Art & Culture

Your essential guide to galleries, museums and the performing arts in Croatia

Travel

Game of Thrones guide to Croatia

There can’t be many visitors to Croatia who are still not aware that the Dalmatian city of Dubrovnik is a key location in HBO’s obscenely popular fantasy series ‘Game Of Thrones’. What might be less apparent to those other than committed Throne-heads however is the extent to which the series seems to be taking over the rest of Dalmatia too. Locations around Split lent several new dimensions to season four; by season five the filming had extended as far as the central Dalmatian town of Šibenik. And there’s no shortage of potential locations around the history-scarred Adriatic. Where the cast will end up next is anybody’s guess. The remorseless season-by-season growth of ‘Game Of Thrones’ from geeky cult to global obsession has already had a huge impact on visitor numbers in Dubrovnik. The Throne-tour phenomenon looks set to go Adriatic-wide in 2016. What follows is a guide to the most iconic Croatian locations used in the series so far – many of which are hugely rewarding destinations in their own right. Dubrovnik has served as the location for the fantasy city of King’s Landing ever since the shooting of series two, when it replaced Malta as the preferred backdrop for the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. The look of the walled city has clearly imprinted itself on the fictional King’s Landing, however many cosmetic changes the set builders may have made. It is now difficult to think of ‘Game Of Thrones’ at all without visions of Dubrovnik springing immediately to mind.   D

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Art

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

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Things to do

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

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Blog

Pimp it up: Zagreb's street furniture gets pumped

Street art has always been celebrated in Zagreb. Graffiti artists flock here to make their mark on the walls, and Boris Bućan and co were painting in the city streets in the Sixties. So what next for a city where art outside of the gallery is no longer art outside of the box? It turns out there are plenty of surprises left in the Croatian capital, and water pumps are the latest thing to get the Banksy treatment. A street art collective has decided that in this most vibrant of European cities, leaving the rusty old pumps that lurk on every corner untouched just won’t do. The six artists – all locals – have taken their paint brushes to the fixtures, which you’ll see all over: courtyards, industrial estates, high streets, marketplaces. They’re often witty pop culture references (there’s a brilliant, blue-haired Marge Simpson and a diminutive Darth-Vader) or inspired by other artists – such as a suitably surreal Dali pump.   Pimp My Pump  Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain are also reincarnated in pump-form, and there’s a Bruce Lee looking ready to pounce. Some of the pumps are still functioning, while others, now defunct, serve as reminders of the city’s communal past – residents would gather at these watering holes, so they’ve got a special place in the city’s collective heart.  Here are a couple of our favourite pimped pumps:   Pimp My Pump We like this Batman pump because of the excellent accessorising (that simple but effective cape) and because at this height, bat

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Things to do

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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The best of Croatia

Art

Zagreb gallery guide

Zagreb’s many galleries come in many guises – passionate independent venues rub shoulders with venerable institutions. Consider this your essential Zagreb gallery guide.

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Art

Dubrovnik art gallery guide

Dubrovnik is not all about luxury hotels and destination restaurants. Step inside our Dubrovnik art gallery guide to discover where to catch some of Croatia's best modern and contemporary art, and coolest exhibition programmes.

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Things to do

Essential Dubrovnik attractions

Dubrovnik's glittering past as the Republic of Ragusa means it has several stand-out sights of great historic interest, which combine with its scattering of museums and galleries. Fascinating landmarks dot the Old Town an easy stroll from each other, perfect for a day's sightseeing. Consider this your Dubrovnik attractions bucket list.

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Art

The best Split museums and galleries

A bustling hub in Roman times, Split – which is built around an old Roman palace – is full of unique historic and artistic treasures. Split attractions include a number of museums and galleries that make the city a fascinating destination for art aficionados, historians and sightseers alike. Here's where to head.

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Croatia’s top venues for art and exhibitions

Museums

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.

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Art

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.

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Museums

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.

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Museums

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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More cultural venues in Croatia

Theatre

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.

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Art

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.

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Art

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.

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Art

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.

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Art

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.

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