The Václav Špála Gallery is open again. Starting in September it is showing Gagarin’s Thing by Jiří Černický
“We want the Václav Špála Gallery to continue working as it did in the past, attracting art lovers. We believe in this context that the selection of a new operator for the gallery involves a great deal of responsibility,” says Filip Dvořák, Mayor of Prague 1.
Jan Řehák, Art Collection Director of PPF Art explains: “In its activities, PPF Art wants to follow the Gallery’s tradition, respect its historical focus and develop it further in a creative way. Thanks to its location in the centre of Prague and to the size of the premises, the Václav Špála Gallery is among the best Czech galleries. It is our ambition to deliver a good-quality programme of art exhibitions.”
According to Pavel Langer, curator of PPF Art’s collections and exhibitions, the Gallery will primarily focus on the works of living artists from the Czech art elite. “As to the programme of exhibitions, we want to rotate our focus on paintings, photos and sculpture. Our main focus will be on established authors of the middle generation,” says Pavel Langer. The Gallery’s programme includes authors such as Tomáš Císařovský, Jiří David, Petr Pastrňák, Petr Nikl, František Skála, Kateřina Vincourová, Markéta Othová, Alena Kotzmannová, Tono Stano, Ivan Pinkava, Jaroslav Róna, Jan Merta and others. Once a year, the Gallery will show the works of the winner of the Jindřich Chalupecký Prize.
The Václav Špála Gallery also wishes to co-operate with other major local exhibition organisers on joint projects and it will also accommodate the best exhibitions from outside Prague. In addition, negotiations are under way to borrow a top-quality exhibition from abroad to be contrasted with the local art scene. The Václav Špála Gallery will hold six exhibitions a year and at present the programme of exhibitions covers the time up to 2012.
Under PPF Art, the Gallery will operate as a non-commercial entity: it will not carry out any business activities and not request any grants; it will focus on exhibitions as its main and only purpose. According to Jan Řehák, this is fully in line with how the entire PPF Group conducts its affairs: in its charitable and other such activities it is guided by the ideas of art patronage and maecenatism. “At a time of general prosperity, support to art is a sign of good upbringing. And at a time of crisis it is an expression of trust in the future,” says Jan Řehák.
The Gallery starts its new era with Jiří Černický’s exhibition of “Gagarin’s Thing and the Things I’m not Sorry for”, whose central theme is a mysterious object from the Soviet cosmonaut’s cabin. The exhibition also includes Černický’s remarkable videos, photos and various objects that were freely given to the author by the random passers-by he approached.
“Gagarin’s Thing can be said to be something like the Forrest Gump of visual art, who passes across the history of the second half of the 20th century, showing the persons and events that are still well-remembered by many people in a new light,” says Jiří Černický. The mythology around the first manned space flight fascinated Černický, who created an imaginative project on the basis of this. He developed the concept in detail and supported it by evidence in the form of numerous photos and a dry scientific report on the reconstruction of a mysterious object whose existence can hardly be doubted.
Reality and fiction are also disquietingly intermingled in the way Černický handles the bits and pieces he got from the people whom he addressed in the Prague metro. Bubble gum, a bottle opener, a rubber band or an interdental brush levitate in front of a metro train, hurtling close to the speed of light, and altogether they create a new image of reality. “Things that are seemingly unimportant or unnecessary create the future here,” comments Jiří Černický in one of his four videos at the exhibition.
The exhibition, curated by Michal Koleček, will continue until 31 October. The Art and Design Faculty of the Jan Evangelista Purkyně, University of Ústí nad Labem, is the exhibition’s partner.
In November the Václav Špála Gallery will host the works of Jiří Skála, the latest winner of the Jindřich Chalupecký Prize. The Gallery will be open daily from 11.00 to 19.00 h. The admission fee is 40 crowns (reduced by 50% for students, seniors and handicapped persons).
WHO IS WHO
PPF Art a.s.PPF Art manages and develops PPF Group’s activities in the art field. Besides the Václav Špála Gallery, it also operates the Česká pojišťovna Gallery, Josef Sudek Studio and the “Louvre” Photo Gallery, where exhibitions will continue to be held only until the end of 2010. For the PPF Group, it manages the corporate collection of modern Czech Art and also takes part in the management of the collections of the Česká pojišťovna insurance company.
