Igor Zabel

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Igor Zabel. Photo: Borut Krajnc. [1]

Igor Zabel (14 August 1958, Ljubljana – 23 July 2005, Ljubljana) was a Slovene art historian, curator, writer, critic and translator.

Igor Zabel graduated in comparative literature, art history and philosophy from the University of Ljubljana in 1982. After graduation he worked for two years as assistant lecturer at the Department for Comparative Literature of the Faculty of Arts. In 1989, he received his MA from the same university. Between 1984 and 1986, he worked as a freelance writer. Starting in 1986, Igor Zabel worked as curator at the Ljubljana Museum of Modern Art, where he gained the title of senior curator and prepared a number of anthology exhibitions of Slovenian art, solo as well as thematic exhibitions: Aspects of the Minimal: Minimal Art in Slovenia 1968–1980 (1990); OHO–A Retrospective (1994); Inexplicable Presence: Curator's Working Place (1997); Tank! Slovene Historical Avant-Garde (1998, with Breda Ilich Klančnik); The Eye and Its Truth (2001); Seven Sins: Ljubljana – Moscow (2004, with Zdenka Badovinac and Viktor Misiano); the exhibition trilogy Slovene Art 1975–2005 (2003–05, with Igor Španjol).

His curatorial work outside Slovenia includes exhibition Individual Systems at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003) and, among others, 33rd Zagreb Salon at the Museum and Gallery Centre Zagreb (1998); Aspects/Positions at the Museum moderner Kunst – Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna (1999, member of the team of experts, chief curator: Lóránd Hegyi); and The Future Is Not What It Used To Be, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig (2004, with Barbara Steiner).

Zabel was coordinator of Manifesta 3, European Biennial of Contemporary Art, in Ljubljana in 2000 and a member of the International Board of Manifesta. He was co-editor of the first six issues of the MJ – Manifesta Journal: Journal of Contemporary Curatorship (with Viktor Misiano) and for several years editor of the magazine of Moderna galerija Ljubljana M’ars as well as one of the advisors for the Moderna galerija's 2000+ Arteast Collection (curator: Zdenka Badovinac).

Igor Zabel is the author of two books of essays on contemporary art and a number of essays and articles published in Slovenian and international anthologies, collected editions, catalogues and magazines (including Art Journal, Art Press, Flash Art, Index, Moscow Art Magazine, and others). A selection of his essays in English was published after his death: Igor Zabel: Contemporary Art Theory. He wrote short stories and translated (into and from the Slovene language) numerous texts and books from the field of humanities and literature (his Slovene translations include: Thomas Pynchon, Edward W. Said, Oscar Wilde, Immanuel Wallerstein, Sigmund Freud, Michael Baxandall, Erwin Panofsky, etc.).

For several years, he engaged in passing on his broad knowledge and experiences in writing and curating contemporary art to younger generations in the World of Art – Curatorial Course for Contemporary Art in Ljubljana. (2023)

Two years after Igor Zabel's sudden death, in 2007, his family members along the ERSTE Foundation founded The Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory. The association reports its goal as the promotion of the ongoing importance of Zabel's work "for art and cultural understanding between East and West" Europe.



