• National Palace of Culture

National Palace of Culture

National Palace of Culture (NDK)

The National Palace of Culture is an architectural ensemble officially inaugurated in 1981. It was dedicated to the 1300 anniversary of the establishment of the Bulgarian state, and its impressive decoration accords with this theme. The imposing building was designed by architect Alexander Barov and was completed in just four years. In general, most monumental wall art from the 1980s in Bulgaria is grandiose in both design and execution, and it became ever more present in the interior an on the exterior of public buildings like the National Palace of Culture.

Link to Google Maps:

Stone and smalt mosaics Architecture and Construction 1 and Architecture and Construction 2 in the foyer of Halls 3.1 and 3.2 by Teofan Sokerov, 1981

These mosaics share a similar composition, combining geometric abstraction with recognizable figures. Created from natural stone, the figures are bold and monumental, intricately woven into the abstract fabric of the mosaic panels. Within the rich field of the mosaic, the artist integrates a multitude of diverse elements, alluding to the theme of architecture and construction. The array of images, characterized by various spatial and rhythmic directions, generates a “pulsating” impact.

The color palette of the mosaics is balanced, exhibiting sufficient contrast between light and dark tones without being overly vibrant or overshadowing the architectural elements. Play of light and color contrasts enhances the fragmentary nature, emphasizing the “collage” principle of construction.

In “Architecture and Construction 2,” alongside allegories and symbols of creation, Theofan Sokerov introduces a meaning-laden interaction between individual figures. Without narrating explicit stories, the artist signifies his adherence to the theme through the accumulation of details with metaphorical resonance.

Teofan Sokerov

Teofan Sokerov
Photo: Family archive

Teofan Sokerov was a Bulgarian artist born in the city of Lovech. He graduated from the National Academy of Art in 1969 with a degree in Painting; he had studied under the tutelage of Prof. Petar Mihailov and Prof. Iliya Petrov. Following his graduation, he settled in his hometown and from 1971 to 1982, he served as the chairman of the Representation of the Union of Bulgarian Artists in Lovech. He later moved to Sofia, where he taught painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, and from 1994, he was a professor at the Academy. The artist worked in the field of painting, drawing and monumental arts. After his passing in 2020, an art gallery in Lovech was named after him.

Teofan Sokerov was known for creating a large number of monumental wall art. Some of his notable works include murals in “Georgi Bregov” Secondary School, Pazardzhik, 1976/1977; a mural in the former House for Political Education, Lovech, 1978; a mosaic in the District Court, Lovech, 1978; an exterior mosaic in “Vasil Levski” museum, Lovech, 1981; mosaics in the National Palace of Culture, 1981; a mosaic in the House of the Bulgarian Communist Party (also known as the Buzludzha Monument), 1981; a mural decoration in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of the Lord in the city of Veliko Tarnovo, 1985; a wall painting in the Aprilov High School in Gabrovo, 1986; a mural in the “Earth and Man National Museum,” 1986/87; a mural in the “Shumen” Hotel, 1989; a mural in the Youth Center, Novi Pazar, 1989/90; a mosaic in the House of the Book, Lovech, 1980s; and a mosaic in the Computing Center, Lovech, 1980s.

Teofan Sokerov was the recipient of several national and international awards, including the “Vladimir Dimitrov – The Master” award in 1979 and 1982, the “Ilya Petrov” award in 1986, the “Zachary Zograf” award in 1987, and the Pier Franceschi Miketti Foundation Award in Italy in 1988.

Gallery: Architecture and Construction 1

Gallery: Architecture and Construction 2

The stone mosaic Feast of Dionysus in the foyer of Hall №2 by Atanas Yaranov, 1981

The mosaic “Feast of Dionysus” is a good example of works from the late 1970s and early 1980s in which space is only rudimentarily defined in the overall design. This allows the mosaic to further articulate its surrounding architectural space without disrupting its own structure and impact on the viewers. The space depicted in the mosaic is divided into two planes. The background plane has little depth while the shapes in the front are “heavy” since they are constructed through contrasting shadows and light. The absence of half tones divides the work into two halves – a light and a dark one. The dark and light bands of tesserae serve as highlights and core shadows, which make the images, seem more like sculptures.

The placement of the human figures near the room’s floor serves to blur the border between the artwork and its architectural surroundings. The scale is large and the distance between the viewer and the mosaic intentionally short, which results in the viewer becoming a participant in the depicted ritual.

