The Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum – the Gem on the Danube Riverbank

So many beautiful places, amazing historic sights and significant buildings are located along the Danube, life flourishing all around – whether we think of the urban life or the natural. But there is one truly unique place near Bratislava, where you can see the modern art works and enjoy the view on the still surface of Danube. This place is called The Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum. 

Deserted Island

When you pass by Čunovo or Rusovce, you get the feeling that you are about to visit an unknown nature or that you are going for a visit to a hydroelectric power station. Only few cues will indicate that you are getting close to a unique Slovak museum dedicated exclusively to the modern art. Once you pass by a small hydroelectric power station Mošoň (you can find a modern statue in its compound – try to spot it along the way 😊) and a Water Sport Resort Divoká Voda, you will finally get the view on a solitary white building. Surrounded by the water it gives the impression of a big ship stuck on the island, which was after all an original intention. 

This authentic building was really designed in a shape of ancient Roman galley that symbolically connects the three states interconnected by the river – Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary. The reference to the Roman Empire is not a coincidence, it is connected to the nearby archaeological site Gerulata in Rusovce, that was appreciated already by the ancient generals. However, you won´t find any archaeological artefacts in the areal of Danubiana but a new chapter of history stared to write here in 1999. 

Did you know that the peninsula, where Danubiana is located wasn´t created by nature? It was created because of a change in the watercourse of the Danube caused by the construction of the hydroelectrical power plant. 

Its land was originally cowered in high grass and shrubs – which makes it an ideal place for nesting of aquatic birds. These can still be spotted here nesting in the compounds of the museum – near the water or in the flowerpots. 

First steps

Who were the first “new inhabitants” of this place and what impressed them? A Dutch collector and a contemporary art patron Gerard Meulensteen in cooperation with a Slovak lawyer and gallerist Dr. Vincent Polakovič chose this “forgotten place” with a clear objective – to build a representative place for modern art. Both founders shared a passion for art and a desire to make it more accessible to wider public. Danubiana is a considered a child of the Yellow House of Vincent van Gogh in Poprad – the first private gallery in Slovakia established and led by Vincent Polakovič. After his first meeting with Gerard Meulensteen a new plan for creating a representative place dedicated to modern art situated in our capital started to unfold. 

This daring decision got its real contours at the end of the last century, when in the 1999 started a construction of the first building of the museum, it got its extension in 2014. A blueprint of the original construction was projected by renowned Slovak architect Peter Žalman and a symbolical foundation stone in the shape of the bronze ship was created by sculptor Vincent Lukáč. 

Once you got into the interior of the central building you will be dazzled by the amount of the natural light and a generous space intensified by the high ceiling and interconnections with a platform leading to the next floor.  Skylights on the roof bring more exterior light and especially at the sunset is this place literally magical.  

The new extension resulted from a competition – founder of the museum is a patron of young talents who supports them also in his birthplace in Eindhoven. However, the museum is in Slovakia – the competition for construction of the extension was announced between Dutch and Slovak students and should have replenished broaden the spirit of the museum. Slovak students won the competition and in 2014 it was finished under the supervision of Peter Žalman. 

Whole interior of the museum is opened and many walls are glassed so you get the feeling you are walking right on the water. By the way, water is an important element of the entire atmosphere – the calming surface of the Danube which you can observe sitting on a bench surrounded by amazing paintings full of life, colours, and ideas  makes it an inseparable part of the building.  The water proximity was important in the process of finding the ideal location for the museum as it relates to the birth country of Mr. Meulensteen. The idea hidden behind is that many Dutch cities are interwoven with small rivers and so should have been Danubiana – a calming influence of water in connection with art works creating a place for meditation and relax. 


After presenting the building, it is time to introduce what e can find inside. As the name of the museum indicates, it presents modern art. There aren´t only contemporary artists but the wide palette of artists that stand in the favour of the funders and Slovak public. The big part of the art collection still belongs to Mr. Meulensteen, who loaned it to the gallery until Danubiana creates its own representative collection. 

