Art & Culture

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

19 amazing images from the current Salvador Dali exhibition
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19 amazing images from the current Salvador Dali exhibition

The most famous artist of the Surrealist movement is currently being exhibited at the Rector's Palace in Zadar. The exhibition, entitled Surreal Worlds of Salvador Dali, is the largest ever showcase of his work in Croatia and contains over 200 of Dalí's graphic sheets, sculptures, tapestries and reliefs plus other items of ceramics, glass and even Dali's famous sofa. Salvador Dalí was born in1904 in the town of Figueres, close to the French border, in Catalonia, Spain. He studied art in Madrid during the early 1920s where he earned a good early reputation for his work and for his unusual, Bohemian and out-of-time manner of dress. While studying in the city he also befriended peers such as writer Pepín Bello, the filmmaker Luis Buñuel and poet Federico García Lorca, even striking up an association with one of his idol's, Pablo Picasso, while visiting him in Paris. His early work took inspiration from classical painters like Raphael, Bronzino, Francisco de Zurbarán, Vermeer and Diego Velázquez, Dali even going so far as to grow a flamboyant moustache similar to the latter's. But, he was also inspired by more current and avant-garde modes of expression, such as the Dada and Cubist movements. Slowly, as his style began to become more fully formed, he would combine these influences under the banner of the new Surrealist movement. The Surrealist movement was centred in Paris during its formative years and Dali went to live in the city himself. Presided over by a self-appointed c

Rijeka street art 2019: Francisco de Pájar 'art is trash'
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Rijeka street art 2019: Francisco de Pájar 'art is trash'

Visitors to Rijeka can't fail to have noticed the explosion of street art adding colour and different perspectives to the urban environment of the Croatian city. In 2018, artists Lonac (Croatia), Isaac Cordal (Spain), Sebas Velasco (Spain) and Pejac (Spain) all contributed painted or sculpture works to the walls, windows and ledges around Rijeka at the invitation of Rijeka 2020 Capital of Culture organisers. Adding to this expression in 2019 has been another Spanish artist, Francisco de Pájaro, who was in residence there for a two-week period beginning on June 27. Francisco de Pájar makes sculptures from discarded items, the trash that businesses and individuals throw away, plus other detritus left on city streets. Using worn mattresses, empty boxes and food containers, old furniture and bin bags, he creates playful creations which find the beauty in the everyday items we throw away. His ongoing series of street art interventions is titled 'Art is Trash', a provocative title deliberately chosen by the artist. Francisco de Pájar's 'Art is Trash' series started life out of necessity. In 2009, de Pájar's hometown of Barcelona, like much of Europe, was in the grip of the economic crisis. Galleries were not interested in showing any of de Pájar's work and so, he took to the streets. Since that time, trash has become his sole medium of artistic expression. 'I think it's perfectly natural for my art to end up in landfills,' the artist told sections of his audience while in Ri

Summer classics presented by HNK Rijeka in Pula amphitheatre
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Summer classics presented by HNK Rijeka in Pula amphitheatre

Like its sister in Zagreb, the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka is one of the city's most staggering architectural landmarks, a glorious, 130-year-old remnant of former Austro-Hungarian rule that offers international renowned ballet, opera, music performance and drama to residents and visitors in the Kvarner region. With its season now closed for the summer, there's still opportunity to catch some spectacular opera and classical music presented the theatre as they have decamped to Pula's wonderfully well preserved Roman amphitheatre where they will perform three unforgettable evenings entertainment.Whether you're visiting Rijeka and the Kvarner region or Pula and the Istrian peninsula, don't miss these spectacular shows in a spectacular setting, presented by Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka

The culture vulture's guide to Pula
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The culture vulture's guide to Pula

The beauty of Pula is that it packs in 3,000 years of history and sights, from classic Roman to cutting-edge contemporary, within a space of under one square kilometre. It can be explored in an hour or two. Or, when there’s a festival taking place, a whole day which may well run late into the evening. The most iconic starting point is, of course, the Amphitheatre, known as the Arena. It was built in the 1st century AD during the reign of Emperor Vespasian, at the same time as the magnificent Colosseum in Rome. But while the Colosseum in Rome all too rarely hosts concerts (and when it does, they’re located outside), the Arena is still very much part of Pula’s cultural landscape. All summer long the biggest names in popular music – Luciano Pavarotti, Elton John, David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Massive Attack, Grace Jones, Sting – perform within its near intact walled ring. Since 1954, the Pula Film Festival has been held here. In fact, the Arena forms part of its logo, the venue now synonymous with an event that once attracted the likes of Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor. In more recent times, the Arena has also hosted the opening night of the Outlook and Dimensions festivals offer world-renowned acts from the genres of dubstep, techno, hip hop and drum ‘n’ bass. In 2018, the festival added another site to its roster: nearby Zerostrasse. Accessed along Carrarina, this series of tunnels was built to protect Pula citizens during air raids, originally for World War I but also f

Spectacular pictures of art intervention at Croatian monument
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Spectacular pictures of art intervention at Croatian monument

An art collective called Secret Mapping Experiment have visited the village of Podgarić in the Moslavina area of Croatia, installing one of their temporary video mapping projects on the region's famous war memorial. Captured in stunning photography, the video mapping lends a new perspective to the 50-year-old monument. Secret Mapping Experiment are an arts group, mostly from Hungary, whose numbers can swell to as many as 159 depending on the project they undertake. They visited the Monument to the Revolution of the people of Moslavina memorial in spring 2019, decamping at night and making their art under the cover of darkness. The Monument to the Revolution of the people of Moslavina is one of the most striking and famous of all the Yugoslavian-era war memorials. It stands 10 metres tall and 20 metres wide. The communist regime of Yugoslavia commissioned many famous sculptors and architects, such as Bogdan Bogdanović, Gradimir Medaković, Vojin Bakić, Miodrag Živković, Jordan and Iskra Grabul, to design similar modernist structures following the Second World War. Many of the memorials commemorate the victims of fascism and hold a specific inspiration and meaning. The monument in Moslavina is no exception. During the Second World War, Podgarić became a key encampment for the Partizan army, who were trying to free Croatia from the ruling, Nazi-sponsored Ustaša regime. A large field hospital was built in the village which accepted many hundreds of injured soldiers. The monumen

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

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.