The Art Museum – the Baia Mare Cultural Artistic Centre is installed in a massive 18th century building (No. 8, 1 Mai Street). At the first stage of its existence (starting from 1748) there were only the basement and the ground floor. The upper floor was built in the 19th century and the room facing No. 1 Secondary School was added in the middle of the 20th century.
Initially, the destination of the building had been for the Salinary Offices and the salt deposit (in the basement). One hundred years later, it became the seat of a bank, and then, a private house. After the nationalization, it became the seat of the Maramures County Museum (since 1954), and finally its destination has become to house the art section of the Museum. Due to the decentralization of this county institution (2007), the Art Museum – Baia MareCultural Artistic Centre has become an independent cultural entity, under the patronage of the County Council of Maramures.
The museum collection consists of 3,300 pieces illustrating European art from the 18th to the 20th century, as well as Romanian art. What makes it special in the country and abroad are the over 250 artworks created from 1896 to the present, bearing the signature of 90 artists considered as belonging to the Baia Mare Artistic Centre.
A complex cultural phenomenon, unique for an extended Euro-regional area, the Baia Mare Artistic Centre has had (according to a chronology proposed by Tiberiu Alexa, 1993), three distinct periods: the stage of its affirmation (1896-1918), the stage of its development (1919-1950), and the stage of diversification (1950- the beginning of the 21st century). These stages are marked by some important moments: “the Hollosy years”, the neo-modernist revolt between 1906-1914, the “Strâmbu years” (1919-1929), the Mikola–Ziffer–Gh. Manu polemics (1929-1931), the crises in the forties, and the foundation of the Society of Plastic Artists from Baia Mare (1937), a. s. o.
Hollosi Simon was born on the 2nd of February 1857, at Sighet, in a rich Armenian family. After graduating the secondary school in his native town, he studied fine arts in Budapest and Munich. In 1896, together with Ferency Karoly, Reti Istvan, and Thorma Janos, they founded a private painting school in Baia Mare. This would soon become an artistic Colony, besides the other around 40 colonies extant in the Europe of the 19th century: at Barbizon and Pont-Aven (France), at St. Ives (England), Lare (Holland), Skagen (Denmark), Darmstadt (Germany), Szolnok (Hungary) etc.
The artistic effervescence of those times favoured the honourable for Baia Mare association with the name “a town of painters”. Along a century, time in which the artistic activity developed continuously in this space, 3,000 artists (painters, sculptors, engravers, black-and white artists, ceramicists, designers) originating form Central and Eastern Europe had worked (for short periods or permanently) in the Colony.
The appearance of institutional forms of organisation of the fine art producers (the Society of the Painters from Baia Mare – 1911, the Society of Plastic Artists from Baia Mare – 1937, and, later on, the Baia Mare subsidiary of the Union of Plastic Artists from Romania, and respectively the Art Museum) gave a new dimension to the phenomenon and a new name: the Baia Mare Artistic Centre.
In comparison with the European values, this centre is already a consecratedbrand, some of its products being well sold at auctions and extremely well appreciated in the continental circuit of exhibitions. “The cultural significances and market value of this historical and contemporaneous patrimony make of the art works created in Baia Mare most competitive products for export”.
An elevated event, meant to set its mark on the evolution of the Baia Mare Artistic Centre and to honour the guild of contemporary artists, takes place each year on the 5th of May – it is the Day of the Plastic Artist.
The Florean Contemporary Art Museum
In a leafy forest from Cerneşti, on the road that leads to the Land of Lăpuş, spreading over a surface of 40 hectares, there is an original park of monumental sculptures. Fluid extensions from tens of creation workshops have their meeting point in “Poiana Soarelui” (Sun Clearing). Huge blocks of stone, limestone and marble, their superfluous parts being cut off in order that they carried ideas and messages to the future. These artworks have already won an international prestige and have become objectives of cultural tourism.
The Florean Museum is the result of the private initiative of a businessman, Victor Florean, to which artist (and manager) Mircea Bochiş added his monumental vision. The collection of the Florean Museum numbers at present 10,000 contemporary artworks from all over the world.
Each year, the Florean Museum organizes three prestigious manifestations: the “Cărbunari” sculpture camp, the International Salon of Small Engraving and Mail-art, and The International Festival of Experimental Film.
The first edition of the camp – intended to be a “symposium of marble sculpture” – was held in 1998. It functions according to the principle of having a contest that awards five creation prizes which would permit the selected artists to continue some of their experimental work. The organizers offer the artists all the necessary material resources and at the end of the camp the work of art is installed in the sculpture park of the museum. Besides this, each artist donates a piece of small sculpture to the museum collection. The host of the opening show ceremonies is the Bucharest art critic Pavel Şuşară.
“All the works are conceived and executed as outdoor sculptures, integrated in the landscape, their size being monumental, and the permanent material – stone: whether they are made of marble, granite or limestone, the technique is imposed by the nature of the material, such as cutting, chiselling, assembling, while their conception regards strictly all the above mentioned characteristics. (...) Conceived from the beginning as a long time project, organised strictly as an investment with an undetermined end, subjected to a much more ample cultural and managerial development, this symposium has taken into consideration, from the very moment of its birth, a flow of evolution, like a river course...” (Pavel Şuşară, 2008).
It is significant that the ninth edition (2007) of the international symposium of small engraving organised by the Florean Museum took place in Sibiu, as one of the events which marked for this location the status of European cultural capital. The exhibits numbered a total of almost 1,200 works of art belonging to about 300 artists coming from Europe, Africa, the Far East, the Middle East, and South America.
An event with a European and international character, the Salon “has become a landmark for the artistic manifestations in Romania” and it “represents a cultural construction and a model of managerial competence, as well as a rapid and efficient means of enriching and diversifying the patrimony” (Pavel Şuşară, 2008).
The International Festival of Experimental Film (first edition in 2004) is seen as the Florean Museum’s “enfant terrible”. At its fourth edition, 113 art films, covering all the geographical zones of the planet, were shown. “The marathon projection lasted for over ten hours, and brought into the foreground two components defining the fundamental nature and language of the experimental film: first, self-reflexivity, i.e. the return of the language upon itself, the instrumentation of the image as aim and not as medium, and secondly, the ethical vocation and the moral engagement, the exploration of existence and the sanctioning of history” (P. Şuşară, 2008).
Three events (a camp, a salon, and a festival), two names (Victor Florean and Mircea Bochiş), one institution: the Florean Museum. It is one of the private initiatives from the post-Decembrist Romania that has proved to be viable, effervescent, and of a high artistic standard.