EXAT 51 and New Tendencies at the Tošo Dabac Archive
The largest collection of photographs in Croatia, and one of the most complete in the world. It consists of the works of the most famous Croatian photographers, who documented everyday life of Croatia from the 1920s until his death in 1970, including the activity of EXAT 51 and New Tendencies.
Zagreb Ilica 17, Croatia 10000
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Name of collection
EXAT 51 and New Tendencies at the Tošo Dabac Archive
Provenance and cultural activities
The Tošo Dabac Archive Collection is one of the most complete photographic art collections in the world. It contains the complete body of works by Tošo Dabac, who was one of the most significant and versatile Croatian photographers, the winner of many awards, who greatly influenced the development of Croatian photography. During his many decades of photography work, Dabac left behind him lasting mementos of social life in Zagreb, Croatia and the former Yugoslavia. Tošo Dabac is essentially the founder of the Collection, for he produced and gathered the works contained therein.
In 1940, Tošo Dabac established his atelier in Ilica 17 in Zagreb, where the Collection is still housed today, so that year can be considered the year when the Collection was founded. The Atelier, besides its role as a photographic studio, was in certain periods of its operation, especially in the 1960s, a renowned meeting place for the artists and intellectuals gathered around EXAT 51, New Tendencies, the Music Biennale, the Zagreb Fair, Zagreb Radio and others. This was the time when Zagreb, through the activities of its artists, primarily gathered around the New Tendencies movement, as well as the activity of the former Gallery of Contemporary Art (today Museum of Contemporary Art), joined the cultural scene of Europe. Serving as both inspiration and mentor, Dabac influenced the development of photographers Marija Braut, Petar Dabac and Enes Midžić, who gained their first photographic knowledge in the Tošo Dabac Atelier.
In 1970, after Dabac’s death , the Atelier was renamed the Tošo Dabac Archive, and his nephew Petar Dabac inherited it and continued to lead it. In 1980, a gallery was established in the Archive, in which Peter Dabac, together with a group of like-minded colleagues (Mladen Tudor, Ivan Picelj, Albert Goldstein, Nenad Popović), organized workshops by locally and internationally famous authors. Since Croatia became independent, in addition to workshops, forty-seven exhibitions of globally relevant photographers have been organized in the Archive, such as: Gilles Peress, Manfred Willman, Peter Knapp, Milan Pajk, Tošo Dabac, Fedor Vučemilović, Šime Strikoman, Bacharach & Krištofić, Max Aufischer, Josip Klarica, Piet den Blanken, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dany Lyon and others.
The Tošo Dabac Archive was registered in the Register of Croatian Cultural Monuments in 2002, and in March 2006 the Collection was purchased by the City of Zagreb and ceded to the Museum of Contemporary Art for management. Since January 2007, the Collection has been managed by Marina Benažić, and besides her curator Ivana Janković also works in the Collection.
According to Marina Benažić, Dabac was apolitical, so he did not take part in any opposition activities against the socialist regime. But he was deeply involved in cultural events in Zagreb in the 1950s and especially in the 1960s, when he opened his Atelier to many, primarily abstract artists. Among others, they included the members of the group EXAT 51 and New Tendencies, whose work can only be regarded as cultural opposition to a limited degree.
With regard to EXAT 51, we can speak of the beginnings of their activities or the year 1951, when they entered the cultural scene with abstract art. In political terms, this was a time of change when Yugoslavia, at least in principle, attempted to present itself as a country experiencing a democratic shift, and when in socialist realism in the arts was replaced by socialist aestheticism, which also encompassed abstract art. But abstract art was not immediately accepted, and this is where traces of cultural opposition activity could be seen in the courage of artists to offer “something new,” something that was previously considered decadent by communist ideology.
When it comes to New Tendencies, we are talking about the period after 1961. This was a time when socialist aestheticism had already established itself as the new artistic practice, but there were moments which were dependent on the domestic and foreign political situation (attitudes toward the Soviet Union and pressure from its leadership), when it was questioned and criticized (Tito’s criticism in the 1963). Even then, artists continued their work, and thus demonstrated their cultural opposition.
Description of content
The Tošo Dabac Archive Collection contains between 150 and 200,000 negatives and about 2,000 vintage master prints. It also includes valuable photographic equipment, library and newspaper and periodicals collection.
