In 1996, one Belgian tourist made a remarkable discovery while diving near the island of Lošinj. Ten years later, a restored bronze ancient Greek statue was displayed, the most complete and best-preserved among the eight known in the world. Since 2016, it has been placed in its own multisensory Museum of Apoxyomenos in Lošinj. All thanks to one recreational dive 20 years earlier.
In 1996, a Belgian tourist René Wouters found the statue while diving at 45 meters depth near small inhabited island Vele Orjule situated southwest of island Lošinj. He reported the finding to the Croatian Ministry of Culture in 1998. A year later, the team of professional divers and marine archaeologists raised the statue to surface. Almost seven years passed until the statue was fully restored, using only mechanical tools to remove marine organisms and repair cracks – and present the world an impressive bronze sculpture of a Roman man.
The sculpture shows a young, 1.9 meters high male standing on a small decorated base. It is believed the statue was made between the 2nd and 1st century BC. The author is unknown. It is speculated the sculpture was thrown from the merchant ship during the storm because there is no shipwreck around the site of finding. The statue is exceptional because it is the best-preserved of eight known similar sculptures in the world. It is almost complete, missing only the except for eyes, one small finger and a tool that was initially in hand. It was named Apoxiomenos (hr. Apoksiomen).
The Croatian Apoxyomenos was first exhibited in 2006 at the Archeological Museum in Zagreb. Later, it could be seen for short amounts of time in the respected museums around the world – in Florence, London, Los Angeles and Paris, among others.
Finally, in 2016, the sculpture was placed in its permanent home in the Museum of Apoxyomenos in Mali Lošinj.
The museum was built in Kvarner Palace, in the centre of the town and the building took seven years to complete, following the design prescribed byproject of two renowned Croatian architects, Saša Randić and Idis Turato.
The museum is built around the sculpture and the story behind it. The interior is segmented into different rooms that lead visitors towards the sculpture that is placed in an organic, soft space made to put the statue and the visitor out of place and time.
The entrance hall is painted in ultramarine blue which is the primary colour of the visual identity of the museum, made by Croatian designer Luka Predragović. The logotype shows simple almond-shaped eyes that complement the missing part of the statue and invite the visitor to see “eye to eye”.
The museum is multisensory, and every room is made in different material, depending on the part of the story it tells. To get to the sculpture in the white, padded room, you must go through the blue colour that symbolises the sea, a colourful tapestry room that evokes sea plants, a “glass” kaleidoscope room, and wooden and black passages, each telling one part of the story. In the end, the Apoxiomenos awaits, impressive and still, thousands of years old, placed in the “void” for the time and people yet to come.