PPF Art also issues theme art publications related to the collections and relevant exhibitions. The book of photos entitled Zemská fotografie (Landscape Photography) by Lukáš Jasanský and Martin Polák (winner of the Photo Publication of the Year Award in 2003), or Privatissima with photos by Josef Sudek, can be mentioned as examples.
In May this year, PPF Art won the tender launched by Prague 1 Municipality for a new operator of the Václav Špála Gallery.
Jiří ČernickýJiří Černický (*1966 in Ústí nad Labem) belongs to the small group of Czech artists who are highly appreciated both at home and abroad. He studied at the Prague Academy of Applied Arts (1990 – 1993) and Prague Academy of Fine Arts (1993 – 1997). In 1996 he won the Soros Prize and in 1998 the Jindřich Chalupecký Prize. He has held exhibitions in Prague, Ústí nad Labem, Liberec, Berlin, Venice, Rotterdam, Los Angeles, New York and in other cities. In October 2010 he became the head of the Painting Studio of the Prague Academy of Applied Arts.
This versatile artist creates installations, objects, performances, videos, paintings and photos. His production is characterised by a combination of pathos and exaggeration, technology and carnality, excursions to personal and collective memory, and interest in the social and political dimensions of the resultant work. His creative process involves considerable personal engagement, sometimes with agonising physical and mental effort.
For example, at the beginning of his art career, he collected the tears of the inhabitants the city of Ústí nad Labem and delivered them personally to a monastery in the Ethiopian city of Lalibela (Tears for Ethiopia, 1993–1994). Later he sewed a burqa from the flags of thirty nations and strolled around in it in front of the Gallery of the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin, begging the passers-by for a contribution to support the banking system in the USA (Spirit of the East in the West, 1999). For his SONY multimedia installation he crushed high-tech computer equipment (given to him by sponsors) to create a Japanese zen garden from the heap of fragments (Brand New Trash, Švestka Galery, 2002). At the time of birth of his son, he made embroidered pincushions with scenes from the life of his neighbours in a house at Libeň in Prague (Pincushions, Švestka Gallery 2005). He also explored the potential of paintings and their remixing to produce 3D images (Kefir Way, Woxart Gallery, 2010).
His most famous works include Industrially Manufactured Schizophrenia (1998), a series of white crash helmets, whose horrified expression was inspired by Munch’s famous picture, The Scream. His brilliant picture series Bin Laden’s Lamp (1999–2000) is also well-known to the public. It combines the image of fairy-tale Orient with lovely painted portraits of fundamentalist Muslim warriors, delivered within the tradition of Islamic painting.
Černický’s ability to recognise and render the “spirit of the time” helps him maintain the interest of the public, galleries and collectors across all geographical borders. Gagarin’s Thing was first exhibited in 2005 in the VIVID Gallery in Birmingham. The Things I am not Sorry for were shown in the V. Löffler Museum in Košice in 2009.
The Gallery, named after a well-known Czech painter, was established in 1957 on the premises of the former (pre-war) Vilímek publishing and book-selling company. Its period of greatest prosperity was achieved in 1965 to 1970 when it was led by the highly respected art theorist, Jindřich Chalupecký.
The Václav Špála Gallery
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Gallery hosted, for the most part, exhibitions of official art.
The Gallery re-gained its strong profile in the mid 1990s when it was led by Jaroslav Krbůšek, under whom it became famous as a forward-looking institution, focusing on contemporary Czech art. The first award of the Jindřich Chalupecký Prize, intended for talented artists up to 35 years of age took place in it. From 2002 the Gallery was managed by the Czech Art Foundation which started to lease the gallery space, which aroused unsuccessful protests among the art public. A new operator was sought in 2007 and the tender was won by the Semma Agency, which undertook to manage the Gallery until 2017. However, this Agency terminated its activities after two years, allegedly due to a lack of funds to keep the Gallery going.
To address the situation, the Prague 1 Municipality launched a new tender in 2010. PPF Art submitted a winning project and therefore it became a new operator of the Gallery for the next ten years.