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Museum nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA) 1997

An Extraordinary Heritage of Romanian and European Art

The Art Museum of Cluj-Napoca has an extraordinary valued heritage of Romanian and European art paintings, graphics and decorative art from the 15th to the 20th centuries.
It was founded in 1951 and it benefited by some already existent funds: a small part of the curiosity collection, metal work, pieces of furniture and European plastic art, previously belonging to Muzeul Ardelean (The Transylvanian Museum) and above all, it benefited by the collection known under the name of "Pinacoteca Virgil Cioflec"(The Virgil Cioflec Pinacotheque.)
Virgil Cioflec (1876-1948) was the author of some important monographs dedicated to the Romanian painters Stefan Luchian (1924) and Nicolae Grigorescu (1925); he is also the author of some writings on art which had been published in that time's written media. His name is related to a cultural act of great significance for the inter-war life of the city of Cluj: the donation of his collection of Romanian art to the University of Cluj (1929-1930.) The opening of Virgil Cioflec Pinacotheque for the public (1933) meant, in fact, the opening, in Cluj, of the first museum of Romanian modern art, whose successor today is the Art Museum of Cluj-Napoca.

It was formed with the passion and the competence of the man who knows and who is able to appreciate the true values (Nicolae Grigorescu, Stefan Luchian, Dimitrie Paciurea) and to clear-sightedly support the affirmation of authentic talents (Theodor Pallady, Camil Ressu, Vasile Popescu, Jean Al. Steriadi, Lucian Grigorescu, Oscar Han, Cornel Medrea.) The Virgil Cioflec collection represents, even today, the most valuable nucleus of the patrimony of Art Museum of Cluj-Napoca.
In the years that followed after its founding, the increase of the number of works that came to belong to the museum was realized with the help of some transfers, donations and purchasing. Along with the works of art that had been transferred from the Ministry of Culture, National Art Museum of Bucharest (The National Art Museum Bucharest) and the Local Administration (Barbu Iscovescu, Constantin David Rosenthal, Theodor Aman, Gheorghe Panaitescu Bardasare, Carol Popp de Szathmary, Ioan Andreescu, Karl Storck) there is an important number of works that came from the Cluj Branch of the Romanian Academy (1971.) The works, important art pieces from Transylvania (unknown painters from the 18th and the 19th centuries, Franz Neuhauser, Joseph Neuhauser, Franz Anton Bergman, Koreh Sigismund, Szathmary Gati Sandor, Simo Ferenc), did substantially contribute to the outlining of the patrimony's character.

The research labour, accomplished during the years by the museum's specialists, and made public through studies and important retrospective exibitions, introduced into the national artistic circuit important personalities of the Transylvanian art: Elena Popea, Alexandru Popp, Pericle Capidan, Szolnay Sandor, Tasso Marchini, Aurel Ciupe, Romul Ladea, Petre Abrudan, Emil Cornea, Nagy Albert, Theodor Harsia, Fulop Antal Andor, Alexandru Mohy, Georgeta and Constantin Ticu Aramescu, Ioan Sima, Petru Feier, Anton Lazar, Walther Wiedmann, Bene Jozsef, Letitia Munteanu, Coriolan Munteanu, Friedrich Bomches, Sabin Nemes, Nicolae Agîrbiceanu, Valer Chende, Egon Marc Lovith, Constantin Lucaci.
These retrospective exibitions determined important donations from artists and from their families, as well as from different art collectors. The research staff developed a programme of purchasings, oriented with priority, toward the underlining of the native artists' creation or of those artists who were active within the intra-Carpathian area (Aloisie Hora, Misu Popp, Venceslav Melka, Sava Hentia, Simion Corbul-Hollossy, Octavian Smigelschi, Dimitrie Cabader, Nagy Istvan, Sabin Popp, Hans Eder, Johann Mattis Tensch, Virgil Fulicea). The programme was also oriented toward the enriching of the patrimony of old art (religious paintings from the 17th and the 18th centuries) and of Romanian modern art (Gheorghe Petrascu, Francisc Sirato, Ion Teodorescu-Sion, Alexandru Phoebus, Corneliu Mihailescu, Ziffer Sandor, Thorma Janos, Corneliu Baba, Ioan Georgescu, Ion Jalea, Ion Irimescu, Dimitrie Gheata, Ion Tuculescu).

The museum is hosted by the Banffy Palace, an important baroque building from the 18th century, the work of the German architect Johann Eberhard Blaumann. The place that represents the storey of the palace is destinated to the National Gallery. In 1990, the National Gallery was closed for the re-organising process, which had been imposed both by the state of advanced degradation of the building and by the need of organizing the permanent exibition if it was to take into account the new researches and the works that had been purchased or donated lately.

Due to an attentive restoration, the wide space of exibition at the storey of the Banffy Palace, regained a configuration that is very similar to the original one; at the same time the space is perfectly suited for the role of art museum. 325 paintings and sculptures were selected. They were prepared for the exibition (restoration, preservation of frames, socles) in accordance to their special artistic value.

The new design of the National Gallery, re-opened for the public in January 1996, offers a synthesis of four centuries of Romanian art with a natural focus on the artistic phenomenon in Transylvania: The Altar from Jimbor (the 16th century), Biedermeier painting, art in the style of 1900, avant-guarde, the artists related to Scoala Superioara de Arte Frumoase (Fine Arts High School) and to the Art Centre of Cluj: Alexandru Popp, Szolnay Sandor, Pericle Capidan, Catul Bogdan, Aurel Ciupe, Romul Ladea, Petre Abrudan, Tasso Marchini, Alexandru Mohy, Szervatius Jeno, Theodor Harsia, Kovacs Zoltan, Nagy Albert, Anton Lazar, Virgil Fulicea, Constantin Dinu Ilea, Ioan Sima, Egon Mark Lovith.

The artists were represented in the gallery by the most important of their works, having in view both the revealing of the characteristic aspects of the multi-culture specificity in Transylvania and suggesting of the complex relations betwwen the art in Romania and the main tendences and streams of the European one.
By including fully consacrated values into the synthesis of national post-war art, created in Transylvania and especially in Cluj, the museum remains receptive also to the creations of more recent date. For this reason, three neighbouring halls of the National Gallery have been destinated to temporary exibitions of Romanian artists who became known during the latest decades. This space was symbolically inaugurated with the painting exibition of Nicolae Maniu, who, originating in Cluj and educated at the Fine Arts Academy from this city, is now developping a prestigious activity in France.

Address: Banffy Palace, Piața Unirii No. 30, Cluj-Napoca, Cluj County, Romania.

Tel/fax: (+4) 0264.596.952; 0264.596.953, e-mail:

Official Museum Website:


Text: Livia Drăgoi, 2002.
Last updated: 30.04.2012.