Modern and Contemporary Art

Basic research into modern and contemporary art has been intensively pursued at the Institute of Art History since the early 1990s (projects: Fine Arts in Croatian Art 1850 – 1950; Tendencies and Appearances in Fine Arts from the End of the 19th to the 21st Centuries; Painting and Sculpture from the 16th to the 20th Centuries; Modernity, Modernism and Postmodernism in 20th Century Croatian Art). Their results – the stylistic-morphological analyzes, interpretations and evaluations of important artistic phenomena and a series of individual oeuvres from the second half of the 19th and 20th centuries – have convincingly defined the disciplinary, poetic and cultural outlines of the entire body of Croatian modern art and serve as starting points for further research that is conducted by the associates within the modern and contemporary art research unit.

Given the solid historiographical basis and extensive documentation provided by the aforementioned, previous scientific research, contemporary examinations of modern and contemporary Croatian art are more problematic in character, as they follow shifts in the theoretical explanations of the discipline and are characterized by the adoption of analytical procedures related to recent visual and spatial global “turning point” in art history. Thanks to this methodological alignment, the researchers of this scientific unit are involved in current discussions within the international art-historian community, primarily those focusing on the re-evaluation of previous efforts to deconstruct the relationship between center and periphery, the issue of revision of the traditional periodization of modern art and the sustainability of the concept of global modernism (International Research Group on Peripheral Expressionisms, Comparative Avantgarde and Modernism Workshop, Museum Global, etc.).

The aforementioned methodological starting points are the basis for a comparative study of the mechanisms of cultural translation and cultural exchange between Croatian and her neighboring regions (in the artistic and cultural-historical sense) including Central and South-Eastern European countries, as well as the basis for examining the compatibility of historical, ideological and cultural circumstances that influence the acceptance, transformation and the appropriation of the basic poetic and formative features of modernism in Croatia and in the wider area of the European cultural borderland (Mediterranean, Scandinavia, Baltic).

The aforementioned methodological and theoretical premises serve as basis for a certain shift in focus from the formal, stylistic, aesthetic and poetic characteristics of works of art towards their cultural and historical values and the role in the understanding of the intellectual, cultural and political history of local communities. Such a shift is present in approaching all research topics within the corpus of Croatian modern and contemporary art – from exploring the history of involvement of Croatian artists in developments on the international art scene, through the practices of their international networking and the analysis of a very complex relationship between art and national identity, to examining ideological conditioning of the ways of interpreting and incorporating local artistic phenomena into the art history epistemes of the first and second half of the 20th century, that is, into contemporary systems of understanding and knowledge of art.

In addition to disseminating research results through books, magazines and exhibitions at national and international scientific conferences, members of the research unit for modern and contemporary art are also engaged as mentors at postgraduate doctoral studies at the Universities of Zagreb, Split and Zadar, and as art critics, exhibition authors and participants in numerous public debates related to key, current issues relevant to the Croatian art and cultural scene.