When former basketball champion and artist Edi Rama became the mayor of Tirana, and later prime minister of Albania, he didn’t neglect his athletic and artistic background. The sense of team spirit and art came together in the project Coloring Tirana, wherein the facades of the former state-residential complexes in Tirana were painted, in order to improve the feeling of well-being and social security.
The typical bright red, purple, green and pink were quickly referred to as “Edi Rama colors”. Apart from the colors on the facades, the residential buildings were mostly not further renovated. The residents did not have a say in the design or the colors of their buildings, but they didn’t have to pay for them either.
Coloring Tirana was part of a larger social project whereby trees were planted, illegal buildings were demolished, and the historic city center was preserved. “Art for social change” was the statement, a slogan that can be called political, as these changes were made with the underlying intention to prepare Albania to join the European Union (a claim that was neglected in October 2019).
Edi Rama still profiles himself as an artist. He exhibited at Art Basel, the Venice Biennale, and Art Berlin, whereby Coloring Tirana usually is named as part of his portfolio. It goes a bit far to describe Coloring Tirana as Edi Rama’s personal art project, but it is in the least ‘related to’ Rama’s artistic practice.
Is it wanted for a politician to simultaneously practice art? Art is a medium that tends to operate in the sidelines; commenting and reflecting on society. When practiced by someone who makes that society, what consequences has this for both their artistic practice, as well as their political image?