Zagreb, Croatia - July 21, 2014: Mestrovic Pavilion (circa 1938) in Zagreb, Croatia. Also as the Home of Croatian Artists, the official seat of the Croatian Association of Artists (HDLU)

Getty Images

Croatian Association of Artists


East of the centre, this gallery is housed in one of the few architectural works by Ivan Meštrović and has a busy and diverse rolling program of exhibitions and events throughout the year. It's a must on the art circuit of Zagreb; check out what's on while you're in town. The building itself has also had several fascinating incarnations, reflecting the region’s history in a nutshell.

Originally designed by Meštrović in 1938 as an exhibition pavilion, the structure honoured King Petar Karađorđević, the ruler of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes – which grated against the sensibilities of Croatia’s nationalists. With the onset of a fascist government, the building was renamed the Zagreb Artists’ Centre in May 1941; several months later Ante Pavelić, Croatia’s fascist leader, gave orders for the building to be evacuated of all artwork and turned into a mosque (claiming it was to make the local Muslim population feel at home). There were murmurs of disapproval from the artists, but the building was significantly restructured and eventually surrounded by three minarets.

With the establishment of socialist Yugoslavia, however, the mosque was promptly closed and the building’s original purpose restored – though it was renamed the Museum of the People’s Liberation. A permanent exhibition was set up and in 1949 the government had the minarets knocked down. In 1951 an architect called V Richter set about returning the building to its original state according to Meštrović’s design.

The building has remained an exhibition space ever since, with a nonprofit association of Croatian artists making use of it. Despite being renamed the Croatian Association of Artists in 1991 by the country’s new government, everyone in Zagreb still knows it as ‘the old mosque’.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Zagreb attractions

1. Xenophora Mural

0.35 MILES

These mammoth photo-realistic shells on the brick facade of the building on the corner of Ɖorđićeva and Petrinjska are the work of Croatian street artist…

2. Galerija Miroslav Kraljević

0.38 MILES

Founded in 1986, this contemporary art space east of the city centre dedicates itself to visual art. It has a dynamic repertoire of exhibitions, lectures,…

3. City Waterfall Mural

0.39 MILES

This highly detailed black and white waterfall mural is the work of local street artist Miron Milić.

4. Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters

0.42 MILES

The 2nd floor of the stately 19th-century neo-Renaissance Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences building showcases the impressive fine-art collection…

5. Zrinjevac

0.44 MILES

Officially called Trg Nikole Šubića Zrinskog but lovingly known as Zrinjevac, this verdant square is a major hang-out during sunny weekends and hosts pop…

6. Art Pavilion

0.46 MILES

This stunning, yellow art nouveau–style pavilion presents changing exhibitions of contemporary art.In the past it's hosted major works by Rodin and Miró…

7. Gallery of Modern Art

0.46 MILES

Take in this glorious display of work by Croatian artists from the last 200 years, including such 19th- and 20th-century masters as Bukovac, Mihanović and…