The gallery was founded on October 11, 1946 by the Assembly of the National Republic of BiH, and the core collection comprised 600 pieces which had been part of the collection of the Painting Gallery at the National Museum of BiH. When artist Branko Šotra heard about the founding of UGBiH, he collected 83 works of art by Yugoslav artists and donated them to the Gallery.
The UGBiH has been housed in a building in the center of Sarajevo since 1953. This facility was originally built as a department store for Ješua and Mojce Salom, Jewish merchants who owned many mansions and villas in Sarajevo. The building is an example of late Historicism, with Renaissance-Classical forms and Secession elements. It is assumed that it was designed by Josip Vancaš.
UGBiH opened to the public in 1959 with its first permanent exhibit; two parallel exhibits presented BiH art from the end of the 19th century up until WWII, and works of art from other Yugoslav republics and provinces during that period.
The gallery continued to operate during the Siege of Sarajevo (1992-1995) and it organized 42 exhibits.
Stolen works of art
During the Siege, 51 works of art mysteriously vanished from the National Gallery: 46 icons, two masterpieces by Ferdinand Hodler and three illuminated Arabic manuscripts. Interpol was informed and a search for these pieces is still underway.
The building was badly damaged during those years, but the hardest time for this institution came at the end of the war, when it was left without funding because of its unresolved legal status.
Thanks to international donors, the gallery was renovated, but a lack of funding forced it to close its doors from September 2011 until August 2012.
Over its 70 years, the gallery’s collection has grown to nearly 6,000 pieces, with acquisitions made possible by purchases, gifts, donations and bequeathals. They may be divided into the following sections: BiH art, international collection (from donations), Yugoslav art, Ferdinand Hodler, icons, photography and new media, NADA painting archive.
UGBiH’s massive library has titles on all fields of the fine arts, archival material on major BiH artists and a restoration workshop. It cooperates with similar institutions in BiH and abroad, organizes permanent and temporary exhibits, and many other events.
The Google Arts & Culture platform now allows art lovers from around the world to view digital exhibits of works from its collections.
This month features the permanent exhibit, Intimacies of Space, and the 1st International Triennial of Livno Graphics, Exhibit of Graphic Art by Dževad Hozo, Retrospective exhibition: Irfan Handukić and School Program: Roman Petrović.