A sophisticated city with imperial architecture, cobbled streets, a vibrant dining scene and lush parks, Zagreb also possesses an edgy side; the legacy of its Socialist past and location at the cross-roads between East and West. From renowned museums to institutions commemorating broken relationships and artist-led, alternative exhibition spaces, we explore ten must-visit art galleries in Zagreb.
When former couple, artist Dražen Grubišić and festival producer Olinka Vištica, decided to split their possessions after their break-up, they came up with the idea of an art installation exhibiting mementos of relationships gone wrong. The success of the project and the amount of donations from people were so big that they eventually opened the Museum Of Broken Relationships, which is now housed in the 18th century palace of Zagreb’s Old Town. Nostalgia, desire, anger, affection and jealousy are all prevalent in the exhibits which are divided into emotional themes; some being funny other tragic. An ax with which angry lovers smashed the furniture, or an electronic dog tag given by a woman to a boyfriend who abandoned her before committing suicide are all relics of human relationships, unraveling the mysteries of the heart.
Croatian Museum of Naïve Art
| Courtesy of The Croatian Museum Of Naïve Art
Croatian Museum of Naïve Art
The works of mainly self-taught artists and sculptors, who produced wonderful pieces of personal and professional style without any formal training, are exhibited in Zagreb’s Croatian Museum Of Naïve Art. Paintings, drawings and colorful sculptures, mainly by artists from Croatia and its surrounding region and dating from the 1930s to the 1970s, are sure to capture the attention of untrained viewers and art experts alike. Franjo Mraz, Sofija Natetilic have exhibited here. Furthermore, some of the most striking exhibits are Emerik Feješ’s vibrant city monuments; Ivan Generalić’s rural landscapes; and Ivan Rabuzin’s heavenly paintings containing visions of eternal spring.
Lauba House For People And Art is a contemporary art gallery which has made a huge impact on the Croatian arts since its opening in 2011. Based on the private collection of Businessman Tomislav Kličko, it has a permanent collection which is rotated every month according to a ‘non-permanent’ concept and offers solo and group exhibitions by contemporary artists, such as Lovro Artuković, Ivana Franke, Ivo Gattin and Zlatan Vehabović. Open until the late-night hours, the old Zagreb textile Mill, with its now black exterior, is today a meeting place for discovering new Croatian and foreign artists, participating in international cultural trends and bringing people together through functions, activities and various projects.
With a central location, wide windows and a new exhibition opening every Monday, independent gallery, Greta is currently one of the most popular venues in Zagreb, receiving a great many visitors daily. Housed in a former textile shop under the same name, Greta was founded in 2011 by a non-profit organisation of Zagreb creatives, named Zebra. With a dynamic contemporary art program, featuring a mix of established and lesser-known artists, this is a very popular venue where artists have to book a year in advance to showcase their work. Fine arts, video installations, sculptures and performances, as well as workshops, are all part of the dynamic schedule Greta offers to visitors. Artists who have previously exhibited in the gallery include Maria Kalogera, David Maljković and Alem Korkut.
G-mk, or the Miroslav Kraljevic Gallery, named after the 20th century Croatian artist Miroslav Kraljevic, was founded in 1986 by the INA Association For Art And Culture. Starting as an artistic hub, presenting amateur artists’ work, it slowly evolved into a center for exhibitions, presentations, lectures and performances, becoming, after 2005 and under the guidance of Antonia Majaca, one of the most influential galleries in Zagreb. A contemporary art venue, G-mk is now a place of artistic production, education and collaboration, hosting residency and research programs and projects, not bound by rules, deadlines and other pressures. The gallery has hosted numerous exhibitions throughout the years, such as Igor Grubic’s 366 Liberation Rituals, Andreja Kuluncica’s On the State of the Nation, talk series’, and many workshops with students and exchange programs.
An alternative club space full of bizarre attractions, from disco nights to cultural exhibitions, Gallery Močvara, or the ‘Swamp’, is a curiosity that has managed to make a difference in the Zagreb contemporary gallery scene. By hosting film nights, happenings, exhibitions, alternative rock concerts, symposiums, the gallery, a former factory on the banks of the river Sava attracts hordes of young people who are willing to participate in all kinds of cultural activities. Curated by the Kontejner organisation, Močvara is a progressive space now focusing upon new media art with a particular emphasis on art sound and a progressive use of technology.
The idea to revitalize and transform different parts of the city of Zagreb led a group of well-known Croatian artists to supervise the Museum of Street Art, or MUU. The repainting, refurbishment of empty walls, as well as artistic intervention in older parts of the city followed on from this. Starting with the renovation of the ulica Branimirova, the street connecting the main bus and train stations, the ‘museum’ has since continued revamping with three more projects in the neglected areas of Siget and Dugave, as well as the interior of the abandoned military hospital in Vlaska 87. The result is a fantastic mix of painting, spray-can culture by established artists such as Ivan Fijolić and street artists such as OKO. Locals are delighted with the changes in their area, where people can enjoy works of art while avoiding the elitist surroundings and opening hours of most galleries.
Museum of Street Art, different locations in Zagreb
Atelijer Meštrović Zagreb
| Courtesy Atelijer Meštrović
Ivan Meštrović was a Croatian sculptor and architect (1883-1962) who produced a great body of work which is today housed in a gallery under his name. The 17th century converted building in Zagreb’s Upper Town, made up of three adjoining buildings, was once the artist’s main residence and studio. More than 300 sculptures, drawings and other artwork, including furniture designed by Meštrović, are exhibited in the beautiful former residence, which he donated to the state before his move to the United States in the late 1960s. Visitors will enjoy a variety of themes, mainly portraits, female nudes and mythological themes and figures.
The name of the gallery stands for What, Why And For Whom, the title of the first exhibition by the team of curators Ivet Ćurlin, Ana Dević, Nataša Ilić, Sabina Sabolović and Dejan Kršić who were inspired by the Communist Manifesto. The cornerstone of Croatia’s best-known collective is equality, and their projects explore mainly the suppressed memories of ex-Yugoslavia’s Soviet past and the collective society. Trying to bring together different generations for an exchange of critical thinking, Galerija Nova organizes exhibitions in Zagreb and around the world. For example, The Broadcasting Project, dedicated to Nikola Tesla in Zagreb in 2002; Here And Now Real, Not Yet Concrete in Lubljana, 2006; What Keeps Mankind Alive at the 11th Istanbul Biennal in 2009; and Meeting Points, a festival for artists from the Arab world in 2013.
The Strossmayer Gallery, taking its name from the Bishop Josip Jurai Strossmayer who donated his private collection to the state in 1884, is located in the Croatian Academy Of Arts And Sciences. Those visiting the fabulous 19th century neo-Renaissance building close to Zrinjevac park will enjoy the large collection of paintings by European masters, such as Veronese, Brueghel and El Greco and Croatian artists such as Medulić and Benković. The Baška Tablet, the lengthiest surviving inscription dating back to the year 1100, is also on display here.