The story of Apoxyomenos, the ancient Greek statue discovered at the bottom of the sea near Lošinj island, has been well-known in these parts for a very long time.
The bronze athlete was found in 1996 and raised from the sea in 1999, followed by an extensive restoration process required to remove layers of marine organisms that have built up on the statue during the two millenia it spent lying on the seabed.
After it was decided to put Apoxyomenos on permanent display in the Kvarner Palace in Mali Lošinj, the statue was long exhibited in the Archaeological museum in Zagreb, waiting for its future home to be renovated and adapted to a new purpose. How to create a background – or a context – for a single object using the space of an entire building? Taking the minimalist route might have ended up as a boring experience for visitors, and going the entirely opposite way and stuffing the spaces with monotonous historical backdrops might have turned out to be an information overload.
The facade of the existing edifice was not to be modified in any way, leaving it to architects Saša Randić and Idis Turato to focus on the interior. What did they come up with? The body of the new museum was basically inserted into the exterior shell of the building. The layout was completely restructured, and designed as a series of spaces that together represent a sort of narrative, both providing information and leading the visitors from the entrance to the final chamber where the statue is on display.
The brilliance of this concept is hard to put into words and needs to be experienced in person, because even the photos don’t do it justice. Mesmerising blue and white surfaces visually hit you at the moment you enter, luring you further into the museum, curious about what awaits between you and the athlete. All chambers drastically differ in design, yet alternate seamlessly, each one making you more eager to see what comes next.
The fact that the historical front of the building gives no sign of what’s inside only adds to the experience; where you expect a typical gallery space, you find a mind-boggling array of spaces showering you with colours, textures, images and sounds. Just as you start thinking you’ll end up with a sensory overload, you find yourself in front of Apoxyomenos – no colour, no sound, just a quiet encounter with the star of the story. Taking photos is forbidden in the room itself, but an ingenious solution allows you to snap a pic through a porthole in one of the spaces leading to the statue.
A masterpiece of architecture and design, the Museum of Apoxyomenos is a unique example of how much can be achieved with one single object when you leave it to a group of talented professionals to create a sensational context around a piece of local history.
You can find all information about the opening hours and the tickets here.
Image source: Museum of Apoxyomenos Facebook