Loto 1972 is an oil painting on canvas incorporating black and white photographs by the Romanian artist Ion Grigorescu. It depicts the shop window of a Loto lottery store in Bucharest, in which is reflected a typical socialist apartment block. Its crooked reflection overlaps with the objects on display in the window: advertisements, photographs of lottery winners and prizes. The painting was made for an exhibition entitled Art and the City, one of the themed shows organised by the Bureau of the art criticism section of the Union of Plastic Arts at Galria Noua in Bucharest in 1974–5. The vision of the city offered by Loto differed markedly from the idealised versions portrayed in official exhibitions at major state institutions and those presented in official propaganda.
Contemporary life seen through the lens of urban transformations and the cityscape of Bucharest are among the most important motifs in Grigorescu’s practice. Throughout his career the artist has documented the modernisation of the Romanian capital; the demolition of its historical texture, its new architectural developments and the shifts in ordinary life imposed by the changing urban environment. Many of his photographs, paintings and films register the process of realising the utopian visions of the country’s communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu, particularly his architectural developments. Loto is an early example of Grigorescu’s preoccupation with this topic. Although the architecture is addressed indirectly, remaining in the background of the presented subject, it nevertheless provides an important counterpoint to the image of consumerist goods on display in the lottery shop. It is ambiguous whether the new socialist building overshadows the attractive prospects offered by the contents of the window display, or whether they interrupt the purist socialist architecture.
With its combination of traditional painterly technique and black and white photography, Loto represents an important moment in Grigorescu’s practice. In 1971 the artist bought his first camera and began making photographic montages in which he captured ordinary events from daily life. The photographs in Loto, which are integral elements of the painting, show images of an actual lottery shop window in Bucharest. As such this work is one of the first in which Grigorescu tested the limits of painting to represent a scene. In 1974 he made his first experimental film, The Earth, although he also continued to experiment with painting and photography over the following years, creating works using a combination of media. Loto also anticipates later works which relate directly to daily life within the changing city, such as My Beloved Bucharest 1977, in which the artist filmed the capital from the viewpoint of a tram traveling from its outskirts to the centre. It also corresponds to a series of photographs of shop windows taken in the early 1970s, held in the artist’s archive, as well as to the film Zurich, Basel, Paris 1977, made during the artist’s first journey abroad, when he filmed streets, traffic and shop windows, offering a critical view of Western European lifestyle.
In 1981 Grigorescu’s work was shown at the sixteenth Bienal de São Paulo. He has taken part in a number of international shows including the forty-seventh Venice Biennale in 1997, Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979 in 1998 (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; MUMOK, Vienna; MACBA, Barcelona; and MOMAT, Tokyo) and Documenta Twelve 2007 (Kassel), Gender Check 2009 (MUMOK, Vienna). His work was also included in The Promises of the Past (2010), a major survey of post-war Eastern European art at Centre Pompidou, Paris. In 2009 his first retrospective, Ion Grigorescu: In the Body of the Victim 1969–2008, took place at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. Grigorescu’s films were featured in the Out of Place exhibition in Tate Modern’s Project Space in London in 2011.
Ileana Pintilie, Actionism in Romania during the Communist Era, Cluj 2002.
Marta Dziewanska (ed.), Ion Grigorescu: In the Body of the Victim, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art Warsaw, Warsaw 2010.
Kathrin Rhomberg (ed.), ‘Ion Grigorescu’, in 6. Berlin Biennale für zeitgenössische Kunst, Katalog/Kurzführer, exhibition catalogue, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin 2010, p.215.