The nondescript, office park-looking building which houses the Museum of Socialist Art perfectly fits the subject matter of its collection. The building is drab, utilitarian, and situated in a shabby neighborhood. But these surroundings only add to the atmosphere of the museum, which exhibits art from Bulgaria’s time as a communist state, from 1946 to 1989.
The museum’s collection features works of socialist painting, sculpture, and propaganda, many from eminent artists of the day. Subjects include native communist leaders such as Bulgaria’s first communist leader Georgy Dimitrov and its long-ruling dictator Todor Zhivkov, as well as international communist figures like Vladimir Lenin.
Of course, smiling Bulgarian peasants and sweating steelworkers on behalf of the common good and the state also make an appearance. The museum shop has a small theater which shows propaganda movies and television reels, with English subtitles.
The museum, which opened in 2011 and is a branch of the Bulgarian National Gallery, is somewhat small, but the exhibits are interesting. Undoubtedly the premier attraction is the collection of communist statuary arranged outside the museum in the front courtyard, culled from former communist buildings, cellars, and warehouses and saved from being melted down or destroyed, the fate that many such works met with the ousting of Zhivkov in 1989. Huge busts of Lenin glare lifelessly ahead and Bulgarian workers clutch rifles in stone-faced silence, ready to meet the evil forces of capitalism. It even has the gigantic red star which used to sit atop the Communist Party House in Sofia, now an administrative building for the Bulgarian National Assembly.