Art & Culture

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

Zagreb's best art house and independent cinemas
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Zagreb's best art house and independent cinemas

Offering diverse and well thought-out movies, independent cinemas can be the place to catch up on some of the best films made around the world or the place to introduce a friend or date to one of your most cherished old classics. Luckily, Zagreb has a crop of art house cinemas showing the best of world and independent movies - with many screened in English. Here's where to find them. RECOMMENDED: The best film festivals in Croatia.

Nine photo-realistic paintings from Jadranka Fatur's blockbuster exhibition at the MSU
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Nine photo-realistic paintings from Jadranka Fatur's blockbuster exhibition at the MSU

One of leading Croatian artists working within the field of photorealism, Zagreb-born Jadranka Fatur is currently receiving her first hometown retrospective. The exhibition is taking place at the city's Museum Of Contemporary Art. Fatur has been exhibiting her works of hyperrealism since 1972. She is known across the globe for her longstanding and refined dedication to this field of art and she has previously been exhibited in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, France, Great Britain, USA, Canada, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Japan.Photorealism is a genre of art in which an artist intensely studies a photograph and then attempts to reproduce the image, as realistically as possible, in another medium. In this special tribute to Jadranka Fatur, Zagreb's Museum of Contemporary Art has placed her work centre stage, but also within the wider context of photorealism.  Alongside Fatur's works are placed pieces by younger generations of Croatian artists, such as Zlatan Vehabović, Stjepan Čandrk and Stipan Tadić, who work in this distinct area and who have been inspired by Fatur. The exhibition also includes work by some of the best known international artists working in photorealism, including Malcolm Morley, Richard Estes and Don Eddy. The work of these artists has never previously been shown in Croatia.  The exhibition contains around 50 of Jadranka Fatur's large oil paintings on canvas, as well as a multitude of drawings, watercolours, ph

Croatia is the true home of the vampire
Travel

Croatia is the true home of the vampire

Whatever Bram Stoker might have led you to believe, Transylvania is not the natural habitat of the vampire. Blood-sucking demons hover far more frequently in the folklore of the Adriatic region than the misty-mountain environs of Count Dracula’s castle. It’s an aspect of Europe’s supernatural geography that 19th-century literary circles were well aware of – until the publication of Stoker’s genre-defining novel in 1897 suddenly sent everybody in the wrong direction. The explosion of vampire literature in the intervening century has seen such an inflation of corpuscle-craving creatures that there seem to be few corners of the globe left without a colony of their own. Which makes it all the more surprising that the Croatian Adriatic has received so little attention. Thanks to a growing body of local researchers and writers, however, it seems that time is ripe for Croatia to regain its rightful place on the European vampire map. Standing at the centre of Croatia’s vampire heritage is the case of Jure Grando, a 17th-century farmer from the inland Istrian village of Kringa. An account of Grando’s beyond-the-grave antics was published by the Slovene geographer Janez Vajkard Valvasor in 1689, the first documentary reference to a case of vampirism in European history. A huddle of stone houses squatting amidst lush green fields, Kringa is nowadays the peacefully rustic kind of place normally associated with farmhouse conversions, holiday rentals and cosy village inns. However Jure

The best exhibitions in Croatia this autumn
Art

The best exhibitions in Croatia this autumn

As the nights draw in this autumn, the temperature cooling noticeably after the fall of the sun, much of Croatia's socialising and activities moves indoors. For those who enjoy music and late nights, this season is full of wonderful concerts and club nights to attend. But, if you're looking for some entertainment earlier in the evening or on a weekend afternoon, you have several exhibitions currently on show that will appeal to all tastes. They're not only restricted to the capital city Zagreb, either. Galleries and museums in Split, Osijek, Rijeka, Dubrovnik and elsewhere are open throughout this season, with several institutions offering special exhibitions. From photography, pop art and sculpture, to the painting of past masters, abstract contemporary works and some of the giants of photrealism, Croatia has it all this autumn.

Olja Savičević, Tea Tulić and Bekim Sejranović on Rijeka 2020 European Capital of Culture
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Olja Savičević, Tea Tulić and Bekim Sejranović on Rijeka 2020 European Capital of Culture

The cities of Croatia vary tremendously in their food, architecture and weather. The inland capital Zagreb is the centre of business and culture; Dubrovnik seduces holidaymakers with its handsome antiquities and bustling Split is the urban core of Dalmatia. Rijeka isn't as easily definable. The third largest city in Croatia, Rijeka isn’t as handsome as its seaside neighbours or as metropolitan as Zagreb, but this hub of alternative culture is finally getting the recognition it deserves, thanks to its successful bid for the European Capital of Culture 2020. A busy port handling ten million tonnes of cargo and half a million passengers a year, Rijeka is a heady mix of Italianate influence, post-industrial architecture and alternative politics. In Croatia, its seen as the ‘red capital’, a rare bastion of the left for the past ten years. In a country ruled by a right-wing coalition, where conservative groups are growing stronger, Rijeka stands out as a city of rebellion. In former Yugoslavia, Rijeka was a cradle for punk-rock music. The Sex Pistols released their first single ‘Anarchy in the UK’ in November 1976. Paraf, a punk band from Rijeka held their first concert in Rijeka just a few months later. The band sprayed graffiti to mark the occasion, which was declared cultural heritage by the city’s administration in 2016. Punk is still very much alive in Rijeka’s pubs and bars, and at the many festivals that take place in the city. Situated in the Bay of Kvarner between Sl

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
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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

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.

Moderna Galerija • Zagreb
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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 Modern & Contemporary Art • Rijeka
Art

Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art • Rijeka

Founded in 1948, Rijeka’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Muzej moderne i suvremene umjetnosti or MMSU) has long enjoyed a reputation for holding some of the most exciting contemporary art exhibitions in the country. It is also the host of the Biennial of the Quadrilateral, a contemporary art show featuring artists from Croatia, Italy, Slovenia and Hungary – a quartet of countries that has had a profound effect on the history of Rijeka. Works from the museum’s large permanent collection are rarely seen save during occasional themed exhibitions – the museum’s current home, in the same building as the Rijeka municipal library, is too limited to host more than the (albeit excellent) temporary exhibitions. The MMSU has been promised a new home in the Rikard Benčić palace, built to serve as the HQ of a sugar refinery in 1752 and currently awaiting long-discussed restoration. The completion date lies some way in the future, although the project will help to confirm the MMSU’s status as an increasingly major player in the Central-European art scene. Over the past few years the MMSU has been run by a string of directors who have also been big-hitting curators – a trend that seems set to continue with the arrival of new chief Slaven Tolj (former head of the Lazareti Art Workshop in Dubrovnik).

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.

More cultural venues in Croatia

Croatian Association of Artists • Zagreb
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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.

City Museum • Rijeka
Museums

City Museum • Rijeka

Set in a pavilion alongside the Governor's Palace – and thus alongside the History & Maritime Museum, making it a convenient first port of call for any first-time visitor to Rijeka – the two-floor City Museum comprises a modest permanent exhibition but stages a number of fascinating temporary ones. Recent subjects have included the development of the torpedo, the history of Rijeka harbour, and emigration from Central Europe to America 1880-1914.

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.