Interview with street artist OKO
One of Zagreb’s most prolific street artists is a young woman who goes under the name of OKO (“The Eye”). Her phantasmagorical images of humans with birds’ faces, or dreamy patterns woven from what look like entrails, are decorative and disturbing in equal measure. “The bird-faces are a symbol of freedom, of something pure” says OKO. “I read somewhere that birds are carriers of the soul after death, and I was really inspired by that idea.” Stuck to surfaces throughout the city, OKO’s pictures look like prints or photocopies; they are in fact painted on thin paper with acrylics before being glued to the wall of her choice. OKO coined the phrase “the city as a confessional booth” to help explain her relationship with public space. One of her earliest ever works involved writing her fears and frustrations on bits of paper, folded them up and put them in test tubes, which she then hung in various locations around the city to be discovered by strangers. Her trademark larger-than-life human figures with animal heads can be seen at Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Art, decorating the courtyard of Zagreb’s Medika club and at the outdoor wall of the &TD theatre bar. See more of OKO's work on her blog, or buy prints online. Q: How did you become a street artist? A: Like most things in life, it happened in a blink. One day I made a few stickers and put them up in the street. It gave me a feeling of complete freedom, and that’s the main reason why my art has stayed on the street e
Design District Zagreb
London’s east is often cited as the creative hotbed of the city, Paris’s quartier of cool is Ménilmontant; in Berlin, the trendy neighborhood of Kreuzkölln. When it comes to the EU’s newest capital, where is Zagreb’s most happening district? Local design whizz Ira Payer is spearheading the case for Martićeva. Once home to Zagreb’s automotive industry, the area has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years thanks to forward-thinking enterprises like Croatian Design Superstore, where Ira is creative director. A collaboration of designers, artists and marketing experts, CDS brings cool, highly desirable Croatian products under one roof. Its distinctive outlet – covered from ceiling to floor in brilliant red – has become something of a showpiece in Martićeva. It’s also a leading example of how creative businesses are transforming the urban fabric of the capital. The Martićeva neighbourhood, more than most, has seen a preponderance of new galleries, bookshops and bistros settling in and around its main strip. As the doyenne of Zagreb’s design scene, Ira recognised Martićeva’s creative assets as something more tangible: ‘Zagreb’s tourism has truly started to blossom, and this area has a special charm, but not enough recognition. My idea is to push forward the creative potential of the Martićeva so that the neighbourhood is recognized as the center of creative activity: Zagreb’s Design District.’ The story of the design district is, in many ways, the story of urban development in th
Breakfast at the Printer's
This year, the Tate Modern celebrated him in World Goes Pop!, and now Boris Bućan’s explosive, genre-busting art is getting its own retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Bućan shook up the sixties art world with his rule-breaking practice: he’d draw on roads, gallery courtyards, and anywhere except the canvas – quite litAerally painting the town red (or blue). But this exhibition focuses on his later innovations, which saw him – along with his peers from the New Art Practice – play around with new technologies such as photocopies, video and graphic design. For Bucan, this experimentation led him to create an expansive, brilliant array of posters between the seventies and nineties. They were mainly for theatres and cultural institutions, and today they still look as bold and optically playful as they did decades ago. As this exhibition makes clear, Bucan managed to tear art out of the gallery and throw it full-throttle into the everyday world.
Cest is d’Best 2016
Founded by popular Croatian street artists, Cest is d’Best is a celebration of international street entertainment. The title is a play on words based on the Croatian word for the street: cesta. Expect tons of entertaining sideshows, great music and strange sports competitions, all on open-air stages set up throughout the city.
Zagreb in a weekend: the art lover's guide
Friday Kick off with a visit to the Modern Gallery, which displays the history of Croatian painting from the 19th century to the present day. Check out what’s on at the nearby Art Pavilion, home to frequent big exhibitions, before heading for the Croatian Association of Artists (‘HDLU’), a rotunda-shaped building that usually has two or three contemporary exhibitions running concurrently. Saturday daytime Spend Saturday morning hitting the boutiques: head first for the downtown street of Dežmanova for a quick look at the dresses at I-GLE and domestic trinkets at – Love, Ana before popping across the street for coffee at the impeccably designed Dežman Bar. Elsewhere in the centre, browse unique fashions and accessories at Vešmašina, thoughtfully designed souvenirs at Take Me Home, racy alternative fashions at Roba and Dioralop, or youthful Balkan bling at ELFS. The Croatian Design Superstore on Martićeva has a cross-section of just about everything. Round off afternoon at Klovićevi dvori, Upper Town venue for major touring art and history exhibitions. Saturday evening In the evening consider a late visit to Lauba, open until 10pm, the privately owned gallery of contemporary Croatian art. Alternatively, see what’s happening at Greta, the independent gallery that has exhibition openings every Saturday night. Follow the latter with a drink in the nearby Sedmica bar, spiritual home of many of Zagreb’s artists/designers/whatevers. Sunday You need to devote an hour or two t
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Croatia’s top venues for art and exhibitions
Museum of Contemporary Art • Zagreb
Costing some €60 million and covering 14,500 square metres, the MCA – MSU in Croatian – is the most significant museum to open in Zagreb for more than a century. Its collection includes pieces from the 1920s and gathered since 1954 when Zagreb's original MCA (in Upper Town) was founded. Of particular note are Carsten Höller's slides, similar to the 'Test Site' installation he built for Tate Modern's Turbine Hall but custom-made and site specific for Zagreb – pieces of art patrons can ride to the parking lot. Croatia's outstanding 1950s generation of abstract-geometric artists (Ivan Picelj, Aleksandar Srnec, Vjenceslav Richter, Vlado Kristl) play a starring role in the collection, alongside photographs and films documenting the more outlandish antics of legendary performance artists like Tom Gotovac and Vlasta Delimar. The new-media and computer-art works produced by the Zagreb-based New Tendencies movement in the late '60s and early 70s reveals just how ahead-of-its-time much of Croatian art really was.
