Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb

Marijan Susovski

Fjodor Fatičić

Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb

Habdelićeva 2, 10000 Zagreb

Exat 51 New Tendencies, avant-garde and international events in Croatian art in the 1950s and 1960s

First among communist countries group EXAT 51 broke with social realism and Stalinism. EXAT 51 proclaimed freedom that had yet to be realised in practice, which meant surmounting the residue of conservatism and paving the way for easier acceptance of changes in art and culture. Its members already had well-developed ideas and ethical principles and they made them public in the Group's Manifesto of 1951. In the Manifesto they broached sensitive issues like the attitude to tradition and even to socialist realism, which still had supporters among university professors, sociologists and other artists. The Group stirred up a "clash of opinion", which was aggravated after the KRISTL-PICELJ-RAScaron;ICA-SRNEC Exhibition in 1953. To end those confrontations for the occasion of the opening of the exhibition they proclaimed the Manifesto of the exhibition.

Through its Manifests, its transformation of theory into practice, through the works of art of its members and followers and the application of its ideas in other fields, after only few years EXAT 51 had changed not only art, applied art and architecture, but it had also opened the way for research into new possibilities of visual language in relation to new technologies and media, and therefore of new visual experiences - to international movement NEW TENDENCIES.

The Zagreb Music Biennale was established in 1961, also as an international event, one that has continued to take place to this day. The Biennale has had a crucial influence on the drift from a classical music composition and, through it, on the creation of "new music" in Croatia inspired by New Tendencies exhibition also held in 1961. A large number of world renowned composers and conductors participated in the Biennale, among whom were Mauricio Kagel, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Schaeffer, Witold Lutoslawski, Igor Stravinski and John Cage.

The animated films produced by "Zagreb Film" became famous throughout the world for their reduced animation. The specific way of filming animated films prompted Georges Sadoul, the renowned film critic, to give Zagreb Film the appellation of the "Zagreb School of Animated Film". Among others working in Zagreb Film were Vladimir Kristl and Aleksandar Srnec, members of the EXAT 51 Group. Abstract forms in the painting Composition U-P-1 from 1951 by Aleksandar Srnec, member of EXAT 51 group, influenced Duscaron;an Vukotić to make animated film Substitute in 1961. The film Substitute won OSCAR for animated film in 1962.

In 1963 GEFF (Genre Film Festival), the first festival of experimental film, took place in Zagreb.GEFF endeavoured to establish contiguity with the New Tendencies and the   Zagreb Music Biennale. It sought to eradicate the "boundaries" of film, to establish links between amateur and professional film, between film and other forms of art, between art and science, as well as to integrate film into everyday life. The two main centres where avant-garde films were being created were in cinema clubs in Zagreb and Split. Artists who wanted to discover the possibilities of this new technique in art, as well as those who used their bodies in various artistic actions and performances used the VIDEO ART.. From the very beginning video artists participated in international workshops, exhibitions and festivals and became a respected part of the international video art scene.

The chronology of the key events in Croatian design of the 1950s continued with the formation of the Study for Industrial Design in 1955, the aim of which was not only to advance the application of design in industrial production, but also to promote it through exhibitions and other forms of public activity. This was the first attempt at institutionalised activity in the field of design within a wider social context. Among the twenty-eight artists comprising its membership were the leading Croatian architects, painters, sculptors, ceramicists and textile designers. Symptomatically, they declared themselves as  "avant-garde" artists producing prototypes for industrial production. In line with that, the activities of the Studies were directed towards promotion of avant-garde, artistic education and culture of living, the aim being achievement of "total synthesis of plasticity", or rather, of a "new plastic environment".


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