The Croatian Naive Art museum, opened in 1952, is the first museum institution in the world to have been founded to record, collect, study, present and promote the Naïve Art.
The Croatian Naive Art, together with Henri Rousseau and the French classics of the first generation, is held to be the most important and artistically worthwhile component of the world’s Naive Art.
This refers above all to the art of , unimpeachable classics of world naive art, whose works constitute the backbone of the permanent dispay.
Then come works of other key masters of the Croatian Naive Art, above all the artists of what is called the Hlebine School – of Mirko Virius, Ivan Večenaj, Mijo Kovačić, Dragan Gaži, Martin Mehkek and Ivan Lacković – whose paintings on glass are considered, metier-wise, the most virtuoso ways of handling this old technique in the whole of the art of the 20th century.
In the collection of Croatian Outsider Art, works by Jakov Bratanić, Hrvoje Šercar, Ambroz Testen and Drago Trumbetaš attract particular attention.
The Museum also possesses a substantial collection of works of the naive art of other countries, although for reasons of space, only a selection from the work of a few of the most proficient practitioners is presented – of the Pole Nikifor, the German Erich Bödeker, the Italians Pietro Ghizzardi and Enrico Benassi and the French Germain van der Steen and Simon Schwartzenberg; Serbia is represented by Ilija Bosilj, Sava Sekulić, Bogosav Živković and Milan Stanisaljević; then there are the Russian Pavel Leonov, the Netherlander Willem van Genk, the Macedonian painter Vangel Naumovski, the Slovene Jože Horvat Jaki, the Bosnia and Herzegovina sculptress Penavuša and Taizi Harada from Japan.
These works witness to the exceptional contributions of croatian naive art from abroad in the museum collection, as well as all the diversity of the Naïve and its offshoots in the direction of Art Brut and Outsider Art, which have in the last decades gained increasingly in importance.
The Museum also possesses a collection of anonymous, vernacular, 19th century religious paintings on glass, as well as works of highly respected members of the Zemlja Artists’ Association (1929–1935) – of Krsto Hegedušić, Ivan Tabaković, Marijan Detoni and Edo Kovačević.