The Museum of Contemporary Art is the present-day name for Zagreb Municipal Galleries, which formerly consisted of the Contemporary Art Gallery, the Centre for Photography, Film, and Television, and the Benko Horvat Collection, Library, and Documentation Department. Prior to its separation, the institution also included Atelier Meštrović (today’s Meštrović Foundation), the Primitive Art Gallery (Croatian Museum of Naive Art), and the “Jozo Kljaković” Collection (now managed by Centre for Visual Art Education).
The Museum was situated in the Upper Town of Zagreb, with two different addresses: the exhibition venue was located at St Catherine Square No. 2, in Count Kulmer’s baroque palace, while the library, documentation archive, and management was located at Habdelićeva Street No. 2.
Most of the Museum’s collection consists of Croatian and international artists who were active after 1950. It also includes various donations made to the City of Zagreb, such as the heterogeneous art collection of Benko Horvat, the opus of architect, urban planner, and painter Josip Seissel, organized in the Silvana Seissel Donation, and the special collection of architect Vjenceslav Richter, together with the house in which he lived and worked. In 2006, the Museum came into possession of the Tošo Dabac Archive, and its latest comprehensive acquisition has been that of Atelier Kožarić.
Many artworks from the Museum’s collection belong to the international movement of New Tendencies, founded at the Museum in 1961, which testifies to Zagreb’s role as one of the most interesting European art centres of the time. Five events organized by the Museum before 1973 featured numerous outstanding artists such as Victor Vasarely, Jesus Raphael Soto, Julio Le Parc, Otto Piene, and Zero Group, as well as influential artists and theoreticians such as Abraham Moles and Umberto Eco.
From the outset, the Gallery asserted itself as a modern-type museum, which is evident from the fact that only ten years after its foundation, it was invited to present a selection from its collections at the 32nd Vennice Biennale in 1964, where it participated in the exhibition on “Arte d’oggi nei musei” together with seventeen top world museums. In 1966, at the “2emme Salon international des Galeries pilotes” in Lausanne, it was in the company of fifteen of the most famous galleries of Europe, USA, and Japan.
Because of the modest housing conditions, the Museum has never exhibited its permanent collection in its entirety. Its activity, both as a gallery and as an educational institution, has taken place by organizing thematic and monographic exhibitions of Croatian and international authors, by setting up exhibitions from its own holdings, or through public lectures, seminars, and workshops for children. Presently, there are around 5000 artworks from the fields of modern and contemporary art organized in various collections of the Museum, and with the completion and inauguration of the new building, these artworks will finally become accessible to the general public.
After many years of effort invested in moving the Museum to a more adequate space, the decision on constructing a new building was issued in 1998. The new location was set in Novi Zagreb, at the crossroads of Većeslava Holjevca and Dubrovnik Avenues, and the construction works officially began on 17 November 2003. The new building opened on December 11th 2010.