Art & Culture

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

In pictures: Zagreb street style
Things to do

In pictures: Zagreb street style

The Croatian capital is a stylish place, and there's heaps of sartorial inspiration to be found on the city streets. Time Out's photographer has snapped the most fashionable street styles from this weekend - get some inspiration (or spot yourself) in this fabulous photo gallery.

A history of Zagreb in ten buildings
Art

A history of Zagreb in ten buildings

Visitors to Zagreb tend to make a beeline for the cathedral and St Mark's church. And while they're certainly worth admiring, the architecture fiend should know that the Croatian capital's finest buildings exceed the ecclesiastical variety. There's hardly a movement since Art Nouveau that hasn't left a trace here, and startling examples of the avant-garde are lurking at every corner. Here's a history of Zagreb in ten remarkable buildings. RECOMMENDED: essential Zagreb attractions.

My Zagreb story: Damir Cuculić
Things to do

My Zagreb story: Damir Cuculić

My name is Damir Cuculić. I was born in Zagreb. In the '80s I was a DJ, I have been in love with music since I was ten years old. Disco music was my first big love and after that hip hop. I first encountered electronic dance music at the end of the '80s. I had a connection in London and he told me about what was happening there, the first rave parties. At this time there was no Youtube, no Facebook, nothing. The only way you could find out was by travelling there or, like me, in a phone call from a friend. The first rave-style party I did was in 1992 in KSET. It was small. The first big one I did was here, in Grič Tunnel. This was the time of war in Croatia. Yugoslavia was falling apart. A dangerous time. Why did we decide this was a good time to start having raves? I don't know. Today, I cannot explain it. We were young and crazy. Rave at the Grič tunnel in the 90's /© Under City Rave Two of my friends were artists and they built installations. The idea was to have a multimedia event, an art exhibition combined with a rave party. Back then, I didn't know anything about Grič Tunnel, only that it existed. Only later I found out its interesting history. It was built as a bomb shelter in the times of war and it goes all the way to the other side of the city centre.   When we held the party, everyone complained. The police, the neighbours, everyone. Nobody had any experience of setting up something like this, or how to deal with it. We thought there would be 500-700 people

Everything you need to know about the Lošinj Apoxyomenos
Art

Everything you need to know about the Lošinj Apoxyomenos

An ambitious clutch of spanking new museums has changed the face of Croatian tourism over the last few years; none, however, has been quite so talked about as the Museum of the Apoxyomenos in Mali Lošinj. Devoted to a single Greco-Roman statue of a handsome young athlete, the museum weaves a beguiling narrative around this uniquely charismatic piece of bronze, all presented in electrifying, state-of-the-art style. The Lošinj Apoxyomenos / © Mirna Pibernik, Time Out The name Apoxyomenos is an ancient Greek term meaning something like ‘The Scraper’, a reference to the habit of athletes of cleansing their skin with a scraping tool known as a strigil. The subject was a common one among classical sculptors, although only a handful of Hellenistic-era copies survive. There are Apoxyomenos statues in Rome, Vienna and Florence, although it’s the Lošinj Apoxyomenos that is considered the most perfect example of the genre yet found. Only the strigil is missing, leaving the statue in an ambiguous open-handed posture that if anything makes it even more compelling.  The discovery of the Apoxyomenos, cast into the Adriatic near Lošinj over 2000 years ago, is an object lesson in how it pays to keep your eyes peeled when exploring the sea bottom. The sponge- and barnacle-covered bronze hunk was first spotted by vacationing Belgian scuba-diver Rene Wouten in 1996; it look the authorities a further 3 years to bring it to the surface. The statue was sent to expert restoration departments in

Korado Korlević: Searching for stars
Attractions

Korado Korlević: Searching for stars

'We are living in something called the dream society,' begins Korado Korlević in rather abstract fashion as we meet for lunch. Standing well over six feet tall, aged 61, it is not merely his imposing physical stature and the wisdom of his years that make you submit to his train of thought and listen intently; his incredible reputation precedes him. Korado Korlević is Croatia's most famous astronomer, the public face of the Višnjan Observatory. A relatively small facility, located in continental, northwest Istria, it no less holds a global significance, thanks largely to Korlević’s work. As a result, he is a well-known face in Croatia's media, called on to appear in TV discussion shows, offering informed opinions on science and the future. A kindly, personable soul with tremendous communication skills, he agrees to these requests. But after no short time in his company, it becomes apparent this is not his main motivation. Neither is astronomy, for that matter. Korado Korlević is an educator. 'Society is selling dreams. You can choose if you want to be the buyer or the seller of dreams. We teach that it is better to produce than buy'. The 'we' Korlević refers to are his fellow teachers in Višnjan. For, although founded as an observatory, the facility has grown to become the Višnjan Science and Education Centre. In classic Istrian fashion, it stands outside of the regular school system and curriculum in Croatia. A privately funded centre of excellence that teaches thousands of

The best of Croatia

Zagreb gallery guide
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.

Dubrovnik art gallery guide
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.

Essential Dubrovnik attractions
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.

The best Split museums and galleries
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.

Croatia’s top venues for art and exhibitions

Croatian National Theatre • Rijeka
Theatre

Croatian National Theatre • Rijeka

Both an architectural and cultural landmark, Rijeka’s Croatian National Theatre was designed by the same team of architects as its namesakes in Split and Zagreb: Austrian Ferdinand Fellner and his German partner Hermann Helmer. In fact, the pair created dozens of theatres across Europe, from Odessa to Zürich, this one opened in 1885. Though Croatian-language performances here may be of limited interest, there’s also ballet and opera on the agenda, and the interior is worth a look around – Gustav Klimt and brother Ernst helped paint the ceiling before its grand unveiling, a performance of Verdi’s Aida.

Museum of Arts & Crafts • Zagreb
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.

Museum of Contemporary Art • Zagreb
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.

Croatian National Theatre • Zagreb
Theatre

Croatian National Theatre • Zagreb

This neo-baroque landmark, opened by Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef in 1895, played a vital role in the establishment of a Croatian national identity. What you find today is a sumptuous interior – a suitably ornate backdrop for local-language theatre, congresses and promotional events.

More cultural venues in Croatia

Croatian Association of Artists • Zagreb
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.

Dubrovnik Contemporary Gallery
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.

Croatian National Theatre • Split
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.

Natural History Museum • Rijeka
Museums

Natural History Museum • Rijeka

Behind the Governor’s Palace it overlooks, Rijeka‘s Natural History Museum established its large collection of specimens from the Kvarner Bay, Gorski Kotar and Istria, thanks to private collectors from the mid 19th century onwards. Key displays include one of sharks and rays, and a geological history of the Adriatic Sea.

Lauba House • Zagreb
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 Kristian Kožul are among the highlights.