The two mosaics “Rhodope Song” and “Feast of Dionysus” face each other in the foyer of Hall №2 and are thematically related. The “movement” in each flows towards the other, uniting “rhythm” and “ecstatic ritual”.

Atanas Yaranov

Atanas Yaranov,
photo: Yaranov’s family archive

Atanas Yaranov was born in Sofia. He graduated from the “Decorative and monumental arts” program at the National Academy of Art in Sofia in 1965, where he had studied under Prof. Georgi Bogdanov. Even in his early appearances in the mid-1960s, he stood out as a creator of murals, mosaics, and easel canvases with a pronounced monumental quality. He constructed his images with a heavy solid line and a definite sculpted form. The themes in his work center on folklore and mythological plots. Yaranov often depicted these themes throughout his career as well as eternal philosophical concepts such as birth and death, grief and suffering, humility and repentance.

Yaranov played an active role in the creation of the monumental decoration of Dimitrovgrad, where he designed and realized six works in 1973. Two of these works, “Peace” and “Family,” were executed in the sgraffito technique while the remaining four were concrete reliefs. Yaranov’s concrete reliefs include “Brigadier Construction” on an eight-story apartment building at 2 Hristo Smirnenski Street, “Fertility” on an eight-storey apartment building at 6 Hristo Smirnenski Street, “Ancient History” on a panel block at 4 Hristo Smirnenski Street, and “Maritsa River” on a panel apartment building at 10 Hristo Smirnenski Street. Other notable works by Yaranov include the mosaic “Dionysian Feast” in the foyer of Hall 2 at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, completed in 1981, and a mosaic at the Satellite office of the Communist Party in Blagoevgrad during the 1980s.

The artist is the recipient of several honors and awards, including the award from the Second National Youth Exhibition, Sofia (1978); an award from the Third National Youth Exhibition, Sofia (1979); an award from the 3rd Triennial of Realistic Painting, Sofia (1979); the “Ilia Petrov” award of the Union of Bulgarian Artists (UBA) for monumental-decorative painting; an award of the Union of Bulgarian Artists (UBA) in the name of “Vladimir Dimitrov – The Master” (1982); and the Zachary Zograf painting prize (1985).

Atanas Yaranov died in 1988 in Sofia.

The stone and metal mosaics Composition 1 and Composition 2 in the ticket center by Mihalis Garudis and Kolyo Getsov, 1981

The artists Mihalis Garudis and Kolyo Getsov co-designed the two panels “Composition 1” and “Composition 2”, which combine stone mosaics and metal. They used the same medium, artistic message, and technique for both works.

“Composition 2” depicts a central circle with three clenched fists surrounded by a “cracked” metal surface, which is in turn surrounded by stone tesserae laid out in concentric circles. The combination of metal and stone highlights the skills of each of the artists with their respective medium and also carries the meaning of strength and steadfastness. The message of the work centers on the ideas of “strength in unity”, the “joint fight,” and “consolidated resistance.” The accent is on the large shapes and their sculptural impact. They are placed against a neutral background; the tesserae follow the outline of the central image and make it more prominent. The “crack” across the middle of the mosaic panel corresponds with the “cracks” in the metal circular area.

Mihalis Garudis

Michalis Garudis
Photo: Bulfoto

Michalis Garoudis was born in 1940 in the village of Bulgarkoi, in the region of Dimotika, Greece. He graduated from the National Academy of Art in Sofia in 1965, majoring in “Painting” under Prof. Iliya Petrov. At the beginning of his creative career, he focused on still lives, seascapes, and figurative compositions. He later began to create monumental paintings, mosaics, and ceramics. The artist held his first solo exhibition in 1971 at the “Raiko Alexiev” gallery in Sofia. Since 1986, he has lived and worked in Thessaloniki, Greece. Garoudis works actively in the field of monumental arts, painting, and collage. His works are owned by many museums and private collections in Bulgaria and abroad.

Among his more significant monumental works of art are: “Art through the Ages”, House of Cinema, Sofia, 1976; the sculptures “Composition 1” and “Composition 2” created in collaboration with Kolyu Getsov for the National Palace of Culture, 1981; the mural “Revival” in the residence “Perla”, Burgas, 1981; mosaic decoration on the facade of the “Slavyani” store, a mural in the “Yantra” hotel, 1975, and a mosaic with ceramic inlay for the “Poltava” pastry shop all at Veliko Tarnovo and in partnership with Kolyu Getsov; and mosaics on the facade of 55 School, Sofia, which was co-authored with Kolyu Getsov.

