The Institute of Art History was founded at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Zagreb, remaining a part of the University until 1991 when it became an independent public scientific institution for the study of art history and art theory (urbanism, architecture, painting, sculpture, art craft, design and visual communication) across all historical periods and artistic styles – with an emphasis on the study of national art and historical heritage.
The fundamental guidelines of the Institute's activities were defined during the 1960s by art historians Milan Prelog (1919-1988), for research of historic city cores and built cultural heritage, and Grgo Gamulin (1910-1997), for the field of visual arts. Under the guidance of its founders, the Institute affirmed both its key role and its position as the point of coordination of all art-historical research in Croatia.
From the very beginning, research conducted by the Institute has encompassed not only the fields of painting, sculpture, architecture and urban planning, but also the study of historical settlements development and spatial organization in built environment. Furthermore, apart from academic, studious and field research, the scientists at the Institute have been extensively active in applied research – primarily in the fields of spatial planning and monument conservation.
From 1975 to 1990, the Institute was part of the Center for Historical Science of the University of Zagreb, an institution legislatively regulated to combine four institutions that have since become independent again: Institute of Art History, Institute of Archeology, Croatian Institute of History and Institute of philosophy.
By furthering its activities, the Institute was gradually building on its core infrastructure for scientific research (research scientists, architectural unit, photographic laboratory and photo archives, information documentation unit, specialized library), thus establishing the conditions to become an independent institution, more precisely a public scientific institute owned by the Republic of Croatia, as of October 1, 1991.
The Cvito Fisković Centre is a branch of the Institute of Art History founded in 2010 and located in a medieval house in Kružićeva Street in Split. During the several years since its founding, the Cvito Fisković Centre has asserted its notable position within the international network of scientific institutions devoted to the study of art history and culture.
In 2010, the Institute became a member of RIHA – International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art, an international association founded in 1998 in Paris, bringing together thirty-odd of the most prestigious scientific institutes in the field of art history.
During half a century of its existence, the Institute has developed into a leading, nationally and internationally respectable institution, holding the largest scientific research potential in the field of art history within its broader surroundings. The extensive program implemented in cooperation with expert units (architectural, photographic), independent specialized publishing activity (scholarly journals, monographs) and the rich collections expertly managed by the documentation unit, serving as fundamental resources for the study and protection of Croatian cultural monuments and urban heritage, affirm the Institute of Art History as the central institution for the transfer of new methodologies in scientific research work within its field of activity.
- Milan Pelc (ed.), Heritage in focus – 50 Years of the Institute of Art History (1961–2011), IAH, Zagreb, 2011
- Ivanka Reberski, Danko Zelić (eds.), Institut za povijest umjetnosti 1961.–2001., IPU, Zagreb, 2001 (pdf 21 MB)