Art & Culture

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

A crash course to Rijeka 2020 European Capital of Culture
Things to do

A crash course to Rijeka 2020 European Capital of Culture

The EU. Almost everyone agrees this collective of neighbourly co-operation was a good idea (well, perhaps maybe the Russians and the bafflingly undecided Brits). The EU grew from economic co-operation but eventually extended its remit into more political arenas (which many consider baby steps on the road to federalism, with the block intending to soon have its own armed forces, a scary prospect for the aforementioned dissenters). But, in the mid-80s, it was recognised that integration between member states would be better served by recognising their individual cultural worth. The European Capital Of Culture (originally called European City Of Culture) was designed to highlight the similarities which different European societies share and also the differences which go to create such a rich and diverse cultural conglomerate. Bellman © Borko Vukosav Assigned for a 12 month period, European Capital of Culture status is awarded to different cities each year and makes funds available for cultural events which hold a strong pan-European dimension and which display the core values and rights of European citizens (you won’t see any single religion dominating proceedings, but you will see an appreciation of minority and different ethnic groups, for example). The awarding of the Capital of Culture status intends to create a template for arts and culture happenings which will hopefully reoccur after the designated year concludes (it is hoped that, impressed by the year’s manifestatio

The culture trail of Vukovar, Ilok and Vinkovci
Travel

The culture trail of Vukovar, Ilok and Vinkovci

So what is the coolest, most compelling example of Croatian design? It’s actually a 4500-year-old collection of symbols engraved on a grey pot called the Vinkovci Orion. Looking rather like a superbly conceived set of contemporary pictograms, the symbols are the best-known product of the so-called Vučedol culture, a civilization of pastoralists and metalworkers who settled in the region in around 3000BC. It’s a story told with passion and verve by the gripping new Vučedol Culture Museum near Vukovar, a bold new building that slants dramatically out of a hillside, rather like a secret base you might have seen in a James Bond movie. The museum has significantly boosted tourism in an area that was already on the rise: in Western Europe people might talk about the Bilbao Effect. Here it’s the Vučedol Effect. Sat beside a gorgeous stretch of the Danube river, historic Vukovar and the nearby wine-producing town of Ilok have been quietly touted by in-the-know travellers for quite some time. Driven by growing awareness of the new museum, the Vukovar-Vučedol-Ilok strip is now one of the fastest-growing destinations in Croatia, picking up the European Union’s EDEN prize for cultural tourism in March 2108. Substantially damaged during the war in 1991, the town is nevertheless returning to what it was before the conflict: a pretty Baroque town sprawled along a bewitchingly attractive stretch of Europe’s greatest river. Many of Vukovar’s most handsome buildings have been returned to

Explore the street art of Slavonia
Art

Explore the street art of Slavonia

Think of Vukovar and you think of its symbols: the prehistoric Vučedol Dove, the Water Tower, and its local shoe factory. Now a new series of images is defining this city on the banks of the Danube. Much of it was created recently – at a major international event here in June 2019, in fact. The third, and so far biggest, stret art festival involved five painters from as far afield as Brazil and Indonesia. Their creations embellished five locations to add to the dozen or so others produced in 2017 and 2018. Zabou 'This is a new concept in the city’s urban culture,' says co-organiser Krešimir Herceg. 'It promotes Vukovar as a place which accepts all artists and creators of exceptional value. We can change the visual identity of the city and make it more beautiful for residents, just as any painted city becomes more attractive to tourists.' Juandres Vera The murals, exemplified by 2019’s Vagabond by Lonac on riverfront Županijska cesta and Dating by Wild Drawing (WD) at out-of-town Hrvatskog ratnog zrakoplovtstva, have one thing in common: they were all created with perspective in mind. Lonac 'It all started in 2016 when the City of Vukovar arranged for Croatia’s only 3D street artist, Filip Mrvelj, to come up with an anamorphic painting on the one small bridge over the narrow river Vuka, in the centre of town,' explains Herceg. 'After the painting was finished, it caused a big stir in the media and the rest is history!' A year later, held over two weeks in June

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.

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.

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.