Culture Minister lashes ‘absurd’ Bulgarian Louvre project

Culture Minister Petar Stoyanovich has poured scorn on the implementation so far of the multi-million leva “Bulgarian Louvre” museum gallery project in central Sofia, which had been the pride and joy of his predecessor-but-one Veshdi Rashidov, and also has expressed woe at the “legacy” he had received in the culture portfolio.

Building of the 27 million leva National Museum Complex in Sofia, better known by its colloquial title of the “Bulgarian Louvre” started on September 26 2012 at a ceremony attended by Cabinet ministers and senior municipal officials. The complex is being built with the help of funding from the EU’s Regional Development Operation Programme for 2007 to 2013.

At a news conference on July 16 2013, Stoyanovich, who took office in May as a member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, said that there were “a lot of problems” in connection with the Bulgarian Louvre project – a name that he described as “a bit strange”.

Stoyanovich said that it was not clear what would be displayed in the future complex, how it would be displayed, and how the complex would be administered.

There should be a team of trained experts, but that team had not been set up yet. It was not known how many people would be part of this team and whether any had been sent for training, Stoyanovich said.

Culture Minister Petar Stoyanovich
Culture Minister Petar Stoyanovich

He said that another problem was a café-bar adjoining the complex. A former minister of culture, Bozhidar Abrashev, had signed what Stoyanovich described as a 10-year “criminal contract” leasing the space to the bar and this contract had no termination clause.

Stoyanovich said that if construction work could be finished according to deadline, the rooms dried out and if personnel were trained and ready, the complex might open in autumn 2014. The planned opening date announced when the centre-right GERB government was in office was summer 2013.

Signing of the financing contract for the 'Bulgarian Louvre', June 2012. Photo: Ministry of Culture
Signing of the financing contract for the ‘Bulgarian Louvre’, June 2012. Photo: Ministry of Culture

But, he said, there was no clarity about the future of art collections that were standing around “in some damp basements” and nor was it clear who would manage the financing of the south wing, which would take up about 10 million leva.

Already, the project had absorbed 28 million leva and once work on issues such as the south wing and other matters were added in, the entire project would end up costing about 50 million leva (about 25 million euro), according to Stoyanovich.

“My goal is to complete this project in the best possible European way,” he said, at the same time saying that he felt a sense of shame regarding everything to do with the way that the project had been carried out.

The way in which the project had been carried out brought no honour to Bulgaria, Stoyanovich said.




The Sofia Globe staff

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