The Ljubljana Modern Art Museum and Its Cultural Café

For those visiting Ljubljana, one of the must-stops is the Museum of Modern Art. Known locally as Moderna galerija, it’s the home of modern art in Slovenia. There’s more to it than a simple gallery – it’s a gateway to the minds of eclectic artists in Slovenia and around the world.

Moderna galerija offers a unique view into the minds of Slovenia and Europe’s top modern artists. It presents new artistic techniques and emerging styles that you won’t find anywhere else. MG also has one of the best coffee shops in Ljubljana.

If you’re on tour in Ljubljana, the Museum of Modern Art should be an excellent place to start. There’s a lot of things you can do here, and what stops you is your imagination.

Understanding the History of Moderna Galerija

Before we delve into the beauty of today, we need to know the yesterday for the MG. The history of the Moderna galerija is anything but simple. It’s almost as old as everything that modern Ljubljana enjoys.

Ljubljana’s Museum of Modern Art was founded in 1947, a few years after the war. From its first erection, its purpose was as a gallery for modern art. The initiative came from Izidor Cankar, one of Ljubljana’s most notable historians and diplomats.

The funding for the construction of the museum came from the wealth of Dragotin Hribar. The designs for the museum building came from Edvard Ravnikar, one of the most renowned Slovenian architects of the century.

By 1941, the construction work for the museum itself was almost complete until World War II broke off. The MG’s construction work continued well after the war and was officially founded in 1947, which then took effect on January 3, 1948.

Cankar opted to go for a museum of modern art instead of a National Gallery. His motivation to do so is unknown, but it’s easy to guess if we look at the art movements in Slovenia at the time.

The Art Movement Of Slovenia In The 20th Century

Near the turn of the 20th century, the secessionist movement started to change Ljubljana. Art Nouveau was a growing movement across Europe, especially in Vienna and Slovenia. It tried to establish its own aesthetic views away from the outdated aristocratic ideals.

Much of the arts in Ljubljana developed under the influence of the Viennese Secession. While the movement mainly showed in architecture, it was also evident in early Slovenian 20th-century art’s expressionist ideals.

Deep changes in Slovenian thinking created a strong post-modernist movement across its people. France and Tone Kralj created a very Slovenian take on German expressionism. Božidar Jakac was also among the ones pushing the limits of the modern art movement.

Once the war was over, masters like Alojzij Gangl, Franc Berneker, Jakob Savinšek, and Lojze Dolinar used it to influence the people. Cankar grew up seeing this modernist movement across Slovenia. It helps that he had a unique eye for the arts.

A Look Into The Design of the Museum of Modern Art

The design of the Moderna galerija came from the need for function at the time. Ravnikar conceived the design by using a formally neutral building. The design was a “white cube,” making sure that all the exhibition spaces are equal. It also allowed for the central hall to have access to all the rooms.

Much of the design comes from the styles of Jože Plečnik, the teacher and mentor to Ravnikar. The design of the windows featured rationalist and functionalist design aesthetics. Many of these elements come from Le Corbusier, Ravnikar’s employer in 1939.

The Moderna galerija became pivotal in showing off the Impressionist movement within Slovenian art. The variety of exhibitions they held to include the works of Debenjak and Kregar in 1953. There’s also the Henry Moore exhibition of 1955 and the avant-garde movement of the 60s.

The design of the entire museum showed off its mettle during its latter years of the mid-20th century. Its disinterested neutrality in external ideals showed that the Modernism it envisions is unconcerned with social issues.

By 2007, the Moderna galerija closed off for a complete overhaul. The architectural firm Bevk Perović arhitekti opted to retain much of the designs of the gallery. They only performed renovations that allowed better use of the basement.

What Should You Expect from the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana?

Visiting the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana will expose you to a variety of modern art exhibits. These come from both Slovenian artists and international masters of the past and present. Every room in the gallery has its own theme, with works that build such these.

Much of Moderna galerija, however, comprise of timed exhibitions. Some of these exhibits can run for as short as five days every year. Others run between a year or two, especially ones that feature Slovenian artists.

