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Contemporary Art in Belgrade

IN APRIL 1999, during the bombardment of the Serbian capital by nato planes, the photographer Vesna Pavlović took pictures of guests in the Belgrade Hyatt. One of the photos shows a man lying on a deck chair at the edge of the hotel’s swimming pool, draped in a white terry-cloth robe, checking his messages on his mobile phone (Herzlich willkommen im Hotel Hyatt Belgrad [A Cordial Welcome to the Hotel Hyatt Belgrade], 1999). While Pavlović leaves it to the audience to decide whether the subject is a Western journalist or a local mafia boss, there’s no ambiguity about this man’s nonchalance in the midst of the airborne devastation befalling the city outside his luxurious redoubt: It’s a grotesque demonstration of repression and ignorance, and an effective metaphor for a society’s refusal to acknowledge its own secession from “normalcy.” In fact, in Serbia during the ’90s, the term normality

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