Art & Culture

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

Eight brilliant shows to see at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb
Things to do

Eight brilliant shows to see at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb

Having experienced a revolution in its content and outlook over the last half-decade, the Croatian National Theatre (HNK) in Zagreb no longer stands as merely an impressive monument in the capital city. Rather, it does its best to welcome people of all ages, tastes and nationalities with a varied and exciting programme that veers far from the traditional. With tickets prices even for the most high profile of productions available from 90 kuna, HNK Zagreb stands as one of the most accessible of its kind in any European capital. This spring/summer season holds many great Croatian language dramas, but of greater interest to international (non-Croatian speaking) audiences will be the operas and ballets on offer, featuring internationally renowned guests like French choreographer Angelin Preljoçaj. Alongside special one-offs, such as appearances by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek and Romanian musician Marius Mihalache, we've collated eight great reasons to visit HNK Zagreb this spring/summer season.

The monuments of Zagrebačka špica
Attractions

The monuments of Zagrebačka špica

Špica is a traditional pastime in Zagreb, the act of putting your best clothes on, meeting your equally spruced-up friends and joining them for an extended coffee break, usually outdoors on a terrace, in the fancy bars and cafes of the city's downtown area. At the heart of the Zagreb's centre, just few meters away from Jelačić square, Bogovićeva and Cvjetni trg, (flower square), are known alongside nearby streets as 'Zagrebačka Špica'. A place full of life and events, this area is also noted for having several intriguing sculptures, monuments and landmarks, many of which hold interesting back stories. Time Out brings you the story of five such examples..

Luka Marotti exhibition: Lived Through Frames
Art

Luka Marotti exhibition: Lived Through Frames

Luka Marotti is a well known contributor to the canon of great documentary and culture films produced by Croatian national TV. He's been active within that field for over 50 years and has produced over 500 programmes. In this exhibition, an alternative side of Marotti's artistic, cultural and journalistic expression is showcased; his photography. Marotti's black and white stills capture moments, monuments, places, atmospheres and people. Many of them will be familiar to Croatian TV audiences, as they have been used within documentary productions, but this exhibition rightly enables this work to stand alone and be appreciated in their own right.

13 electrifying images from the opening night of Zagreb's Festival of Lights
News

13 electrifying images from the opening night of Zagreb's Festival of Lights

Zagreb's spectacular Festival of Lights returned last night, transforming Zagreb's Upper Town into electrifying alternative worlds with projections, light installations and light-based performance.  The excitement of the evening began long before reaching the launch venue, the Zagreb City Museum, as the whole of Opatička was bathed in pretty blue light. Many visitors to the city stood at the top of Kamenita Vrata to admire the sight. Making your way up Opatička, the whole of the courtyard in front of the Croatian Institute of History, and the front facade of the institute itself was drenched in floral pinks, yellows and reds, contrasting to the blue of the street, but representing the official colours and design of this year's Festival of Lights.Croatian Institute of History At the Zagreb City Museum, hundreds of guests waited in the courtyard. That all could enjoy such a mild spring evening reminded us that the festival itself marks the beginning of this season, a rebirth after the cold winter. Four dancers in mirrored costumes emerged and took to places centrally in the courtyard where they moved, almost like a dance in slow motion. The flashes of light coming from mobile phones and press photographer cameras sharply reflected back off the dancers mirrored suits, back into the eyes of the audience. Speakers at the official opening event included the head of the Zagreb Tourist Board, the Mayor of Zagreb and His Excellency Hu Zhaoming, Chinese ambassador to Croatia. In his

Ivana Popović exhibition: Love and Resistance
Art

Ivana Popović exhibition: Love and Resistance

'Love and Resistance by Ivana Popović' shows the of work one of Zagreb's most controversial contemporary artists, who sadly passed away at the end of 2016. Although famous for the controversy, she attained thanks to her public performances and fashion shows, many aren't aware that Popović was a noted academic sculptress and was active in a number of art disciplines. The exhibition aims to shine a light on them all with performance, theatre, costume, fashion design, sculpture, painting and product design all covered. Born in 1968 in Gorski's Kotar, Ivana Popović attended the School of Applied Arts and Design in Zagreb, before going on to graduate in sculpting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. Playing with parody, irony and travesty she sometimes shockingly addressed body, convention and beauty expectations through costume design and was known for activism that criticised, mocked and questioned nationalism and other social phenomena. As a fashion designer, she advocated sewing with natural materials. Unbothered by the local fashion scene and working alone, her retaliation towards fashion trends and consumption was best demonstrated in her series 'Fashion Victims and Confection Standard'. 15 years of the series started in 1993 with a fashion play on Ban Jelačić square in which participants lay on the street. Two years later her fashion parade 'Madonna, I'm pregnant!' caught the attention of MTV. In visual arts, her work ranged from paintings, collages, drawing, sculpture

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

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
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.

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
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.

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.