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United Buddy Bears Exhibition

The art of tolerance

  • 29 May - 17 Jul 2024

    Trg republike square

From May 29 to July 17, 145 colourful two-meter-tall bears will greet us with raised paws at Trg republike (Republic Square). These bears spread friendship and optimism among the countries they represent, including Slovenia. The Slovenian bear was painted by the young artist Luka Rep.

About the author and the Slovenian bear

Luka Rep, who worked on his design from 23 April to 8 May at Center Rog, is a student of the Academy of Visual Arts AVA Ljubljana and a City of Ljubljana Talent Scholarship holder. Currently focusing on painting, he is a promising young artist whose works have been shown in student exhibitions. His artistic practice gravitates towards blurring the limits of painting to move beyond its boundaries and converge with other media. In the near future, he aims to earn a postgraduate degree abroad and establish himself in art.

The winning design for the new Slovenian bear features a variety of faces of different genders, nationalities, ages, and cultures to point to the essential, crucial need for tolerance, compassion, and solidarity in striving for mutual understanding, consideration, and peaceful coexistence. Depicted as quick croquis, a multitude of outlined faces highlight some of the individuals who have had a vital impact on the Slovenian cultural history: Ivan Cankar, Alma Karlin, Zofka Kveder, Ivana Kobilca, Lili Novy, Jože Plečnik, France Prešeren and Primož Trubar. The design is limited to three main colours – white, blue, and red, alluding to the colours of the Slovenian flag. An additional motif included in the design to make it more dynamic is Idrija lace, a symbol of Slovenian identity, creativity, and tradition.

The artist was selected through an open call that aimed to support a young generation of artists at the start of their careers. The artist selection process was conducted by the Young Dragons youth centre with the support of the City of Ljubljana and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ljubljana.

A story of tolerance

The story of the "Classic Buddy Bears" began in Berlin in June 2001, when the project initiators, Eva and Klaus Herlitz, launched a unique initiative that proved a major driver of street art in Berlin. By holding their arms raised towards the sky, the Buddy Bears aim to spread friendliness and optimism. Growing into a famous story, the Buddy Bears became the unofficial symbol of Berlin.
The circle of United Buddy Bears was created in Berlin in 2002 to make people contemplate international understanding and peaceful coexistence. At the time, ambassadors invited artists to each design one of the 2m tall sculptures to represent the artists’ countries, their culture, history, people, landscape, economy, music, and traditions. This way, the bears have come to reflect the cultural diversity of our world. In 2004, the colourful group of travelling bears embarked on its tour around the globe, which was only briefly disrupted by the pandemic. Now the bears are on their way to Ljubljana.

Coming together to form the Third Paradise

The sculptures will be arranged in a way to form Pistoletto’s Third Paradise symbol, reflecting the free artistic view of coexistence in this human and more-than-human world. The idea to include the Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto in the project came from his exhibition in Cukrarna and the close relationship we have generally developed with him and his mission. In his entry in the Golden Book of Ljubljana, Pistoletto drew the symbol of the Third Paradise, which subtly illustrates all the values that the City of Ljubljana aims to convey with this exhibition.


Free enterance


The exhibition in Ljubljana was created in collaboration with the Municipality of Ljubljana, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ljubljana, and Buddy Bear Berlin, with the support of numerous partners and project supporters.

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