The average exhibition, however, stays between 3 to 6 months at a time. If you’re planning to visit the MG, it’s best to check their exhibitions list online. It will give you a good idea of what to expect inside.

Even then, it’s also great to be spontaneous and see what the museum has. You will likely surprise yourself with how good the exhibitions will be.

What Can You Find Inside The Moderna Galerija?

Moderna galerija houses the largest national collection of 20th-century Slovene art. These include paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, videos, and even electronic media. The museum also houses a collection of works from the former Yugoslavia.

If you want to see the entire collection, many of them are proudly posted in the museum’s online gallery. It contains not only the collection housed within MG but the ones in MSUM Metelkova too.

The entirety of the national collection represents the periods of growth of the Slovene tradition in the 20th century. These pieces of art show the emergence of modern and contemporary art traditions in the country.

While Ljubljana is the center of government for Slovenia, many Slovene arts came from all over the country.


The Moderna galerija houses 1301 paintings presented a multitude of times over the past decades. Many of the paintings show off the complexity of Slovene art and how they represent the periods they were painted.

Much of the collection comes from the paintings of Emerick Bernard, August Chernigov, and Janez Bernik. The creations of Victory Jeraj, Metka Krašovec, Stane Kregar, and the abstractions of Sergei Kapus are also on display.


For the sculptures, Moderna galerija houses 502 sculptures, using different non-traditional media for their creations. Metals like steel and bronze are common medium, together with wood and plaster.

Many of these sculptures are representative of the psyche of the artists and Slovenia during their creations. Notable examples include the works of France Rotar, Jakob Savinšek, Janez Boljka, and Matjaž Počivavšek.


The Museum of Modern Art has among the biggest print collections out there, with over 3000 prints by both Slovene and foreign artists alike. The prints come from the most notable artists of their time, especially in the local scene during the 20th century.

Some of these prints come from France Mihelič, Vladimir Makuc, and Bogdan Borčić. The MG also houses the creations of Jože Ciuha, Štefan Planinc, Janez Bernik, and Marij Pregelj.

Drawings and Photography

In over fifty years, the Moderna galerija collected over 11,000 drawings from various donations. The photography collection of the MG is also extensive, even if the collection only started in 1991. 

The museum has acquired as many as 4000 prints from 150 photographers out there. Many of the photos link to the research done by the museum’s very own photography department.

A Look Into The Kavarna Moderna and MG Bookstore

The Moderna galerija houses two facilities that do not pertain to its function as a Museum of Modern Art. These are the Moderna Coffee Shop and the MG Bookstore. For visitors who want to chill out for a while, these two places are a boon.

Kavarna Moderna

The MG Moderna Coffee Shop is a special cafeteria that has its own roasting shop. It knows that most of Slovenia loves its coffee, and it has one of the most unique coffee cultures in Europe. A cafeteria with its own roaster always means quality coffee every time.

Moderna is so good that it’s one of the best coffee shops in Ljubljana. While it’s part of the third-wave coffee places in the city, it caters to many customers. You can pick and choose from six types of seasonal coffee beans, done as to your liking.

Kavarna Moderna has a variety of coffee preparations available. You can order your favorite brew, get a slice of cake or potica, and even enjoy the jazzy music inside.

MG Bookstore

For those who want a quiet reprieve away from the bustle of people inside Moderna galerija, a good place to go is the MG Bookstore. It offers a variety of publications, posters, and even postcards you can buy as souvenirs.

Many of the items that you can buy here come from select Slovenian publishers, including select monographs and art theory books. If you’re into art, this is a go-to area of the MG for you.


The Museum of Modern Art is a burgeoning world of its own. As art in Ljubljana grows with each passing day, reflections of the Slovene psyche comes out. They emit themselves into the creations of Slovenians who express what they see in the world.

Whether you’re a hardcore art lover or not, the Moderna galerija is a place to visit. It will help enlighten you with the Slovenia of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It will help you understand a world, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

If you’re looking to learn more about Slovenia and Ljubljana, talk to us. We’re more than happy to help you find your way around this wonderful country.

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