Situated in the eastern part of Zagreb's "green horseshoe", the building of the Art Pavilion had a prominent position for those entering the city. By its architectural design, dominant dome and unique aim in Croatia, it was an object of outstanding importance, so it is considered cultural monument of the first category and a symbol of Zagreb.
The need for an exhibition hall, where large-scale representative exhibitions could be held, was felt in Zagreb at the end of 19th century when the city's art life started to grow more intensely. The original idea and initiative for the construction of the Art Pavilion in Zagreb was attributed to the great Croatian painter Vlaho Bukovac
, the most remarkable person in Zagreb’s artistic and cultural life of the era. In only a few years of his residence in Zagreb, Bukovac started many initiatives such as the building of first ateliers, organization of solo and group exhibitions and, finally, building and opening the Art Pavilion in Zagreb.
The opportunity for the construction of a unique venue that will present and promote both Croatian and international art of the highest reputation appeared during the preparations for the Millennium exhibition in Budapest
in 1896. Persuaded by Bukovac, Croatian artists asked for the iron framework of the art pavilion to be built in Pesta and to be transported to Zagreb after the exhibition. So it was. Upon Ban Khuen- Hédervárya's order the iron structure that, due to its „modern“ and functional dome stood out amongst the higher, more adorned domes of Hungarian pavilions, was transported to Zagreb and an invitation to accomplish the project was published. Two years after the highly renowned Viennese architects, Ferdinand Fellner
and Hermann Helmer presented their design; the Art Pavilion was opened on 15th December 1898 by hosting the exhibition of young Croatian secession artists
, named Croatian Salon in the Bell époque fashion.
During more than a hundred years of its existence, the art Pavilion has continually hosted exhibitions whose importance went beyond the city of Zagreb. In the first half of the 20th century a pleiad of the best recognized Croatian artists appeared there. We can therefore rightfully point out its contribution to the creative and formative years of Croatian visual arts and sculpture. After the WW II, despite a growing number of competitive art venues and galleries, the building of the Art Pavilion remained the place that systematically exhibited main oeuvres and the most important Croatian art genres. The tendency for the Art Pavilion to be the focal point of visual arts and culture in Croatia, that will equally promote national and worldwide accomplished artists, is obvious upon approaching the building: the eastern wing facade is adorned with the busts of tree Slavic artists (Medulić, Klović, Carpaccio
), while the west wing facade houses the busts of three of the greatest Renaissance painters (Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian
). There is no surprise therefore in the list of impressive artists who have created the history of the Art Pavilion: from Picasso, LeWitt, Goldoni, Rodin, Henry Moore, Meštrović, Bukovac
, Nasta Rojc, Marija Braut
and many others.
Restoration works on the art Pavilion building were started in 2006 and lasted for seven years. With the restaurated facade and the interior, the building of the Art Pavilion shone forth in all its glory only to accommodate one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, Joan Miró
, whose works from the Maeght Foundation can be seen in the pavilion.