Mar 27 – Apr 13, Cultural Center of Belgrade, Art Gallery and PODROOM,
“The worker is still the humblest of human beings, even when he drives a Chrysler and has a colour television at home,” wrote Yugoslav social critic and Marxist ideologist Mihailo Markovic. By the early 1970s, Yugoslavia’s market had been liberalized to the extent that workers’ level of consumption was no longer limited to basic needs like cigarettes and flour.
The relative abundance of consumer items available at home, and the ease with which families could take shopping trips to Italy or Germany, kept Yugoslavs more or less content until the 1980s, at which point it was revealed that the Good Life had been bought on credit by a diplomatically talented dictator.
The weekly magazine Economic Policy, established in 1952, advocated for the early market reforms that would lead to this relatively open consumer society. And the publication lived its ideology: it was the first to eschew state funding. Economic Policy published a large volume of advertisements, many of which were as slick and sophisticated as anything printed by David Ogilvy.
At the same time, the advertising executives and visual artists who created the ads did so within the confines of a Marxist state and ideology. It is these ads and images, published in Economic Policy after it transitioned to full-color magazine format in 1969, that are the subject of a new Belgrade exhibition called “POLET: Economic Propaganda in Yugoslavia from 1969 to 1980”.
The curators of the project have amassed a large volume of visual material, and the advertisements on display will demonstrate what advertising looked like in a socialist society, as well as the evolution of Yugoslav consumer aesthetics. The exhibition will also suggest how the editorial staff of Economic Policy may have “sold” the idea of market liberalization to a country raised on Marxist ideology.
POLET will be exhibited from March 27th through April 13th at the Cultural Center of Belgrade, Art Gallery and PODROOM.