Historia | Danubiana

The History of the Danubiana

The birth of the Danubiana dates back to 1990, when Vincent Polakovič of Poprad and his friends set out on a journey to follow in the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh. In the course of this slightly less than month-long adventure, they visited all the places where this famous Dutch painter lived and worked. After their return, Polakovič, still full of emotion and enthusiasm, arranged for the construction of the first private art gallery in Slovakia - Žltý dom Vincenta van Gogha (Yellow House of Vincent van Gogh) in the town of Poprad, which was opened on September 9, 1993. The goal of this gallery was to continue in the ideas which this famous artist strived for more than 100 years ago in Arles, France. In addition to copies of van Gogh’s works created by the most prominent Slovak restorers, he regularly presented the works of contemporary and primarily Slovak visual artists in solo and group exhibitions.

In 1994 he met Gerard Meulensteen, the Dutch collector and art patron from Eindhoven, who helped him with funding to make his dream come true even in the difficult economic conditions of that time. As a result of discussions that took place from 1995 to 1999, Gerard Meulensteen and Vincent Polakovič, who in 1998 visited the Louisiana Museum in Denmark, decided to build modern art museum in Bratislava that would allow local and foreign artists to exhibit their work in modern spaces with attractive architecture. At that time, there was a lack of exhibitions of foreign contemporary artists in this Central European space.

The construction of the museum was launched in 1999 on the peninsula of the Čunovo Reservoir, 20 kilometers to the south of Bratislava. September 9, 2000 was the date of the opening ceremony for the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum and its activities in the sense of the ideas and intentions of its founders.

The financial contribution for the creation of a cultural institution by a foreign citizen was extremely rare in Slovakia at that time and in fact in all of the former socialist-bloc countries. In 2008, the museum founders began to play with the idea of extending the museum to create a space for the presentation of the permanent collection. They initiated a meeting of young Dutch and Slovak architects which resulted in a project design which formed the basis for obtaining all of the necessary permits.

In 2011, Gerard Meulensteen donated his museum to the Slovak Republic which the Government of the Slovak Republic was happy to accept. He also presented a proposal to establish a non-profit organization which would continue in organizing exhibitions and completing construction of the museum extension according to the project designs.

Construction of the extension began on March 17, 2013 following a successful public procurement procedure, and on September 9, 2014 Marek Maďarič, the Minister of Culture of the Slovak Republic presided over the opening ceremony. An international panel of architects and builders acknowledged the excellent work of everyone involved in the creation of this new space by granting it the “Construction of the Year 2014” award. This also indirectly confirmed that the path which the museum founders decided to take in 2000 was the right one

Since then, the Danubiana has presented almost 50 exhibitions attended by more than 120,000 domestic and foreign visitors. It has become a symbol of modern Bratislava, and the fact that in 2016 it won the Július Satinský Award Bratislavská čučoriedka (the Bratislava Blueberry) is proof of that.

Based on the recommendations of the Board of Directors, the extension of the museum to house the Pavilion of Contemporary Art is currently being prepared. The opening of these premises is planned for 2020. This new space will promote the works of young Slovak visual artists.

Today, nominees of the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic have a majority in the bodies of the non-profit organization entitled DANUBIANA – Centrum moderného umenia and Gerard Meulensteen is the chairman of the Board of Directors.