In the last years, Cluj has gone through a metamorphosis: from a ‘provincial city’ to a major centre of education, art and cultural events, a fusion between eastern and western cultures. Attracting both Romanian artists from all over the country and foreign artists lured by the city’s effervescence, Cluj has gained its place in the ‘12 cities that will shake up the art world in the 21st century’. You can take your ‘art dose’ in museums, art galleries, cafés and restaurants, all day long.
A must-visit museum
National Art Museum
Located in an 18th-century baroque palace, the Art Museum exhibits five centuries of national art. With an emphasis on Transylvanian Art, the artworks are presented chronologically, illustrating the evolution of the local art from the 16th to 20th-century. Artists like Ion Andreescu, Nicolae Grigorescu and Stefan Luchian, who have brought their contribution to the national art identity, have their masterpieces exposed in the museum.
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Contemporary Art Galleries
The Paintbrush Factory
An old factory converted into an independent cultural space, the Paintbrush Factory counts 20 contemporary artists, five galleries, four cultural organisations and two performance rooms.
Created as an initiative of bringing together ideas and projects of several cultural organisations, galleries and independent artists, it’s the biggest and most remarkable project of this kind in Romania. A space of creation, exhibition and exchange, the Paintbrush Factory promotes emerging artists, hosts art-related events and workshops and proposes a co-work cultural FabHub.
Their projects include a ‘Culture Laboratory’, whose goal is to offer professional training in a Cultural Management field, a Library of Art Publications and a ‘Production Line’ that stimulates contemporary productions of performing arts.
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The Interest Centre
The newest project in town, the Interest Centre is the first centre dedicated to contemporary art and culture, which aims to bring contemporary art closer to the local community and to take part in the artistic development of Cluj. With five galleries, four spaces dedicated to new projects, three artist residency rooms and 24 creation workshops, the project gathers 30 visual artists that are working together to spread the ‘art virus’ and to ‘contaminate’ as many people as possible.
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What used to be a Jewish synagogue is today one of the main cultural centres in Cluj. Bringing together contemporary art, history, local artists and professionals, the aim of the Tranzit House, which brought this place back to life, is to foster intercultural creativity. They started by reconstructing the old building left in ruins and remodelling the space into a contemporary art centre, a meeting point for social and ethnic groups and a place for conferences, artistic events and exhibitions.
Quadro Gallery is a modern art gallery with a regional focus on Eastern European and Transylvanian art. The gallery emerged from the desire to promote regional art as a form of expression for the past and present. The Quadro Archive exposes the Romanian art of the 20th-century using historical documents like photographs, letters, manuscripts, posters. The gallery gathers a group of Eastern and Central Europe artists that organize events, debates and auctions.
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Whether you are passionate about antiques or dream of decorating your house with old-fashioned furniture, you have to visit Ernest Gallery. Opened in 1992, Ernest Gallery is the oldest in the city and the only to exhibit and sell antique objects: numismatic related objects, paintings, silverware, glassware, porcelain and furniture pieces. A visit is like entering a museum where every piece is carefully restored before being brought to the public’s eyes, a fascinating travel back in time. Every year, the gallery owners organize an Antiques Fair in Iulius Mall.
A former student of the Visual Arts Academy of Cluj-Napoca, Gheorghe Ilea is a Transylvanian artist whose work has been widely displayed in Romania, Hungary, Austria, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, France, UK and USA. In 2014 he opened his own art gallery, exhibiting and promoting his artwork. The little, cosy space is decorated with Ilea’s paintings and organic decorations, a natural expression of the annual season.
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IAGA Contemporary Art
IAGA Gallery was born from the desire of an Italian collector, Alberto Perobelli, to bring Eastern European and local art to the attention of western collectors by encouraging exchanges between Italian and Romanian artists. The exhibition room features a modern art selection of young, contemporary artists. The gallery is also an open-market for collectors and a space of artistic experiments and innovative projects.
Situated in the Central Park, in an eclectic 19th-century building and former casino, the Center for Urban Culture is today a place dedicated to cultural events and local artists’ exhibitions. Conferences, debates, book fairs, dance events, local exhibitions, the old Casino is the place where the local community finds a space of expression. The building can be rented for various events by making a demand to the city hall.
Located in a 16th-century palace in the heart of the city, Rhédey Café is a place of storytelling. The great-great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth, Claudine Rhédey, was born here and it is where the first theatre pieces were performed in the 18th-century. Today, the walls of the former bourgeoisie residence offer an intimate atmosphere and a beautiful exhibition of old photography.
Their menu features local dishes like Transylvanian tarragon soup, trout à la Gilau and the delicious vargabeles, a Hungarian dessert.
Doamna T is about old-fashioned furniture, antiques, beautiful paintings and old books. About a warm atmosphere, flavoured coffee and home-made cakes. About a travel back in time. It is a perfect place for those who want to drink a tea in a quiet room while reading a book from the cafe’s bookcase and a little culinary paradise for those interested in buying little pots of tea, candies, marmalade or oil, all prepared in Lady T’s laboratory.
One of the two bars in Cluj where you feel that you’ve stepped into another world, Joben Bistro is the place where you become a character of H. G. Wells or Jules Verne’s books. A mix of oldfangled furniture and futuristic decor, the bar was created by two Romanian designers, mixing science-fiction, industrial and classic pieces and stovepipe hat lampshades.
Enigma Cafe is the first kinetic steampunk pub ever opened, having a worldwide-unique design. At Enigma, you feel like you are in a time capsule, between rotating wheels, kinetic sculptures, travelling together with a robot, straight in L. Frank Baum’s story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Designed by the same studio as Joben, Enigma Cafe is not only a bar and restaurant, but a piece of artistry and an illustration of the creativity of local designers.
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The biggest mural painting in Romania
The concept of ‘street art’ is not very well promoted in Cluj, but little by little new artists and platforms dedicated to street arts are emerging. In a city that was marked by the communist-era architecture, contemporary art is now taking its place. In the courtyard of the Innovation Social Hub H33, you can see the biggest mural painting in Romania, the Micro Macro Cosmos Human.