Kolyo Getsov

Kolyo Getsov
Photo: personal archive

Kolyu Getsov is a Bulgarian artist born in the town of Strazhitsa. He started his artistic education at the National Academy of Art in Sofia but later received a scholarship to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, where he graduated with a degree in “Sculpture and Artistic Metalworking” under the guidance of Prof. Jan Nušil.

Getsov worked in the field of monumental arts, sculpture, wall painting, and stained glass. He worked with Michalis Garoudis to create numerous monumental works. Together with his wife the artist Ekaterina Getsova, in 1991 he founded the “Arosita” gallery in Sofia.

Kolyu Getsov’s works are part of many private and public collections in Bulgaria and abroad. His notable works include the “Composition 1” and “Composition 2” sculptures, which he created with Garoudis, at the National Palace of Culture in 1981; mosaics on the facade of 55 School in Sofia; and many other monumental works.

Gallery: “Composition 1”

Gallery: “Composition 2”

The stone mosaic Spring in the foyer of entrance B2 by Yordan Spirov, 1981

Mosaics from the mid 1970s were often abstract works – either geometric or amorphic images that make an impact based on its raster, direction, rhythm, and structure. By making use of the specifics of the medium, which is suitable for abstract images, the authors gains artistic freedom that they would not have had if they had closely the themes dictated by the communist party.

In the stone mosaic called “Spring”, the artist focuses on a “rhythm” of harmonious colors and technical precision. The mosaic’s title is tentative since it does not depict any recognizable figures. It can be associated with spring based on its color composition and position in the interior space.

Yordan Spirov

Yordan Spirov
Photo: UBA

Yordan Spirov was born in Sofia, where he graduated from the National Academy of Arts (then called the “High institute for fine arts “Nikolai Pavlovich”) in 1972 with a specialty in “Monumental-decorative painting” that he had honed through study with Prof. Georgi Bogdanov. He worked actively in the field of monumental art in techniques such as fresco, sgraffito, metalwork, ceramics, and mosaic. In addition to his artistic pursuits, he was also engaged in teaching activities at the National Academy of Sciences.

Yordan Spirov passed away in Sofia in 2013.

Some of Yordan Spirov’s more important works include the mosaic “Translation of the holy books of the brothers Cyril and Methodius” at the tomb of St. Constantine the Philosopher in Rome, which was completed in 1975. He also created a mosaic in the Embassy Complex of Bulgaria in Moscow in 1981 as well as the “Spring” mosaic in the National Palace of Culture in 1981.

The stone and smalt mosaic Rhodope Song in the foyer of Hall №2 by Dimitar Kirov – Di Kiro, 1981

This mosaic has an expressive style combining distinct figures and abstract geometric shapes. The image of the Bulgarian woman owes its popularity to the 1980s tendency to overemphasize Bulgarian national identity through the repetition of traditional clothing and figures. What began as an ad hoc state-level mandate turned into a regulated policy for adhering to a certain formula in monumental art across the country.

The mosaic “Rhodope Song” is part of the larger decoration strategy for the National Palace of Culture. Dimitar Kirov executed the mosaic in his characteristic versatile style. The figures in the mosaic broadly resemble women in traditional Bulgarian costumes. While the costumes are not authentic reproductions of period-specific clothing, their details are meant to be stylized symbols of national identity.

The figures are constructed from geometric shapes, which gives them an abstract and stylized appearance. This effect distorts the otherwise familiar shapes but at the same time allows a broader visual interpretation. Color is the main component of the mosaic. The contrast between light and dark colors defines the composition and accentuates its center. Lines and expressive strokes further define individual figures. The “rhythm” of colored shapes contrasting with each other creates a logical link throughout the composition and relates to the linguistic suggestion of “song” in the mosaic’s title.

Dimitar Kirov - Di Kiro

Dimitar Kirov – Di Kiro
Photo: BTA

Dimitar Kirov, also known as DiKiro, was a Bulgarian artist born in 1935 in Istanbul, Turkey. He graduated with a specialty in “Monumental-decorative painting” in 1959 after studying with Prof. Georgi Bogdanov at the High institute for Fine Arts “Nikolai Pavlovich” (now the National Academy of Arts). From the early 1960s, he actively participated in the artistic life in Bulgaria and abroad. He was a member of the Plovdiv group, which included artists such as Georgi Bozhilov–Slona, Encho Pironkov, Yoan Leviev, and Hristo Stefanov.

