Branko Vlahović (b. 1924, Bjelovar, Croatia; d. 1979, Zagreb, Croatia) was a pioneer of formalism in Croatia, working in relative isolation from the international art establishment. Within a context of more traditional artistic production, Vlahović's work departed from the legacy of figuration and prioritised formal objectivity. Due to a tragic early death at fifty-four, it is only recently that Vlahović has been recognised as a pioneer of Minimalism in Croatia. His work is an example of important Minimalist sculpture produced outside of the dominant Modernist canon.
Vlahović's sculpture, from the 1960s, examines the idea of the module and the construction of component parts in sculpture. The work, often in relief, is based on ideas of post-war architectural forms. He soon removed the base of the sculpture, moving away from traditional modes of display or hierarchy. His early sculpture played with the delicacy and texture of plaster to form hard, solid shapes whilst his later sculpture explored the industrial qualities of black sheet metal and chrome. Vlahović's drawings are also an important aspect of his work, and were consistently made alongside his sculptures. Their structural, hard-edges resemble technical drawings or production plans, and work as a backdrop to his sculptural thinking.
Vlahović's work was most recently included in the seminal exhibition Other Primary Structures (2014) at The Jewish Museum, New York. The exhibition was a reworking of Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculptors (1966), also at the same museum. This brought together, for the first time, artists whose work formed the foundation of what we would now term Minimalism. Other Primary Structures, revisited the exhibition with a more global perspective, counteracting the limiting geographic parameters.
Vlahović graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1951, where he was taught by Grga Antunac, Vjekoslav Rukljač and Vanja Radauš. He completed his postgraduate studies in 1953, overseen by Professor Frane Kršnić. In the same year, he left for a period of study of three-months in Paris. In 1955, he worked as a visual culture teacher at a school in Zagreb, then later in Karlovac. An exhibition of his sculptures was held outdoors in the central park in the city of Kutina in 1969.
During his lifetime his work was exhibited in five solo and forty group exhibitions. More recently, a major retrospective exhibition of Vlahović's work took place at the Technical Museum, Zagreb (2013). This was accompanied by a comprehensive monograph by Guido Quien and Darko Schneider.
Vlahović's work has been acquired by several Eastern European museums including Museum of Contemporary Arts, Zagreb; Croatia Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb; Modern Gallery, Zagreb and Glyptotheque, Zagreb.