After years of anticipation, at last Split has a cultural resource to challenge the best in Croatia. The Split Art Gallery has reopened in a historic building with a conveniently central location.
The city of Split waited more than a century for a suitable home for its growing art collection. It was no surprise, then, that in May 2009, when this state-of-the-art exhibition space finally opened its doors to the public, the gallery director shed tears of joy at the official ceremony.
The permanent collection is now on show, with more than 400 works to look at. These range from the early 20th-century sculptural masterpieces of Ivan Meštrović to Ede Murtić's abstract Sky Over New York from the early 1950s, and a characteristic work by Julije Kniefer, whose thematically repetitive meander paintings were the inspiration for the architecture of the new Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb.
There are also a handful of contemporary artists working in new media in the permanent collection, many of whom have a personal connection to the Split area. A popular video work is Siniša Labrović's performance Artist Licking the Heels of the Members of the Audience, in which the artist, who was born in the nearby Dalmatian hinterland town of Sinj, cleverly turns a position of ultimate subordination into one of psychological supremacy, as members of the audience squirm with embarrassment at the touch of the artist's tongue. The new location of the Split Art Gallery is known locally as the 'Old Hospital' and functioned as a socialistic Museum of the Revolution until 1991.