In the framework of celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Albania, Prime Minister Edi Rama inaugurated on November 22 the Bunk’Art, an exhibition taking place in this cavernous nuclear fallout shelter.
Bunk’Art was built secretly between 1972 and 1978, the structure was part of a program of ‘bunkerisation’ across the country. Indeed between 1967 and 1985, 700,000 bunkers were built throughout Albania, the militarization of the territory reflecting the radicalism of the ruling communist regime.
The bunker is part of the ‘special structures’ built by Hoxha to protect the elite of the People’s Republic of Albania in case of nuclear attack. Located in the north-west periphery of Tirana and dug 100 meters under a mountain, this 2,685 m² shelter is composed of 5 levels and 106 rooms, a real “five star” complex. The idea for this extravagant building came to Hoxha after he visited North-Korea in 1964.
Apart from its historical value and technical mastery, it’s the luxury of these furnishings that strikes visitors. Reflected by the Zim-12 luxury car — gift from Stalin to Hoxha — at the entrance of the bunker, the museum shows the excess and the luxury in which leaders of the People’s Republic of Albania lived while the population suffered from food rationing and poor living conditions.
Bunk’Art exhibition is a strong symbol, bringing together creativity and free expression of artists within a structure that represents dictatorship and censorship. Through several forms of contemporary art, installations, video-projections and films, 11 Albanian artists were invited to take over the space and show their own vision of the history of their country.
Visitors can drink a coffee in a real communist-era canteen where the barista is still the same as it was in 1978, and then ascend to the surface to a world 35 years newer than the one they spent the past two hours exploring, finding the 21st century again after an immersion in the Albanian collective memory held in this subterranean world. The entry to visit Bunk’Art is Lek 500.
News source/photo credits: BunkArt