Bukovac fishing boats (Photo: Ceara Rossetti)
Since 1945, the Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik (MOMAD) has been collecting, studying, and exhibiting modern and contemporary art of Croatia. Visitors of the museum are able to see a variety of pieces that highlight artists from Dubrovnik, as well as other parts of Croatia. The building itself represents the typical style of Gothic and Renaissance Dubrovnik architecture. In fact, the museum’s building was originally constructed as a mansion for prestigious ship owner, Božo Banac.
The MOMAD’s entire collection can be divided into modern versus contemporary art. Modern art encompasses art made in the end of the 19th century until the end of World War II. Most of the artists are specifically from the Dubrovnik region and document the artistic life of Dubrovnik. The beginning of modern painting originated with Vlaho Bukovac, who first brought plein air painting to Coratian art, and Mato Celestin Medović, who made still life and landscape freestanding subjects in the art world.
Ivan Meštrović became the most noteworthy sculptor in Croatia in the 20th century and one of the few internationally recognized Croatian artists because of his incredible talent and abundant oeuvre. Meštrović’s sculptures range from religious motifs to musical themes and the MOMAD had many on display, especially on the outdoor terrace, where A Vestal (1917) was displayed. With impressionistic tendencies and being influenced by sculptors such as Auguste Rodin, Meštrović held strong onto a naturalistic style.
Post World War II art is considered contemporary. In the MOMAD’s collection, there is a variety of sculptures, paintings, prints, photographs, and more produced since then. In the last decade specifically, there has been an influx of digital art procured. With the range of artistic mediums, the MOMAD is able to showcase the diverse richness of Croatian art, and even international art as they have recently began acquiring selections from artists in other European countries. Strides have been made in contemporary art thanks to the many Croatian artists willing to try new things.
In Dubrovnik specifically, the formation and continuation of Art radionica Lazareti (Lazareti Art Workshop) has been imperative to the contemporary art movement. With multimedia artist Slaven Tolj, this organization has thrived and gained artists from not only Dubrovnik and Croatia, but all over the world. These artists have been aiming to provide a critical view of reality, which Tolj does in his piece Luči’s chairs (2006) on display currently at the MOMAD. Each chair was taken from the city cafe bar Libertina and has the same cracks in the same place on the back of the chair. Tolj takes these chairs and lines them up to emphasize that the people of the city all have the same faults, metaphorical problems or wounds, hence causing the chairs to break in the same spots.
From the late 1900’s until the present day, Expressionism has played a large role in contemporary Croatian art. Ivo Dulčić, Antun Masle, and Đuro Pulitika made up the colorist trio, painters who internalized Expressionism, color, and abstraction. Dulčić’s Dubrovnik Summer (1956) is a prime example of this. He used color and brush stroke to emphasize the feelings that summer brings. Sharing his view of this opens dialogue of what summer means and how it differs in Dubrovnik from other cities. Dulčić is not only sharing his impression of summer, but of his city.
Many of the artists exhibited in the MOMAD are Dubrovnik natives or at least Croatian. The MOMAD is able to focus on its own home and how it is perceived through the eyes of the artists who live in it, thus enabling visitors to gain insight as well. For the past 74 years the MOMAD has been collecting pieces in hopes to do just that. With a rich assortment of artworks, the MOMAD shares Croatian culture through each painter, sculptor, and creator that is represented in their space.