“Polet”, 1967-1990 Croatian avant-garde youth paper, in the Library of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Owing to a donation by Mirko Ilić, a world-famous graphic designer and comic strip artist who has lived and worked in New York for over 30 years, to New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), 69 issues of Polet, a hugely popular and equally controversial 1970s youth paper published in Zagreb, have been included among other valuable resources in one of the finest collections of avant-garde Eastern European literature in the United States.
A group of enthusiasts started Polet in 1976, naming it in honour of the homonymous supplement that was published as part of a major Slovenian newspaper Delo during the 1960s. Keeping abreast of the standards of the European newspaper publishing, Zagreb’s Polet at the end of the 1970s was one of the most significant youth papers published in ex-Yugoslavia. Many theoreticians compare the appearance of Polet, along with other similar youth papers, to the underground press phenomenon in the West, notwithstanding the fact that the latter represented the combined output of several periodicals started as part of a student movement in the US, Canada and the UK during the late 1960s and early 1970s, as well as the related counterculture.
Polet, together with other similar youth papers and particularly in its later period, operated as a dynamic platform for progressive artistic design and innovative works of graphic art. Tremendously popular papers such as Pop express, Vidici, Studentski list and especially Polet, gave rise to a large number of media innovations, especially those related to the characteristic innovative layout of Goran Trbuljak, Polet’s prominent graphic designer. Notwithstanding the fact that the visual identity of papers of that period largely depended on editors’ decisions, particular graphic design team, the availability of resources and necessary technology, these innovations engendered an entirely new aesthetics in the sphere of Croatian graphic design.
Polet appeared as a continuation of the several decades of high-quality youth-oriented press combined with a tradition of top-notch Croatian design dating as early as the 1930s and bringing together names such as Otto Antonini, Ljubo Babić and Mihajlo Arsovski, as well as their successors Zoran Pavlović and Ivan Dorogi, who also made great contributions to Croatian graphic design. It was precisely Pavlović and Arsovski whose ingenious newspaper design solutions made Polet worthy of rightfully being included among the leading international papers of a similar type.
Polet was particularly recognisable for its specific photography, whose aesthetics ensued from photographs that realistically documented their content, but also “made comments” in relation to it. Andrija Zelmanović, Siniša Knaflec, Dražen Kalenić, Mio Vesović, Danilo Dučak, Ivan Posavec, Goran Pavelić Pipo, Fedor Vučemilović, Jasmin Krpan and Šime Strikoman all “learned the ropes” of the art of newspaper photography precisely as part of Polet’s creative team. Most of former “Polet photographers”, as they were commonly referred to, are still active today and represent the very best of Croatian contemporary photography.
All in all, a one of a kind team of extraordinarily creative individuals, ranging from journalists, graphic designers, comic strip artists, photographers to chief editors, merged their talents and thus succeeded in creating a paper whose outstanding qualities secured it a place among the best 20th-century avant-garde Eastern European papers preserved in one of the world’s leading art museums, MoMA.