The idea leading to the foundation of the Danubiana was to create in Bratislava a modern open space for contemporary art, which would contribute to the establishment of relations between the previously isolated cultures of the so-called East and West in a way that would satisfy strict international criteria. To achieve this objective, a corresponding exhibition plan is of primary importance, enabling the museum to run projects of transnational importance. Our top priority is to organise different exhibition projects that enable the museum to hold major foreign exhibitions with a scale and quality unprecedented in Slovakia until then. The museum establishes contacts and cooperates with foreign institutions, particularly with the Meulensteen Art Centre in the Netherlands thanks to which many unique projects have been carried out.
Since its foundation the Danubiana has staged over eighty exhibitions, some of them in cooperation with foreign institutions while the others were its own projects. The structure of exhibitions focuses on three main areas dominated by solo exhibitions thanks to which major figures of the world art scene exhibited in Slovakia for the first time. The top shows presented internationally renowned artists: the Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz, Dutch artists – members of the Cobra experimental group – Karel Appel and Lucebert, exceptional figures representing Art Informel Zoltan Kemeny and Markus Prachensky, the sculptor Karl Prantl and French Postmodernist Robert Combas. Thanks to close contacts of the museum’s founder Gerard Meulensteen with Spain, the Danubiana has hosted several exhibitions of Spanish artists representing Spanish post-war avant-garde art, many of them from the circle of the leading figure of Art Informel Antoni Tàpies. These include Josep Guinovart, Martín Quirino, Miguel Ybaňez, Ráfols Casamada and Antoni Clavé. Photography was represented through the American photographer Sydney J. Gluck, who portrayed the impressive Chinese terracotta army and displayed his photographs at a joint exhibition along with the paintings by Peter Pollág, and at the exhibition of the French photographer Gérard Rancinan. Exhibition activities culminated in the retrospective of Sam Francis, an extraordinary figure of American post-war Abstract Expressionism, who deserves particular attention.
The exhibition plan is based on the idea that art is a means of barrier-free communication and it can uniquely inform the world about Slovak culture. Apart from foreign exhibitions, Slovak artists also have an important place in the exhibition displays. The presentation of their work is one of the museum’s key objectives. Some of the exhibiting artists have closely cooperated with the museum, for example Peter Pollág and Milan Lukáč who were at its birth. Visitors had the opportunity to see solo exhibitions of several major artists, who represented post-war modern art and determined the development of Slovak art in this period. These include the doyen of Slovak graphic art and painter Vincent Hložník, the key figures of Slovak sculpture Rudolf Uher, Vladimír Kompánek and Jozef Jankovič, excellent painter Milan Paštéka, Miroslav Cipár, Vladimír Popovič and conceptualist Rudo Sikora. The next generations include the sculptor Oto Bachorík, painters Ivan Pavle, Ján Kelemen, Svetozár Ilavský, Marek Ormandík and several others. The range of artistic programmes does not follow the whole scope of newer Slovak art, but corresponds to the main programme: expressive figuration and abstraction.
Broadly conceived projects have become another increasingly important exhibition activity. They aim to present the continuity of artistic development of a specific country from a particular art-historical period or in terms of a distinct visual expression. The first project launching exhibition activities, Dutch Painters 1950 – 2000, was already a cultural event. Not only did it provide insight into the overall development of Dutch art in that period, but for the first time it presented in Slovakia the work of artists representing the Cobra, a major experimental European movement – Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille, Eugène Brands. Other interesting projects included a fine collection of the First Slovak Investment Group, an inspiring incentive for private collectors, Laureates of the Martin Benka Prize – important Slovak artists, recipients of the award named after the founder of Slovak modern art, and Tribute to Karel Appel – an album of graphic works by Slovak artists dedicated to this major European painter.
The presentation of expressive tendencies in art in recent decades became the focal point of exhibitions initially centred on Central European countries. It is an effective way of actively encouraging cultural relations with neighbouring countries and closely cooperating with galleries and art critics when preparing and organising these exhibitions. The pilot project, Austrian Art (Expressive Tendencies in Austrian Art from 1960), was followed by Expressive Tendencies in Hungarian Contemporary Art from 1980 to 2007 and Contemporary Russian Art from the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art ART4.ru and the pARTner Project Gallery from 1980 to the present. The most recent exhibition from this series was Contemporary Czech Art, 20 Years After ... arranged on the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. A special project was Tolerance in Art, an exhibition of Slovak and Hungarian Contemporary Art, embodying the idea of open communication. All the exhibitions presented many major artists whose importance reached beyond their national boundaries. They became important cultural events.