DiKiro worked in various techniques, such as painting, graphics, and monumental arts including mosaic, sgraffito, and fresco. His monumental works include: glass engravings in the Home of the Newlyweds on 6th September Street, Plovdiv (1962); the mosaic on the facade of the Maritsa Hotel, Plovdiv (1966); the sgraffito “Horses” (“Chariot”) on Tsar Boris III Blvd., Plovdiv (1966); the sgraffito on the side facade of the former “Museum of the Revolutionary Movement and Resistance,” now the “New History” department of the Regional History Museum-Plovdiv (1967); the sgraffito “Thracian past” in the home of Atanas Krastev at “Dr. Stoyan Chomakov” street No. 5A, Old town Plovdiv (1967); the wall painting in the courtyard of the former “Museum of National revival and the Revolutionary Movement,” now part of the Regional History Museum-Plovdiv (1968); the sgraffito (in collaboration with Petar Dochev) on the facade of the „Deveti Mai“ factory for Woodworking Machinery, Plovdiv (1969); the mural “From the cultural history of Plovdiv” in the Satellite office of the communist party in Plovdiv (1969); the sgraffito “Orpheus” (1970); the sgraffito “Thracian Horseman” in Ancient Plovdiv (1973); the mosaic “Rhodope Song” in the foyer of Hall 2 of the National Palace of Culture (1981); the mosaic “April Rising” in the Buzludzha Monument (1981); the mosaic in the Druzhba Hall of the “Saint Petersburg” hotel, Plovdiv (1981); the wall painting in “Zlatyu Boyadzhiev” museum, Old Plovdiv (1984); the “Dobrudzha” mosaic in the satellite office of the Communist Party in Dobrich (1985); the mosaic and sgraffito on the facade of the Museum of Georgi Bozhilov – Slona, Old Plovdiv (2003); and mosaic ensemble in the artist’s home in Ancient Plovdiv (2004).

DiKiro was also involved in social and creative activities, especially while serving as the chairman of the City Council for Art and Culture in Plovdiv from 1973 to 1975. He was a member of the management of the Union of Bulgarian Artists (UBA) from 1968 to 1985. He served as secretary for creative affairs of the Plovdiv department of the UBA from 1970 to 1976 and 1986 to 1989. DiKiro was the recipient of many honors and awards including The Sofia Award in 1967, the title “Honored Artist” in 1974, First Prize of the Society of Artists from South Bulgaria in 1967, – the title “People’s Artist” in 1985, – the Grand Prize “Zlatyu Boyadzhiev” in 1986, – and induction into the Order of “St. Cyril and Methodius” in 2005.

The stone and smalt mosaic The Sun in Hall №4 by Grigor Spiridonov, 1981

The mosaic is composed of biomorphic lines but no actual figures. The shapes resemble raindrops in varying colors and together they form an abstract image on a golden background. The vibrant colors set apart the mosaic image from its surroundings, which creates an expressive contrast. The chosen colors lie on opposite ends on the color wheel – orange and blue are matched by yellow and green. The white serves to define the outlines of each raindrop. The work thus relies on a sharp contrast of colors for its impact on the viewer. Abstract works of art regularly serve as aesthetic accents in interior and exterior decoration in Bulgaria.

Grigor Spiridonov

Grigor Spiridonov
Photo: UBA

Grigor Spiridonov was born in 1930 in Sofia. He studied “Illustration” under Prof. Veselin Staykov and later “Monumental-decorative painting” in the studio of Prof. Georgi Bogdanov at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia (then called the “High institute for fine arts “Nikolai Pavlovich”), from which he graduated in 1961. He assisted Prof. Georgi Bogdanov with the mural in the Regional History Museum at Veliko Tarnovo.

Grigor Spiridonov worked in monumental art, painting, and graphics. He settled in Veliko Tarnovo in 1963, and in the late 1970s, he became the city’s chief artist and created for it historically themed paintings and monumental works in sgraffito and mosaic techniques. He is the author of Veliko Tarnovo’s coat of arms. Some of his works include stained glass windows in the Veliko Tarnovo municipality building, mosaics in the National Palace of Culture (NDK), and the Buzludzha Monument (Monument House of the Bulgarian Communist Party). He collaborated with Dechko Uzunov on the mosaic “Historical Flight of the Motherland” in the Boyana residence.

Grigor Spiridonov received several awards, including first prize for the cycle “April 1876” in 1967, first prize from an “OHI” exhibition (a state-sponsored collective exhibition ) with the theme “Veliko Tarnovo” in 1969, and first prize for monumental arts in the name of Iliya Petrov in 1975.

Grigor Spiridonov passed away in 2000 in Sofia.