing raids in 1943 and 1944. Fortunately none of the paintings and works of art were damaged.
Tues and Thurs 10:00-18:30
National Art Gallery was closed due to renovation of the building so we never went inside. The souvenir store was open though so I took some leaflets with information about the gallery.
National Art Gallery is housed on the west wing of former royal palace and the building itself still looks nice (pics 1-2) but we also walked a bit on the park at the back side of the building where there are some sculptures.
At the same building (on the east wing) you can also visit the ethnographic museum, it was open so we just checked its small collection of traditional clothes but of course it’s not something we will remember for long....
The National Art Gallery occupies the west wing of the former royal palace. The palace was built in 1873 for the Ottoman rulers, after 1877 it became the home of independent Bulgaria's monarchy. Both the collection of art and the buildings interior are said to be impressive. Unfortunately I didn't have chance to look inside. The exterior still gives the building a palatial feel though.
This is a nicely laid out gallery focusing on Bulgarian art from the National Renaissance to the present day. The collection contains works by virtually all the major artists intelligently presented and with little touches of humour.
The permanent exhibition is housed in four rooms on the first and second floors of what was formerly the Royal Palace, a building that it shares with the Ethnographic Museum. The first room introduces early revival portraiture and leads into the main hall where works include those of Bulgaria's acknowledged "The Master" Vladimir Dimitrov. Upstairs is the scuplture gallery where you'll find some amusing arrangements and some striking modern works such as the 1987 "Threat" by Georgi Chapkalov. The fourth room has a separate entrance and focuses on post WW1 development with a couple of relevant Romanians and Greeks thrown in for good measure.
The building itself, as befits a former palace, is also worth taking notice of with ornate cornicing, giltwork, fireplaces and mosaic flooring. However in typical Sofia fashion you'll also note where the plaster is peeling, the odd pothole in the floor and the general disrepair - the roof was leaking in the Scuplture room on my visit adding a few contemporary exhibitions of plastic sheeting and buckets.
The signage is in Bulgarian and English and informatively places the historical evolution of the various movements into context.
The gallery is open from 10 am to 7 pm Tuesday to Saturday and 11 am to 6 pm Sunday (closed Mondays) and the 6 leva entrance fee well worth the money (though note that no photos are allowed).
The former Royal Palace now houses the National Art Gallery and the Ethnographic Museum. They are both closed on Mondays, admission 3lv for each. The National Gallery has a rich collection of Bulgarian art, not a long time ago it opened another section with masterpieces of famous Bulgarian artists.
Behind the building there is a nice small park with statues and moder art that I recommend seeing, check my 'Art in the Park' tip.
The former palace of Knyaz Alexaner Batenberg is one of the buildings with the richest history in Sofia. In 1816 here was burned the sarai of the turkish pasha. On its emplacement in 1873 was built a prison ( "konak" in turkish ) . In its basements was convinced to death the Apostle of Freedom - Vasil Levski. The central entrance wit a big balcony is existing till the present day ,but after being reconstructed. In 1879 the building becomes the residence of Knyaz Alexander Batenberg. He ordered a first reconstruction of the building that was made between 1880 and 1882 by the architects Rumpelmayer, Kolar and Mayerberg. On New Years Eve 1882 the first elite society ball took place here. In beween 1893 and 1895 the Palace has been reconstructed again after the plans on the austrian architect Grunanger - it is extended with its Eastern wing. The building contains elements of Renaissance ,Viennese Baroque - reminding of the french palaces of XVIII century . In the end 40ties and beginning of 50ties of the XX century here were located the Council of the Ministers of People's Republic of Bulgaria and the Supreme Party .
In 1954 here were moved the National art gallery and the National Ethnogrphic museum.
In 1978 the building was declared a Monument of culture.