Moderna Galerija • Zagreb
Housed in the impressively renovated Vraniczany palace on Zrinjevac, the Modern Gallery is home to the national collection of 19th- and 20th-century art. It kicks off in spectacular fashion with huge canvases by late-19th-century painters Vlaho Bukovac and Celestin Medović dominating the sublimely proportioned hexagonal entrance hall. From here the collection works its way chronologically through the history of Croatian painting, taking in Ljubo Babić's entrancing 1920s landscapes and Edo Murtić's jazzy exercises in 1950's abstract art. Several contemporary artists are featured here too - sufficient to whet your appetite before hopping over the river to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see some more. The Moderna Galerija's most innovative feature is the tactile gallery, a room containing versions of famous paintings in relief form (together with Braille captions) for unsighted visitors to explore.
Museum of Arts & Crafts • Zagreb
This grand Hermann Bollé-designed palace, founded in 1880, was originally based on 'a collection of samples for master craftsmen and artists who need to re-improve production of items of everyday use'. It has now grown to become the country's premier collection of applied art, with a wide-ranging gaggle of pieces from Baroque altar pieces to Biedermeier furniture, domestic ceramics, clocks and contemporary poster design. A side room full of synagogue silverware and ritual candlesticks recalls the rich heritage of Zagreb's pre-World War II Jewish community. On the top floor, a collection of 19th-20th century ball gowns and evening dresses provides a strong whiff of glamour. The museum is also a major venue for temporary exhibitions with big themes, with the photographs of Rene Magritte and the history of Croatian Art Deco drawing recent crowds.
Croatian Museum of Naive Art • Zagreb
Housed on the second floor of the 18th-century Raffay Palace, this collection is a solid introduction to Croatian Naive Art, mostly the work of self-taught peasant painters from the villages of the east. The collection is frequently rotated but there are usually plenty of representations of rural life executed by the big names of the genre: Ivan Generalić, Mirko Virius and Ivan Rabuzin. Also included are international primitives such as the self-taught Polish-Ukrainian artist Nikifor.
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Croatian National Theatre • Split
As in Zagreb, the National Theatre in Split played a vital role in the promotion of the Croatian language while the country was still ruled from elsewhere. This venerable institution opened in 1893, first at Dobroma, before this imposing edifice was built decades later. Early performances featured troupes from Italy while a local theatrical culture developed. Today the HNK not only stages Croatian-language theatre, but also foreigner-friendly opera and ballet. It's a major venue during the Split Summer Festival.
Croatian Association of Artists • Zagreb
Visit for the building alone, a circular pavilion standing in the middle of Victims of Fascism Square a ten-minute walk south-east of the main square. The building was designed by sculptor Ivan Meštrović just before World War II as an exhibition space in honour of the then Yugoslav King Peter I. Inside, the circular walls contain three galleries, which span two floors and provide an outstanding venue for a dynamic program of contemporary art exhibitions and events organized by the Croatian Association of Artists (HDLU). The circular central hall features natural light through the cupola.
Dubrovnik Contemporary Gallery
When you tire of all of the “I love Dubrovnik” t-shirts and refrigerator magnets, take a 10-minute stroll from the city walls to the Dubrovnik Contemporary Gallery, on the left-hand side of the road that leads to the Excelsior Hotel. This little gem features striking contemporary paintings by Croatian-American artist Selma Hafizovic Muller, who also exhibits in many galleries in New York. Her work is colourful, edgy: a welcome change from all the traditional landscapes, harbour scenes and sunsets.
Greta Gallery • Zagreb
Zagreb has always lacked the kind of small-scale independent galleries that occupy the fertile spawning grounds in-between public art institutions and private dealers. Which is why Greta, a gallery in a former clothes shop that opens a new exhibition every Monday night, has proved such an instant hit. Greta doesn’t follow too strict a curatorial framework, ensuring the widest possible variety of artistic approaches. The gallery’s location, at the apex of a bohemian Bermuda Triangle formed by the Fine Arts Academy, the Architecture Faculty and the Sedmica bar, ensures a knowledgeable and enthusiastic public. Indeed Greta regularly receives more visitors than many of the more established galleries, with opening-night celebrants spilling out onto the pavement outside.
Lauba House • Zagreb
Lurking mysteriously in a little-visited area 4km west of the centre is this brand-new private art gallery, occupying a century-old barrack block painted in alluring matt black by modern restorers. Displaying the collection of businessman Tomislav Kličko, Lauba includes major works by virtually everyone who is anyone in Croatian art from about 1950 onwards. If you've already visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, then Lauba will provide you with a refreshingly alternative take on the local art establishment, concentrating on visually appealing works as well as more conceptual exercises. Figurative paintings by Lovro Artuković and disarmingly bling sculptures by Kristjan Kožul are among the highlights.