  • Freud in interpretacija literature, Ljubljana: University of Ljubljana, 1981, 146 pp. Master's thesis. (Slovenian)
  • Strategije, taktike, afterw. Marko Juvan, Ljubljana: Književna mladina Slovenije, 1985, 61 pp. Short stories. (Slovenian)
  • Vmesni prostor. Eseji o slikarstvu Emerika Bernarda, Ljubljana: Krtina, 1991, 142 pp. Essay collection. [2] (Slovenian)
  • Lise na steni: kratke zgodbe, Ljubljana: Aleph, 1993, 69 pp. Short stories. (Slovenian)
  • Zabel, et al., OHO: Retrospektiva/Eine Retrospektive/A Retrospective, Ljubljana: Moderna Galerija, 1994, 120 pp; new ed., Ljubljana: Moderna Galerija, and Frankfurt am Main: Revolver, 2007, 167 pp. Catalogue. (Slovenian)/(German)/(English)
  • Speculationes, Ljubljana: ISH Fakulteta za podiplomski humanistični študij, 1997, 207 pp. Essay collection. (Slovenian)
  • Podrobnosti, Ljubljana: Založba *cf., 2006, 198 pp. [3] (Slovenian)
  • Eseji I: o moderni in sodobni umetnosti, Ljubljana: Založba *cf., 2006, 547 pp. Essay collection. [4] (Slovenian)
  • Eseji II: o moderni in sodobni umetnosti, ed. Zoja Skušek, Ljubljana: Založba *cf., 2008, 536 pp. Essay collection. [5] (Slovenian)
  • Eseji III, Ljubljana: Založba *cf., 2010, 358 pp. Essay collection. [6] (Slovenian)
  • Contemporary Art Theory, ed. Igor Španjol, Zurich: JRP Ringier, Dijon: Les presses du réel, Vienna: ERSTE Foundation, Ljubljana: Moderna galerija, and Ljubljana: Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory, 2012, 295 pp. Essay collection. Selection of texts by Zoja Skušek and Barbara Borčić. Publisher. Publisher. Publisher. (English)
  • Ah, art! Popotni zapiski, ed. Zoja Skušek, Ljubljana: Založba *cf., 2014, 174 pp. [7] (Slovenian)

Essays, articles, reviews[edit]

  • "'We and the 'Others'", Moscow Art Magazine 22, Moscow, 1998, pp 27-35; repr., rev. & exp., in After the Wall: Art and Culture in Post-Communist Europe, eds. Bojana Pejic, et al., Stockholm: Moderna Museet, 1999, pp 110-113; repr. in Atlas of Transformation, eds. Zbyněk Baladrán and Vít Havránek, Prague: tranzit.cz, 2009. Presented at the conference We and the Others (Russian Artists in the West), the Others and We (Western Artists in Russia), organised in the context of the Moscow International Art Fair Art Manege 97 on 6-7 December 1997. [8] (English)
    • "'My' i 'drugie' ['Мы' и 'другие'], Moscow Art Magazine 22, Moscow, 1998. [9] (Russian)
    • "'My' a ti 'jiní'", trans. Martin Micka, in České umění 1980-2010. Texty a dokumenty, eds. Jiří Ševčík, Pavlína Morganová, Terezie Nekvindová, and Dagmar Svatošová, Prague: VVP AVU, 2011, pp 303-311. (Czech)
  • Bibliography of writings


  • "Perhaps it's the destiny of utopia that they are no longer where we expect them: an interview with Kathrin Rhomberg", MJ–Manifesta Journal 3, Ljubljana, Spring/Summer 2004, pp 58-63. (English)
  • "What Is to Be Done with the 'Balkan Art': Interview with Igor Zabel", PlatformaSCCA 4, Ljubljana, 2005, pp 26-30. (English)

On Igor Zabel[edit]

  • Igor Bratož, Beti Žerovc, Sergej Kapus, Zoja Skušek, Barbara Borčić, "Igor Zabel (1958-2005)", Zbornik za umetnostno zgodovino (Nova vrsta) 41, 2005, pp 274-289. (Slovenian)
  • Continuing Dialogues: A Tribute to Igor Zabel, eds. Christa Benzer, Christine Böhler and Christiane Erharter, Zürich: JRP Ringier, 2008, 213 pp. [10] (English)
  • Extending the Dialogue: Essays by Igor Zabel Award Laureates, Grant Recipients, and Jury Members, 2008-2014, eds. Urška Jurman, Christiane Erharter, and Rawley Grau, Ljubljana: Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory, Berlin: Archive Books, and Vienna: ERSTE Foundation, 2016, 413 pp. Essay by Edit András. (English)