The contents of the Tošo Dabac Archive are mostly held in twelve archival cabinets for storing negatives (different formats – mostly 6x6, Leica format, plain negatives, glass negatives, film rolls), smaller-format vintage master prints, panels with vintage master prints, contact copies; two cabinets with drawers for larger formats (vintage master prints, a poster collection), two cupboards and on shelves (documentary materials, library, newspaper collection). The vintage master prints mounted on cardboard (83), which require a conservation and restoration, and photographic enlargements of recent production from exhibitions are located in depot 4 at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The Collection includes photo documentation that testifies to creative activity, as well as moments of relaxation and socializing, by the members of EXAT 51 and New Tendencies. The exact number of photographs or negatives featuring members of these groups is not known, since a full audit of the Collection has not been done.
- photos: 1000-
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Zagreb Ilica 17, Croatia
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
1) Amihay, Ofra. Tekst i grad / Text and the City. Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti - Arhiv Tošo Dabac, 2015.
2) Bartolić, Vilma, Marina Benažić, Iva Prosoli and Jerica Ziherl. Tošo Dabac - Riječki dnevnik / Rijeka Chronicles. Rijeka: Muzej moderne i suvremene umjetnosti, 2009.
3) Benažić, Marina. Tošo Dabac - Les gens de la rue / Un autre regard. Zagreb: Musee d'art contemporain - Archives Tošo Dabac, 2009.
4) Benažić, Marina. Tošo Dabac - Portreti umjetnika. Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti - Arhiv Tošo Dabac, 2011.
5) Benažić, Marina. Tošo Dabac - (U)lice Zagreba / Streets of Zagreb. Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti - Arhiv Tošo Dabac, 2012.
6) Benažić, Marina. Tošo Dabac - (U)lice Zagreba/ Drugi pogled. Sarajevo: Centar za fotografiju, film i multimediju, Sarajevo, 2013.
7) Benažić, Marina. Ivan Picelj iz Arhiva Toše Dabca / Ivan Picelj from The Tošo Dabac Archives. Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti - Arhiv Tošo Dabac, 2014.
8) Benažić, Marina and Daniela Bilopavlović Bedenik. Tošo Dabac - Uhvatiti pokret / Capturing Motion. Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti - Arhiv Tošo Dabac, 2013.
9) Benažić, Marina and Lana Lovrenčić. Tošo Dabac unutar okvira : reportaže s obale = Tošo Dabac within the frame : photo-covering the coastline. Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti - Arhiv Tošo Dabac, 2016.
10) Benažić, Marina and Antun Maračić. Tošo Dabac - Gradski prizori/ City Scenes / Zagreb/Dubrovnik, od 1930-ih do 1960-ih / Zagreb/Dubrovnik, from 1930's to the 1960's. Dubrovnik: Umjetnička galerija Dubrovnik, 2010.
11) Benažić, Marina and Iva Prosoli. Tošo Dabac - Život & fotografije / Life & Photographs / Leben & Fotos / Vie & Photographies . Zagreb: Arhiv Tošo Dabac - Muzej suvremene umjetnosti, 2007.
12) Benažić, Marina and Iva Prosoli. Tošo Dabac - Život & fotografije / Life & Photographs / Leben & Fotos / Vie & Photographies. Zagreb: Arhiv Tošo Dabac - Muzej suvremene umjetnosti, 2008.
13) Benažić, Marina and Ivan Rupnik. Tošo Dabac: A-Z/ Arhitektura Zagreba / A-Z/ The Architecture of Zagreb. Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti - Arhiv Tošo Dabac, 2014.
14) Benažić, Marina and Jerica Ziherl. Tošo Dabac - Istarski dnevnik/Diario istriano. Novigrad: Muzej-Museo Lapidarium, 2008.
15) Benažić, Marina and Jerica Ziherl. Tošo Dabac - Istarski dnevnik. Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti - Arhiv Tošo Dabac, 2009.
16) Dabac, Petar, Petar Knapp, Želimir Koščević and Marina Benažić. Tošo Dabac - Zagreb tridesetih godina / Zagreb in the Thirties / Zagreb des annees trente / Zagreb in den 30er Jahren ; prošireno izdanje knjige iz 1994. godine. Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti - Arhiv Tošo Dabac, 2009.
17) Prosoli, Iva. Tošo Dabac - Drugi pogled / A Different view. Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti - Arhiv Tošo Dabac, 2007.
Author(s) of this page
- Bencetić, Lidija
Benažić, Marina , interview by Bencetić, Lidija , December 23, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection