Edi Hila: Chronicler of Communist Albania and Beyond

A prominent figure of the contemporary art scene in the Balkans, Edi Hila has generated an output that spans several decades of Albanian history—from the Communist regime of Enver Hoxha (1944-85) to the transitional years of the 90s to the period of stabilisation in the 2000s.

In his paintings, Hila employs a limited yet deep palette of greys and blues and shows a society under the force of profound changes. Suspended between eras and ideologies is ghostly architecture—boulevards and buildings that rise from the mist and go back into it. The Albanian psychology is materialised in mysterious, haunting imagery that announces the end of a world but also signals the possibility of reinvention, a search for a better, fuller identity.


Edi Hila in his studio in Tirana © Sébastien Carvalho / Galerie Mitterrand


Planting of Trees (1971), Nationale Kunstgalerie, Tirana © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand


Born in Shkodër in 1944, Edi Hila has been a professor at the University of Fine Arts in Tirana for many years. In 1972, he painted Planting of Trees, a bright and colourful, somewhat fantastical picture. He was ordered to labour as a sack hauler in a poultry factory from 1974-78 when it was discovered that the painting did not adhere to the prescribed socialist realist doctrine and bore the signs of Western influence. But Hila later refused to migrate to an economically prosperous and artistically open country. Staying back, he developed a unique style that captured the insecurity and fear felt in everyday life in Albania as it found new freedom and struggled to understand itself after Communism.

Edi Hila has taken part in numerous international exhibitions. Venues include the Venice Biennale (1999), the Moderna Museet in Stockholm (1999), the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, the Ludvig Museum in Budapest (2000), Essl Museum in Vienna (2003) and the Liverpool Biennale (2010). His works have recently been acquired by the collections of the Musée d’art Moderne Centre Pompidou, FRAC Pays de la Loire and the Fonds Municipal of the Ville de Paris.

The artist is represented by Galerie Mitterrand in Paris.


Mother © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand


Boulevard 2 © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand


Boulevard 3 © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand


Boulevard 4 © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand


Boulevard 6 © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand


Pyramides © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand


Municipalité de Tirana © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand


Comers © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand


Open Door © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand


The Discovery © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand


Witness © Edi Hila / Galerie Mitterrand