Franjo Malin (August 9th, 1884 – December 20th, 1955), publicist, professor, writer, cultural representative, official of the Falcon society, was one of the founders, the first curator and the first director of the Museum of Matica Srpska. As an active participant in the work of Matica Srpska, he proposed the arrangement of the Matica Archive and the Museum of Matica srpska in 1932. In the spring of 1933, the initiative for opening of the museum came true. Franjo Malin was entrusted with full confidence to be the curator and the manager, at the suggestion of the Museum Board (March 30, 1933). He served in this position with great success until the outbreak of World War II in 1941. Although he had very modest material resources at his disposal, with only two clerks, Malin was very conscientious and resourceful, and performed his duties with a lot of love. With the assistance of the members of the Museum Board, he significantly contributed to the successful formation of the Matica Museum, as the first museum in Novi Sad. Its further development was primarily based on the understanding of the management of Matica Srpska of that time. In the 30’s of the last century, Malin was engaged in Matica’s numerous cultural and scientific activities: he was also a librarian and kept a special inventory of the Matica Srpska’s Gallery of Fine Arts, which numbered 200 works of art in 1933. Even then, within the Museum, the outlines of the future independent Matica’s institution ‒ The Gallery of Matica Srpska ‒ could be perceived.
Milenko Šerban (April 4th, 1907 – July 30th, 1979) was a painter, scenography designer, art pedagogue and the first post-war curator and director of the Gallery of Matica Srpska. At first, Milenko Šerban worked as a restorer in the Museum of Matica Srpska (1935-1936). In that period, under the supervision of painter Uroš Predić, he restored several damaged paintings. At the joint session of the Board of Directors and the Literary Board of Matica Srpska (1945), Milenko Šerban was elected as a curator. In the same year, he became a member of the Museum Board. He acted as its director during 1946. In the period after World War II, the Gallery of Matica Srpska focused on collecting and exhibiting 20th century art. As a painter, Milenko Šerban was one of the main representatives of this period in Serbian art. He belonged to the generation of artists with the greatest contribution to the formation of modern Serbian and Yugoslav painting of the 20’s and the 30’s. Milenko Šerban, as well as his successor Milivoje Nikolajevic gave their huge contribution to the collection and filling of the Gallery’s fund with works of contemporary Vojvodinian artists. With his work, he left a strong mark on the reorganization of the Matica Srpska Museum, as well as on the constitution of the Museum of Vojvodina and the arrangement of its first Permanent exhibition.
Milivoj Nikolajević (March 24th, 1912 – August 27th, 1988), was a painter, an art teacher, a director of the Gallery of Matica srpska, a founder of the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad and the President of Matica Srpska. As its first director, he was at the head of the Gallery from 1947 and held this position for almost three decades, strengthening the foundation of its operation. He had contributed to the relocation of the Gallery to its own building on the Gallery Square and was the author of the first Permanent exhibition and monographs. He studied, and later presented, the Serbian art of past times in a modern way and advocated its better position in society. He created the exhibiting policy of the Gallery, trying to organize at least two exhibitions a year: one historical, monographic or thematic from the past eras and one contemporary, featuring the current artistic practice. Such a policy made a great contribution to the study of artistic heritage, and the popularization of contemporary art through group exhibitions of artists of Vojvodina and through their individual retrospective exhibitions.
He also established cooperation with similar museum institutions in former Yugoslavia and with the Committee of Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. Thus, he enriched the Gallery’s exhibition activities with international exhibitions on one hand, and facilitated the exposition of national arts abroad, on the other hand. His involvement has contributed to the establishment of the Gallery of Matica srpska as an independent institution of high professional standards. The program he implemented served as a basis for the work of the Gallery in the decades that followed. His steps are being followed even today by his successors.
Radivoj M. Kovačević (November 7th, 1914 – January 17th, 1992) was a referent, curator, assistant director, and acting director of the Gallery of Matica Srpska. He worked as an assistant curator on the renovation and replenishment of the Gallery’s art collections, and later as a referent and curator (1950–1958). At the end of 1957, together with Milivoj Nikolajević, Olga Mikić and Miodrag Kolarić, he selected, sorted out and arranged the exhibits at the exhibition space of the Gallery’s renovated building, the former Commodities Exchange. Two years later (1959), he became the assistant director of Milivoj Nikolajević, and was later appointed to the post of acting director (1976-1979). He showed a great sense for the development of varied and specific activities in the Gallery: he worked on the organization of large-scale exhibitions of old Serbian painting and on establishment of the Collection of Serbian copper engravings of the 18th century as well the Collection of wall-painting copies of the 18th and 19th c. His education and work contributed to the affirmation of the exceptional values of the Gallery’s Art Collection in Serbia and abroad, as well as the tradition and culture of this region. As the assistant director, his special merit was the founding and development of the Gallery’s pedagogical-propaganda service, as its important and diverse activity. Thanks to his efforts, the Gallery consolidated its place in a group of the most famous cultural institutions of former Yugoslavia, a fact that contributed to its public recognition.
Milan Solarov (January 2nd, 1933 – September 29th, 2019) artist, university professor, art theorist and the director of the Gallery of Matica Srpska (1979-1983). After completing his studies in art history, he worked as an assistant professor, associate and full professor of the Methodology of Art Teaching at the Art Department of the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad (1977-1998). He was appointed the director of the Gallery on the 1st of March 1979, after Radivoj Kovačević had retired. During his mandate in the Gallery, Milan Solarov put the emphasis on publicity and pedagogical activities. Consequently, due to his efforts, the first Pedagogical and Propaganda Service was formed. He orchestrated the exhibition activities in that direction, as well. During 1982, the realization of smaller traveling exhibitions began (“Understanding the Painting of Đura Jakšić”, “Paintings and drawings of Uroš Predić from the collection of the Gallery of Matica Srpska”, “The Aleksić Family, a Family of Painters ‒ Nikola, Ivan, Dušan and Stevan”, etc.). He put the emphasis on exhibitions from the Gallery’s collection, with the aim of presenting them and making them popular and available to the general audience. Moreover, in that way, he wanted to transfer culture, art and education through artworks to smaller communities. This approach was completely in line with the social role of the museum that Solarov advocated. As an artist, he has exhibited his artworks at numerous exhibitions, both group and individual. Inter alia, he participated in the exhibitions of the World Festival of Modern Drawing in Barcelona, Navarra and Pamplona. He was a member of the Association of Fine Artists of Vojvodina and the International Association of Fine Critics AICA. He won the award of the Novi Sad Salon (1985).
Olga Mikić (October 24th, 1928 – October 16th, 2018), art historian, the first curator of the Gallery of Matica Srpska since it had been relocated to The Gallery Square, and its director (1983-1988). After she graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade in art history (1952), she was given a position of a trainee at the Gallery of Matica Srpska (1953). After the relocation of the Gallery of Matica Srpska from Marija Trandafil’s edifice to the new building of the former Commodities Exchange, in 1958, she participated in the installation of the new Permanent exhibition of Serbian painting and graphics from the 18th to the 20th c. With a continuous advancement in her professional career, she spent her entire working life in the Gallery until her retirement in 1989. Her area of professional interest was Serbian art from the 17th to the 20th century. She mostly dealt with Serbian painting of the 17th and 19th c. in the former Karlovac Metropolitanate. From the first years of her engagement in the Gallery, she actively participated in enriching the Gallery’s art collection by visiting and reconnoitering the area to purchase works of art from private owners, as well as by arranging long-term loans of socially owned artworks. Consequently, once a modest art collection, presented for decades within the Museum of Matica Srpska, was expanded to a complete Gallery of modern Serbian art from the 17th to the 20th century. Her scientific work has resulted in numerous exhibitions and studies with data on artworks mostly unknown until she researched and published them.
Leposava Šelmić (October 3rd, 1944 – September 30th, 2002), MA in Art History, began to work at The Gallery as a curator in 1970. She became its director in 1988 and served that position until 2002. Although she was at the head of the Gallery of Matica Srpska during difficult historical times, she managed to gather a broad range of benefactors, donors, patrons, and supporters around the Gallery. As an experienced art historian, with a great personal and professional reputation, she contributed to the enlargement of the Gallery’s collection with precious artworks relevant to the history and culture of the Serbian people by donations of many benefactors and patrons. In that way, the art fund was extended and enriched, while the exhibition and publishing activities of the Gallery expanded. By the upgrade of the new exhibition hall on the second floor, opened to the audience in 1992, the Permanent exhibition space was enlarged, which allowed the chronological expansion and presentation of artworks from the first half of the 20th century. Respecting and highlighting the merits of previous generations, she particularly insisted on the processing and publishing of the Gallery’s collection, as well as on scientific research on Serbian Orthodox sanctities in Romania, Hungary, and the Vojvodina Province. In addition to the results of her professional museological and scientific research, Leposava Šelmić contributed to the affirmation of the Gallery and the Matica Srpska as a whole, with her organizational skills and personal authority. Significant recognitions that the Gallery received during her mandate such as Order of St. Sava, 2nd Class in 1990 and Order of Vuk Karadžić, 1st Class in 2002, gave a credible evidence of the results of her work.
Branka Kulić (September 7th, 1950) is an art historian, museum advisor and a former director of the Gallery of Matica Srpska. She dedicated her entire professional career to work in institutions for the protection of cultural heritage. In the Gallery of Matica Srpska, she worked as an assistant manager from 2001, and from 2002 to 2010 as its director. During the eight years of managing, she did a lot to improve its activities in order to form a modern and active national museum institution. She worked diligently on filling the art fund, creating exhibitions and publishing activities, as well as on setting up a new Permanent Exhibition. She is also dedicated to researching the history and the art history of the Fruška Gora Monasteries, the national art history of the 18th century, cultural heritage in Vojvodina, especially palaces and villas, as special phenomena. On these issues, she published several monographs and studies. Moreover, she paid equal attention to the education of museum professionals, selflessly transferring her experiences and knowledge to younger colleagues. Even after retiring (2010), she continued to be active as a member of the Board of Directors of Matica Srpska and the Provincial Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, and as the President of the Board of Directors of the Gallery of Matica Srpska. With her rich experience, creativity and knowledge, she contributes daily to the work of these important cultural institutions and to the advancement of the profession in the fields of protection and presentation of cultural heritage.