Preparations were under way at Gallery Mánes on Monday morning for the 11th annual Art Prague. An international contemporary art fair running from March 21-25, the event provides visitors the opportunity to see and shop works from 28 galleries and hundreds of artist from the Czech Republic, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Taiwan.
In terms of the participating galleries, all the generations are covered, Iva Nesvadbová, Art Prague’s director along with Milan Jaroš, told Czech Position. “Prague Auctions present the best artists — the artists with the biggest names — like Cigler, Boštík, Sýkora and Malich,” she said. “Then there is The Chemistry Gallery, which presents the youngest artists and street art. In between these are the middle generation of artists.”
Started in 2002, Art Prague is both an opportunity to see quality contemporary art and for some the chance to build up their collection. “Invest in Art! Invest in the Future!” has been Art Prague’s tagline since its inception. “People are thinking about what they want to invest in and there is also this possibility [investing art],” Nesvadbová said, “Through the years, arts value increases.” She admits that in this regard they’re not necessarily targeting art lovers, but investors. “We want a little bit to push people to see things from another angle.” Described as a floating multicultural center, Cargo Gallery will host exhibitions, concerts, performances and various other events aboard a large freighter.
The newest gallery presenting this year is Kvalitář, which connects art, design and architecture. The most non-traditional gallery presenting is scheduled to set sail in 2013. Described as a floating multicultural center, Cargo Gallery will host exhibitions, concerts, performances and various other events aboard a large freighter — Niké — that will travel back and forth between Prague and Hamburg (via Berlin) making stops along the way.
In addition to the traditional gallery presentations, Art Prague “always reserves a big space for curator projects” Nesvadbová said. Project Big Toys provides a kids zone presenting the work of Czech sculptor Alexandra Koláčková whose large, contemporary ceramic sculptures — characterized by their playful style — can be found in public spaces throughout the Czech Republic as well as the Netherlands. From March 22, Koláčková will provide workshops for kids and adults from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.
The art collective Pode Bal will present the project Identikit, which explores the themes of identity. To mark the ten-year anniversary of the death of artist and professor Karel Nepraš, sculptures from four of his students will be presented.
The event actually kicks off on March 20 with the (invitation only) presentation of the UniCredit Bank Art Prague Young Award, which was established seven years ago, by UniCredit – Art Prague’s main sponsor. Additional accompanying events include a discussion about the significance of art education presented by Scholastika – a new studio-based arts education program; and a lecture focused on the theme of “Public Space and Art” from the perspective of a sculptor, street artist and architects presented by a new initiative, UrbanACT. On March 22, Art Prague Nocturno, will see the event stay open an extra two hours until 9:00 p.m.
“Eighty percent of the galleries, including those from Germany, France and the Netherlands, have participated since the events start in 2002,” Nesvadbová said. She says this speaks to the positive experience the event brings to gallery owners, which includes a noticeable increase in visitors to their normal gallery space and a sense of camaraderie amongst the participants.
“They’re like a big family, they are always happy to meet again each year,” she told Czech Position. “Even though we held the event several months earlier this year, due to the planned reconstruction of Mánes, they still all said yes when asked to participate.”
Speaking to whether or not this is Mánes’ last event before it’s temporary closure, Nesvadbová remarks, “That’s what they say.”
As for what the organizers hope visitors will experience at Art Prague: a little more freedom than in a traditional gallery setting. “We hope they will discover art as it is. They don’t have to be afraid of art; in a traditional gallery when people are approached they feel ‘my god, I’m forced to buy something’,” she said. “At Art Prague you can mingle, you can go from one gallery space to the next.”