On 11 Iunie Street, in an old, peaceful area of Bucharest, filled with the charm of fin-de-siècle and interwar style villas, there is an impressive building designed in French eclecticism style. Sadly, the house looks rather run-down but the visitor can still see the original lush decorations on the façade and at the entrance. Since 31st October 2002, this house has hosted the art collection that belonged to the artist-diplomat couple Ligia and Pompiliu Macovei.
Ligia Macovei was born in 1916 and she studied in the years 1934-1939 at the Fine Arts Academy in Bucharest. She had as mentors modernist artists of the time such as J.A.Steriadi, Corneliu Medrea, Cecilia Cuțescu-Storck who were inspired to a great extent by the late 19th century European art. In 1939 she married the architect Pompiliu Macovei (1911-2008) who was foremost a diplomat. She accompanied him in the years 1941-1943 in Austria, Germany, and Italy. It was due to these journeys that she developed an artistic style very similar to German expressionism. Indeed, to the end of her life (1998), her art would bear as distinguishing marks: the intensity of colours, the tendency to represent anatomical proportions in a personal manner, the dramatical themes and postures chosen for depictions. In short, she was a life-long devotee to German expressionism. After 1944, Ligia Macovei became an artist exclusively associated to the leftist circles, later, the Communist regime. She held personal exhibitions in Rome, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Florence, Tunis, Teheran. In 1992, Ligia Macovei donated her art collection to the city of Bucharest.
Both she and her husband benefited from numerous projects, positions, and trips all over the world. Pompiliu Macovei was in the years 1958-1960 councillor to the Romanian Embassy in Paris, in the years 1960-1962 Romania’s ambassador in Rome, in the years 1965-1971 the Minister of Culture, and in the years 1971-1977 Romania’s ambassador at UNESCO.
Apart from Ligia Macovei’s own work, the collection hosts an impressive selection of modern Romanian painters such as Theodor Pallady, Al. Ciucurencu, Nicolae Tonitza, I. Iser, Steriadi, Marcel Iancu, and M.H.Maxy. In addition, the visitor can see highly original icons painted on glass and specific to the central Transylvanian area (e.g. Necula Monastery).
The ‘Ligia and Pompiliu Macovei’ art collection has on display fine art objects collected by the couple from the most various parts of the world and covering ages as early as the years 256 AD (the case of a Chinese statue of a warrior of the Tang dynasty). Another arresting piece is a Chinese bronze statue of Buddha dating 17th century. Indeed, the richness of the collection is impressive: there are colourful and surprising ceramic figures from Russia, Portugal, and Mexico; there is French (Rouen) and Dutch (Delft) fine pottery and kitchenware; there are metal pots and trays which are masterpieces of Islamic art; there are lavish lamps and chandeliers of Murano glass; there are delicate Bohemian and Viennese crystals; there even is a very interesting piece, a Venetian Rococo style of a hair iron curler!
Similar to the fine art objects, the furniture items represent a valuable collection of pieces typical to as various cultural trends as Renaissance, Biedermeier, but also interwar modernism. The visitor can admire items coming from outside Europe such as a traditional chair originating in Afghanistan. Like in the case of the paintings, items of folk art are represented too, from Transylvania and from the Old Kingdom.