Art & Culture

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

Croatia celebrates World Cravat Day
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Croatia celebrates World Cravat Day

Croatia is today celebrating World Cravat Day. The country is the birthplace of the necktie, which is the forerunner of that which we see worn by office workers and those at official engagements to this day. Preparations for the day have been well under way for over a week. In capital city Zagreb, over 50 of the most prominently placed statues in the city have been fitted with red cravats to mark the occasion. They are instantly noticeable to all of the city's visitors and residents.The cravat originated in the 1630s and was worn by members of the Croatian military. Some Croatian soldiers went on to fight in the army of King Louis XIII of France and their cravats were admired by the French, who took the adornment and popularised it. The word, cravat, derives from the French cravate, a variant of Croate. Croatians celebrate World Cravat Day on 18 October each year. Other famous Croatian inventions include the world's first mp3 player, the zeppelin, the torpedo, the parachute, fingerprint identification and the modern-day electric light-bulb.

There's a giant whale sculpture on Zagreb's main square
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There's a giant whale sculpture on Zagreb's main square

A sculpture of two large whales has appeared on Zagreb's central square, Ban Jelačić. The large artworks show two whales rising from the ground, as though the square's stone floor is the ocean and the animals are breaching the water. They are depicted as emerging from a sea filled with plastic waste. Supermarket carrier bags and other plastic detritus hang from their bodies in place of the water that should be streaming off them in such a scenario. The sculpture was placed by Greenpeace Croatia and is intended to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the oceans. Greenpeace activists asked passersby to sign their petition calling for a European directive on plastic bags to be adopted in Croatia. Supporters not present in Zagreb at this time may sign the petition online. 

Matija Babić interview: the world on a plate
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Matija Babić interview: the world on a plate

Matija Babić may have been a student at Zagreb's Faculty of Political Sciences, but this outspoken Croatian found his perfect calling within journalism. A larger than life character, Babić started his career with high ideals, launching two political websites, before that brought him to the attention of a large media company who hired him as an editor. He left their services in 2002 to found his own news portal, Index.hr. Perhaps the best internet-only website in Croatia, it has courted controversy throughout its tenure from the publication of tabloid and political exposés and from what some regard as content so liberal, left-leaning and questioning as to be unpatriotic. Over recent years it has consistently produced some of the best, mass read investigative journalism in the country. As editor in chief, Babić was among the youngest journalists in Europe ever to hold the title.Matija BabićCurrently travelling the globe, Matija Babić has for the last few years focussed his attentions on a new challenge; TasteAtlas. The website allows users to search the globe for traditional, local specialites in food and drink and suggests where they might best be tried. Suggestions are made by collating expert, local opinion and reviews alongside the input of the specialists who work at the website. It is intended to be a comprehensive guide, offering the top tips of well informed insiders. The ambitious project stands in contrast to the world of restaurant and food critique and blogging, whi

New Nikola Tesla exhibition centre to open in Karlovac
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New Nikola Tesla exhibition centre to open in Karlovac

A new permanent exhibition centre dedicated to the life and work of world famous inventor Nikola Tesla is set to be opened in Karlovac, some 55 kilometres south west of Croatia's capital Zagreb. The city of Karlovac is where Tesla studied and from where he received his last official diploma.Nikola TeslaAn inventor and hugely innovative engineer, Tesla is best known for pioneering the alternating current (AC) electricity supply system, which enabled the safe placement of electricity within every home, street and business as we know it today. He was born in 1856 in a village called Smiljan, in present day Croatia, to Serbian Orthodox parents.In 1862, the Tesla family moved to Gospić, also in Lika, Croatia, where Tesla's father worked as parish priest. Nikola Tesla himself was supposed to follow his father and his mother's father into the Orthodox priesthood. However, luckily for all of us, that was not meant to be. In 1870, Tesla moved to Karlovac to attend the Higher Real Gymnasium. The new exhibition centre is located next door to that place of his former studies.Nikola Tesla Experience Centre in KarlovacThe new exhibition centre will be a three floored space dedicated to Tesla's life and work. It will house items which he used while studying in Karlovac, his original school certificate and an extensive art installation which will display some of Tesla's many ideas and defining work. The centre will be used as a place of education for school children, holding a classroom, ex

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
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
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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.