Project D-0 ARK 1-2-3-4-5. An artistic collaboration turns Nuclear Bunker into an Art Gallery

The publication “Project D-0 Ark 1-2-3-4-5” was presented at the UN House in Sarajevo on the occasion of this year’s celebration of the International Day of Cultural Diversity for development on 21 May. This was the result of a collaboration with the Antenna in Sarajevo of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe in partnership with the Biennale of Contemporary Art D-0 ARK Underground and the UN Resident Coordinator Office.
Tito’s Atomic Shelter or the Atomic War Command in Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, colloquially referred to as the “bunker” has an incredibly fascinating and complex history. In fact, there is a significant discrepancy between the historical context of the bunkers construction and the cultural importance that it serves today.

The bunker was built in complete secrecy over the course of 26 years – between 1953 and 1979, to protect the political and military elite in the event of a nuclear strike. Today, the Atomic War Command is home to one of the top contemporary art collections in Europe with an estimated value at 7 million euros.

Turning this bunker into a permanent exhibition celebrating tolerance and diversity has lifted it from the historical constraints of its construction and has turned it into a prestigious regional cultural institution committed to preserving cultural heritage connecting places, spaces and people.

The artistic team behind the “Biennale of Contemporary Art D-0 ARK Underground” project presented this journey with a publication titled “Project D-0 Ark 1-2-3-4-5”, on the occasion of the International Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. The UN Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ingrid Macdonald, and the Head of the Antenna of the in Sarajevo of UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Sinisa Sesum, hosted the promotion of the publication at the UN House in Sarajevo, bringing together partners who followed Biennale’s expansion throughout the years.

© UN – Project D-O Ark Underground event at UN House in Sarajevo
The publication is a ten-year retrospective of the “Project D – 0 Ark”, known today as the Konjic (Bunker) Biennale. Its activities have played an important role in the promotion of art and culture as a connecting unit, furthermore, it has increased cultural diversity, dialogue and cooperation. The project, the concrete result of a collaboration between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia, has been extended to Austria, Turkey, Italy, Germany and several other countries. These artistic partnerships are at the core of its formation.

Five cycles of the Konjic Biennale, 1-2-3-4-5, have resulted in 159 works of art permanently exhibited at the Atomic War Command, these have been created by 119 artists from 39 different countries. 86 of those artists have represented their countries at the Venice Biennale, whilst all selectors and curators who participated in the Project were also selectors for their own countries at the most prestigious contemporary art festival in the world. This standard of quality has been recognised by art historians, who place the project’s Underground Collection at the very top of contemporary European art collections.

© UN – Project D-O Ark Underground event at UN House in Sarajevo
“UNESCO has been supporting the Biennale from its very beginning, since 2009, because the Biennale is an extremely valuable platform for exchange among contemporary artists from South-East Europe and beyond. A platform that connects people regardless of borders between countries, disagreements and unpleasant events and conflicts from the not-so-distant past”, says Sinisa Sesum, Head of the Antenna in Sarajevo.

During its last cycle in 2019, the Konjic Biennale was presented at the UN headquarters, during the High-level Event on Culture and Sustainable Development convened jointly by UN General Assembly and UNESCO, emphasising its contribution to the promotion of culture as a lever of change, innovation, empowerment, and equality.

“The purpose and the primary idea of the Project D-0 ARK Underground is to preserve this great social treasure and, at the same time, to use the energy carried by art to breathe new life into this ghastly place, the nuclear fallout shelter” explains Edo Hozic, Director and Founder of the Biennale. “The facility D-0, the Atomic war command has received, sheltered and enabled artists of the world to use their art to protect a nuclear shelter.”

Due to its importance in promoting, dialogue, mutual coexistence and cultural diversity since 2015, the Biennale has enjoyed United Nations’ support through several stages of the Dialogue for the Future (DFF) Project, financed by the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

“Transforming a nuclear bunker into a contemporary art museum with regional partnerships and dialogue illustrates the power of culture for peace and development. By working together, by countering the threats to our cultural diversity and social cohesion, by expanding and building upon initiatives like these we maximise the value of heritage for the benefit of all”, concluded Ingrid Macdonald, UN Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


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