Why We Opened an Art Gallery on Pelješac

Maja Dezulovic

October 8, 2023 – A cultural beacon in the heart of the peninsula, with a Croatian-South African flavour – why we opened an Art Gallery on Pelješac.

It’s Who We Are

At a time when it was popular to make a relationship “official” on Facebook, my husband (then boyfriend) and I did it upon mutual agreement while attending an art exhibition together in Johannesburg in 2012. From the beginning art became a defining part of our life together. Attending exhibitions and visiting galleries was one of our favourite pastimes, and many of our friends and family worked in the arts.

We knew even before we moved to Croatia that we wanted to participate in the arts here. Funnily enough, we didn’t search for artists but somehow managed to draw them to us. When we realized we could put together a good pool of artists amongst our family, friends and acquaintances it became obvious what the next step was. So we opened an art gallery.

Of course, the naysayers were not far behind. They chanted: “You’ll never make it. Nobody makes money from art.”

Natasha Baković, Red Chair, 2020, oil on canvas

Well, our vision is about so much more than just “making money from art.” It’s never a bad idea to do the things that you love and are good at and to reward people kindly for doing the same. I don’t expect to become a millionaire, but if I can eat and so can my artists, that’s great. If we can create a lasting impact on others and our environment, it doesn’t get much better than that.

The Environment

Traditionally, the dominant form of arts and culture in smaller places in Croatia revolves around the Catholic Church. Churches bring communities together and give them a shared reason to congregate. Although a good thing, this is somewhat limiting as there exists a much wider scope of culture and community in the world today.

Pelješac, and the Janjina municipality in particular, is underdeveloped. Arts and culture draw people to a place and keep them there by creating a sense of community. Valuing our history and the arts also has the power to steer development in the direction of preservation and sustainability.

This place has so much potential that many recognise but few tap into. I am glad others have caught on, and we are not alone in our mission. There is an atelier down the road, another one soon to be opened above us, and a museum in development. The more artists come together to share their work and support each other, the better it will be for everyone.

Tomislav Ivanišin, Wildflowers in a vase, 2020, oil on board


In 2021 I went gallery and museum hopping with a friend in Zagreb during the biennale. I was struck by the lack of depictions of joy. There was the usual playfulness one expects from 1950s to 1960s art, but rarely a depiction of joy outside of classic landscapes of nature. I didn’t see many smiling faces in paintings or photographs.

I knew what I wanted to give people – we need joy and beauty in our lives. Clients have come to me and said that they’d like something warm and beautiful to look at in the cold and lonely winter months. It’s lovely to be able to give someone that and also give the artist who created it encouragement to continue their work.

Emil Bobanović Ćolić, Birds, 2020, acrylic on canvas

“If the world was a kinder place, perhaps we would be less impressed by, and in need of, pretty works of art. One of the strangest features of experiencing art is its power, occasionally, to move us to tears; not when presented with a harrowing or terrifying image, but with a work of particular grace and loveliness that can be, for a moment, heartbreaking… The more difficult our lives, the more a graceful depiction of a flower might move us.” – Alain de Botton and John Armstrong, Art as Therapy

Maja Dežulović is a Croatian – South African writer and the owner of Gallery 120. You can follow Gallery 120 on Facebook.


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