To remain attractiveness even among the regular visitors, the gallery organizes temporary exhibitions at least four times a year. So, we will introduce you the permanent collection that changes only rarely. Right at the entrance, behind the reception desk you can observe a mosaic of small square canvases – some of them are full, some of them remain white. This serves as a “degustation” of what will wait for you inside and those white canvases wait for the promising young artists. 

Next painting inviting us for a tour is “Invitation for Vernissage” from Peter Pollág, in which are hidden faces of big names of “ancient art”. However, we are waving them a goodbye and symbolically enter the modern era – to a photography where we can see many famous faces. You will recognise many of them at the first sight and you can also play a small game with your friends - who can find more of them? That´s why the photo The Banquet of Idols form French artist Gerard Rancinan is one of the most popular art works. The museum certainly doesn´t forget about the beginnings of Slovak modern art, these are given a proper place in the gallery. The giants of Slovak art like Milan Pašteka, Vincent Hložník, Miroslav Cipár, or Viera Kraicová got their distinctive space and visitors have the opportunity to peep into the beginnings of post-war avantgarde. The young generation is represented by seemingly endless crowd of small plaster little men with distorted look called “pičus” by Viktor Frešo. 

The Slovak scene is notably represented by Jozef Jankovič, Rudolf Fila, and Rudolf Sýkora. All three men have a distinctive style and a ground position in the Slovak modern art.  Jozef Jankovič comments on the socialism and a place of the human-artist in the system with his artworks, he makes no secret of his criticism of the regime and of the reference to his feelings of frustration. Opposite to Jankovič, Rudolf Sýkora works with texts, symbolism, and we can say even with the visual simplicity. In contrast to those two men stands the artwork of Rudolf Fila, that interconnects the traditional painting methods with random colourful “blotchs”.

Beside Slovak artists, they exhibit also works of the members of the so-called CoBrA movement. Their name isn´t derived from the name of the dangerous snake but it s an acronym of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam. You an find them in the gallery thanks to the collector´s passion of Gerard Meulensteen who lend the museum their works. 

Danubiana also couldn´t have forget about one of the most famous Slovak natives – Andy Warhol, whose parents came from the Eastern Slovakia. His famous work Campbell’s Soup Can takes up, in different forms, a significant red wall so you definitely cannot overlook it. Canvases of Laco Teren, Svetozár Ilavský, Dorota Sadovská, Vladimír Popovič or Samo Francisci  make your visit in the gallery more pleasant. There are located also the so-called Heart and Aquamarine, exhibition areas designed for temporary exhibitions. 

Aquamarine usually hosts smaller formats like illustrations and graphic arts or photographs. In the poetically named Heart of Danubiana is a brilliant separated space that creates an intimate atmosphere and a possibility to dive into an present exhibition. Passing by a monumental work Planetarium by Macedonian painter and film-maker Kiro Urdin you will get to the original building from 2000. At the entrance of this old building, you will be symbolically welcomed by Mr. Meulensteen smiling from the portrait by Peter Pollág, painted as an expression of gratitude from the times of the cooperation at the Yellow House of Vincent van Gogh in Poprad. This building also provides an amazingly opened and airy space ideal f big exhibitions and monumental artworks. 

One of the most famous artists, whose canvases were exhibited here is Joan Miró whose work relates to the works of CoBrA movement and recorded notable success and attendance. You can find many artworks not only n the interior of the museum but also in its vast and varied statue park. 

Park is an ideal place for a walk with kids or your four-legged animals all year-long, it is also a perfect spot for sunbathing laying on deckchairs prepared for all visitors.  The park is decorated with statues by Slovak and world artists. The biggest and the most impressive is a statue Danube Wings by Peter Pollág created especially for Danubiana. The colours wite, blue and red represent the flags of Slovakia and the Netherlands.  They symbolically close the cooperation of the two countries and their interconnection through art. 

If the weather is nice, you can go to the roof and see the Bratislava Castle in the distance, this can provide you a pleasant feeling of connection of the remote place with the capital city. 

See you at the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum!