The collection of Sofia Art Gallery presents the Bulgarian art from the end of 19 c. to date. From the first academic artists before and after the Liberation, through the influences of the Impressionism, Symbolism and Secession, to the changes during the 1930s, the collection shows the beginning of secular art in the country in its entirety. The collections house works from the first years of the Socialist government after 1944, from the time of the cult of personality and the subsequent “détente“ in the beginning of the 1960s. The 1970s and 1980s are widely represented. In the last decade, the efforts of the team have been directed both towards the enrichment of the available collection and to the integration of the contemporary forms of art in the museum policy.
The collection started in 1929 by the first curator Kosta Valev. It began as a collection of works by Sofia artists or mostly of works dedicated to the city’s history and present. Today, this is only one of the directions. The collections of the museum continue to receive works which mark the changes in the city. Another tendency, which has persevered since the very beginning and has developed over the years, is the collection of portraits of representatives of the intelligentsia and public figures. In 2008, following a serious collection campaign, the gallery presented to the public its collection of self-portraits of artists, consisting of over 200 works.
Over the years, the completion of the collections has enjoyed different intensity. The establishment of the City Gallery as an independent institution in 1952 heightened the activity in this respect. The main source was the solo exhibitions, the group artistic exhibitions and the competitions whose subject was Sofia. The first one was announced in 1964, and the last one was organised in 1989. The most difficult was the period 1991-2007, in which the museum had no budget for preemptive purchases and relied only on donations.
The collection is divided into four departments: Painting, Sculpture, Graphics, and Contemporary Art and Photography. The latter is the newest one and was established in 2004 in response to the occurring changes in art and the artistic life.
The collection of SAG is representative of the development of the Bulgarian art from the end of 19 c. to date. It covers all periods, tends, styles and names. This is evidenced by the “Possible History” project, realised in 2012-2013. The research is based on the museum collection and is the first attempt to provide another viewpoint on the history of art after the changes in 1989.
The graphics collection houses works on paper created from the middle of 18 c. to date. In the first years of the existence of the gallery, they were collected incidentally, as part of the general collection. After the relocation of SAG to the building at 1, General Gurko St in 1977, a Graphics room was established. The separation of the graphic works in an individual collection was implemented in 1985.
At the end of 2104, the graphics collection numbered 3,840 works. The predominant part comprises impressions of different styles of painting, but in addition to them a considerable share of illustrations, caricatures, drawings, freehand works, sketches, pastels and watercolours contribute to the collection diversity.
The collection as a whole covers the development of graphics in Bulgaria from its emergence to date. Together with its early manifestations as an independent art (Nikolay Pavlovich, Mihail Krastev, Petar Morozov, etc.), it contains striking examples of the high achievements in 1920s and 1930s: Vasil Zahariev, Pencho Georgiev, Nikolay Raynov, Preslav Karshovski, Georges Papazov, and a number of others. Some of the best examples trace the changes in 1960s, as well as the stylistic diversity and technological freedom of execution in 1970s and 1980s (Todor Panayotov, Anastasiya Panayotova, Petar Chuklev, Rumen Skorchev, Mihail Petkov, Ivan Ninov, etc.) The next generation of artists (Hristo Kardzhilov, Mariya Duhteva, Yavora Petrova, Milko Pavlov, Vasil Popov, etc.) is widely represented mostly with works from 1980s and 1990s, and after 2007 artists such as Stefan Bozhkov, Lyubomir Krastev and Kamen Starchev enrich the collection with new styles and painting techniques.
The graphics collection also houses a number of considerable in terms of volume donations of works by Vasil Stoilov, Nikolay Maystorov, Rumen Skorchev, Kiril Gyulemetov, Milko Pavlov, Margarit Tsanev, etc.