The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, MMSU (Croatian: Muzej moderne i suvremene umjetnosti) is situated in Rijeka, near the central train station and just a few minutes walk from the main square, Korzo.
Its completely red facade makes this Museum impossible to miss. The recognisable exterior is the result of an art project made in 2020 by Croatian artist Dora Budor as a part of David Maljković’s exhibition.
The MMSU, as it is today, grew from the Gallery of Fine Art founded after WW2 in 1948. At first, the gallery was on the second floor of the Governor Palace, one of the most significant historical palaces in Rijeka. Today, the same place is the home of the Historical and Naval Museum.
In 1956, the collection was relocated to the second floor of a renovated building at Dolac 1 street, together with the University Library and Culture Workers’ Club.
Finally, in 2017, the Museum was moved to one of the main buildings, the so-called H building, of the former factory Rikard Benčić.
Over the years, the Museum didn’t just change the addresses but also names. Every move and name change was made following major exhibitions. The name change followed the changes in the surroundings and politics.
The new Museum in making
The main idea of this Museum is that art belongs to everyone. The creative idea for the new Museum was first introduced as part of the Croatian performance at the 15th Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2016 and was based on the organic and phased tenancy of the new location, since the former industrial complex Rikard Benčić was still undergoing a major reconstruction.
The MMSU building dates back to the 18th century and was a sugar refinery. In the 19th century, it was a tobacco company, and after WW2, this location was known as the ship part production.
The rich history of the building can be seen in the interior today, which is a great contrast to the modern art exhibited inside.
The museum collection covers the period from the 19th century to the present day, hence the modern and contemporary, and includes over eight thousand exhibits.
There are several collections: painting, sculpting, drawing, graphics, photography and multimedia, and displays of architect and painter Božidar Rašica, sculptor and painter Romolo Venucci and, since 2010, a collection of illustrations and designs of Mirko Ilić.
Projects and Exhibitions
The MMSU is an important part of local culture, not just by serving the art to the audience but also by actively including them in the process.
For instance, in 2014, the Museum held an exhibition named Pensioners Curators (Croatian: Penzići-kustosi) and asked local retirees to decide on the theme.
Together they went through the collection and chose the art for the exhibition. The theme was ‘woman’, and, among others, they picked works of photographer Mare Milin, painters Zlatko Prica and Oton Gliha, and sculptures of Milena Lah.
In October 2020, the Museum made an exhibition, 51000 Balthazargrad, dedicated to the most famous animated scientist in Croatia, Professor Balthazar.
Until then, the general public knew the Professor but maybe didn’t know that Zlatko Bourek, the man responsible for his world and scenography, was inspired by the city of Rijeka.
The exhibition was a joint effort between the MMSU and the Rijeka 2020 when the city was the European Capital of Culture.
Last year in April, the Museum put on an exhibition of famous Croatian sculptor Ivan Kožarić. If you were in Zagreb, you probably passed by his Grounded Sun (Croatian: Prizemljeno Sunce) sculpture placed in the middle of Bogovićeva street.
The smaller version was presented at the exhibition, together with many of his other works, like the Walker (Croatian: Hodač) placed in the middle of the Korzo, the main Rijeka square.
The current exhibition, named ‘Words to be seen’, explores relationships between images and words. It consists of around fifty rarely seen pieces from the collection, which mainly use letters and words to make a visual composition.
You can also enjoy its online collection!