The history of the Art Pavilion in Zagreb is in a way also the history of fine arts of the 20th century in Croatia. That is the oldest exhibition hall on the Slavic south and the only building that has been purpously built for big, representative exhibitions to be held in it. During its (around) 100-year existence, almost all remarkable exhibitions which exceeded the framework (limits) of Zagreb with their significance were held in there. The exhibitions of many groups, movements and trends have been held here - the foundations of the traditions of painting and sculptural modernity in Croatia have been created here. Between two world wars everything that was artistically most progressive was brought together in the Pavilion. The whole pleiad of artists who appeared there in that period, constitutes, in fact, Croatian art and cultural history. After the end of World War 2, also, almost all art events reflected in the exhibitions held in the Pavilion, the place where all bigger one-man exhibitions were arranged. Together with the number of remarkable names from Croatian art history, exceptional names from other countries have appeared here. Our culture has never been closed or exclusive one, on the contrary, it has been naturally opened to the world, and the Art Pavilion in Zagreb was the place where great names from other countries were most seemly entertained. The need for an exhibition hall, where big exhibitions of artists and cultural importance can be held, was felt in Zagreb in the last decade of the last century when art life started to develop more intensely. The original idea and initiative for the construction of the Art Pavilion in Zagreb was given in 1895 by a painter Vlaho Bukovac, the most remarkable person in Zagreb’s artistic and cultural life on the transition of the centuries. In only a few years of his residence in Zagreb, Bukovac roused many initiatives like the building of first ateliers, organization of one-man and group exhibitions and, finally, building and opening of a representative exhibition hall - the Art Pavilion in Zagreb. The possibility of the realization of construction of the Art Pavilion in Zagreb appeared during the preparations for the Millenium exhibitions in Budapest, whose gala opening was planned for 2nd May 1986. Hungary celebrated “the festivity of millenium” - a millenium of its nationally constructive life, so Croatia and Slavonia, which were politically and juridically connected with Hungary, had to contribute actively to the exhibition.
Persuaded by Bukovac, Croatian artists ashed for their own, separate, montaged art pavilion, its iron framework to be transported to Zagreb after the exhibition. The firm Danubius constructed the art pavilion in Budapest according to the project of Hungarian architects Korb and Giergl. After the exhibition had been closed, the iron framework of the Croatian pavilion was transported to Zagreb. The invitation for the building of the Art Pavilion in Zagreb was officially published, and Viennese architects Hellmer and Fellmer (famous designers of theatres) were charged with commission. The construction work was performed by two building constructors from Zagreb - Honigsberg and M. Lenuci. After two years - 1897 and 1898 - the building of the Art Pavilion in Zagreb was finished, and the building itself was ceremoniously opened an 15th December 1898 with the representative exhibition called Croatian salon. One of the most beautiful Zagreb’s downtown ambients was deliberately planned and horticulturally rounded off in a “green horse-shoe”, and the Art Pavilion in Zagreb has most finely grown into its environment and become a participant of the creative integrity. The Art Pavilion in Zagreb is the place of the most concentrated insight into out own history, it is the stage where chosen parts from artistic, cultural and political present and past have been periodically set. In the period of two and a half last decades, the Art Pavilion in Zagreb found its basic function just in the presentation and valorization of characteristic courses and unavoidable contributions of the national tradition. The main opuses and the most important trends of Croatian art are included by the systematic exhibiting politics. Such anthologic and panoramic presentation has, in a way, substituted many chapters of still non-existing syntheses. In the context of its activities, the institutions independently organize art exhibitions like big problem or thematic - research projects, retrospectives and the exhibitions of work cycles to some eminent Croatian artists. The Art Pavilion in Zagreb also co-operative with related institutions, associations and individuals on presentation and marketing of art and cultural creativity, by realizing exhibitions. The institutions as well exchanges the exhibitions of study character with the aim of meeting national cultures of other European and world nations.
Big exhibition projects with wide thematic variety demand a wide range of co-operation, either with related institutions or the most competent critics - art historians or associates of various profiles who try to make every exhibition project into a creative event, interesting for the media. For every exhibitions that the Art Pavilion in Zagreb realize, and especially for retrospective and problem exhibitions, a comprehensive, representative catalogue is printed. For their scholary and meticulous, solid elaboration, together with a critical approach to certain subject-matter, some of the catalogues published by the Art Pavilion in Zagreb have become compulsory text-books for art history students on Zagreb University. In the coming period, the institution will keep pleading for continual and meticulous observation and elaboration of the most prominent persons and events of the Croatian art’s past and present - in its programmes of work. A number of unexplored chapters of Croatian rather old heritage and more modern art production is what is left, together with certain names that deserve scientific elaboration and whose work is still unexplored and has not yet been critically evaluated. All this is possible, because this place has its own specific role in Zagreb’s cultural environment, which is the result of the Art Pavilion in Zagreb being the central place and intersection of big fine art events in Croatian art, during its history and existence.
Lea Ukrainčik, from "A history that continues", Zagreb, 2000