International ExLibris Competition Varna

In 2014, Largo Art Gallery created the International ExLibris Competition Varna. From 2023, the co-organizer of the forum is the Jordan Petkov Art Foundation. The competition is a biennial and takes place every two years. Its mission is to popularize the art of graphics and graphic techniques in Bulgaria and around the world, and in particular – to promote the value and qualities of small graphic forms and more precisely bookplates, as an expression of the grace, beauty and creative power of works of art, even and when they are locked into a small, size-limited form.

What is an exlibris and what is the history of its creation?

The exlibris is a miniature graphic. The name comes from the Latin expression “ex libris”, which literally means “from the books of…” or “from the library of…”. At the dawn of their creation, the first exlibris works were an engraved or printed mark that was printed on the inside of the book’s cover and served to clearly indicate its owner. In the past, exlibrises were ordered by the owners of luxury bibliophile editions and large collections of books. Mandatory elements of this type of small graphic are the text “ex libris”, the name or initials of the person or institution for whom the work was created and a graphic image, which is most often related to his/their personality, interests or characteristics. Due to the nature of its original purpose – to be placed in books, the size of the exlibris work is usually 7/5 cm, 10/10 cm, or other at the discretion of the artist, but rarely exceeds 20/20 cm. This is where the complex tasks come from , which stand before the artists working in the field of this miniature art. Limited by the size, by the characteristic features of the person to whom the exlibris is dedicated, the creators must fulfill the specific requirements and at the same time be able to express their creative idea, find and weave in the most suitable font, with which the inscription stands lightly and elegantly and to fit harmoniously into the drawing of the work. For this reason, only extremely good artists, master painters, artists with a fine sense of detail and developed psychology, as well as with a rich imagination, can work in the field of bookplates. In the middle of the 20th century, the so-called “collector’s” exlibris works became popular. They no longer serve to indicate the owner of the book, but are ordered by passionate exlibris collectors who exchange them among themselves.

International ExLibris Competition Varna and its history so far

Since the creation of the International ExLibris Competition Varna in 2014, more than 850 artists from all over the world have participated in its five editions, and over 3,300 works have been received. The artistic director of the competition and in its five editions so far is the famous Bulgarian graphic artist Julian Jordanov. Over the years members of the jury were the Bulgarian artists Dimo Kolibarov, Hristo Kerin, Rumen Nechev, Dimo Milanov, the chairman of the Istanbul Bookplate Society Prof. Hasip Pektash, Anna Tikhonova – Jordanova from Belarus, who is an artist and curator of the exlibris collection of the Museum of Modern art in Minsk, the famous Ukrainian graphic designer Konstantin Antioukhin, the Director of the Varna International Biennale of Graphics and the Graphic Cabinet of the “Boris Georgiev” City Art Gallery and Design Ventseslav Antonov, as well as Nelly Valcheva – director of Largo Gallery.

The prize fund of the competition includes first, second, third prize and a prize for a young author. In each edition, the Award of the Association of Artists – Varna – bronze plaque is given. From the second edition of the competition in 2016, the Jury Prize and the Prize for special creative achievements were awarded to Eduard Penkov. From the fourth edition of the International ExLibris Competition Varna in 2021, a special prize is awarded in the name of Jordan Petkov for an exlibris created in his memory. Jordan is the founder of Largo Gallery and a major supporter of the competition since its creation.

Why is the Varna International Exlibris Competition important for Varna and for Bulgaria?

The exhibition nature of each edition of the International ExLibris Competition Varna is educational for a number of reasons. The exlibris in the centuries of its existence has developed and changed its utilitarian purpose. These days it is more of a work of art than a graphic sign printed in books. In each of the competition exhibitions, the works of over 120 artists from all over the world, representing famous graphic schools, are always displayed. The exhibitions represent a rich assortment of existing classical graphic techniques. All the listed reasons make the display of the exhibition an extremely interesting and attractive event, and Largo Gallery as the organizer receives support and guest invitations for each edition of the competition.