Joe and I continued our museum tour of Zagreb this week. Since we only have a few more days in this vibrant city, we wanted to make the most of them. After visiting the surprisingly lovely and uncrowded church of St. Mark, a sign caught our eye that we’d seen before. The Museum of Naïve Art was just around the corner.
I’ll admit it – I wasn’t exactly sure what “naïve art” meant. Was it a typo, and should’ve been “native art?” That was our first thought. But no, Naïve Art is a thing! It represents art by individuals who lack formal schooling or training in that field. I love learning something new every day. My grandpa instilled that value in me early on.
The unexpected gem
Since our next destination didn’t open for another 20 minutes, we decided to check out this little museum. After climbing a winding staircase and emerging in a small gift shop and ticket booth, we wandered into a gallery virtually free of people. We were immediately and pleasantly surprised by what we found. A number of local artists’ works were on display, and quite a few preferred to paint on glass instead of canvas. The result was a distinctive style full of bright colors, minute details, and powerful imagery.
Some of my favorite paintings represented incredibly detailed trees, every branch carefully drawn. Others burst with a rainbow of sherbert pastels, practically shining with light. A few were quite dark and deep, drawing us into their mysterious interiors. These artists may not have gone to art school, but their work was beautiful, interesting, and insightful. While the museum was quite small, the collection was diverse and well-rounded and definitely worth seeing.
And now for something different…
After enjoying such playful, beautiful, naïveté, it seemed only fitting to change things up a bit. The Tortureum, or Museum of Torture, had been on our list for a while. It’s a bit like a train wreck – you really want to look away and leave, but you just can’t. And so we were pulled up the stairs, down a dark hallway, and into the black interior.
Dimly lit and sufficiently creepy, the Tortureum displayed all manner of horrible instruments and tools on black-clad walls. A soundtrack of muffled moans, clangs, and other unsettling sounds echoed in the corners. We received a tablet which, when held up to dots on the walls, would tell us about each terrible object. There were toe crushers, breast-rippers (*shudder*), masks of shame, and various cruel boots and shoes. The Iron Maiden sat in the corner, its spikes twisted and protruding – and the disappointment of learning it likely wasn’t a real torture device was almost welcome.
The museum’s collection was impressive, but it got to the point where I couldn’t read any more disturbing descriptions or look at any more staged photos. It’s disgusting to think what people can do to each other in the name of anger or information. Once we’d stepped into the dungeon amidst balls and chains and a cage in the corner, we watched a short video. It simply flashed various images of torture victims – mostly modern – and asked: “Does the human race deserve to survive?” What a question.