Journalist preview of the new permanent exhibition of the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague "Art, Life. Art for Life”, which presents European applied art from antiquity to the 20th and 21st centuries, February 7, 2023, Prague.
Prague – Almost six years after the building became accessible after a major renovation, the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague will open a permanent exhibition. In six thematically divided halls, it presents an image of European applied art from antiquity to 21st century design. 1,300 objects from the museum's collection, which number half a million exhibits, are on display. According to the organizers, the exhibition is intended to show how all the things that a person is surrounded by enter his life and change it in different ways.
“We chose the opening date of the exhibition on February 7 on purpose. On this day in 1885, the museum's first exhibition, officially established after many years of effort in the same year, was opened in the just-completed Rudolfinum,” museum director Helena Koenigsmarková told journalists. The museum's current headquarters was built opposite the Rudolfinum in 1899 according to the plans of the architect Josef Schulz.
After the reconstruction, the building was opened in the spring of 2017. Since then, only temporary exhibitions have been held there. Through the reconstruction, the museum gained almost two and a half times more area for exhibitions and expositions. The condition for starting the repair was the acquisition of the depository, which the museum opened in Prague Stodůlky in 2016. According to the director, the long time between the completion of the building and the opening of the exhibition was caused by the fact that the depository was being built and the main building was being repaired at the same time, and all the collections were stored. Later, covid interfered with the preparation and then the unavailability of the necessary material.
As before, the permanent exhibition is not organized either chronologically or according to the museum's collections, i.e. according to the materials from which the exhibits are made. They are divided thematically according to the use of objects, according to which human activity or situation they serve. According to the authors, such a division makes it possible to better show the meaning of the given subjects. The first hall of Rituals and Celebrations offers objects that draw the viewer into the world of symbols and performances that were supposed to elevate mortals closer to god. The exhibition also continues with secular festivities, from folk festivals and carnivals to guild celebrations, university ceremonies to national holidays and world exhibitions.
The next hall is called Mikrosvěty: the royal kunstkomora and presents the well-known cabinets of art and rarities that connected the world natural sciences and philosophy with the world of art. At the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, the Prague Art Gallery of Emperor Rudolph II stood at the head of these efforts.
Under the name Life of Forms, the curators have prepared a part of the exhibition that shows how nature has always inspired artistic creation. Another hall is devoted to human clothing, showing that clothing not only covers the human body, but also shapes it. The installation of 18 types of clothing together with examples of underwear presents clothing culture with an emphasis on shaping the fashionable silhouette of the body as it developed from the beginning of the 19th to the end of the 20th century.
In the hall dedicated to design and the phenomenon of modernity, the viewer enters the industrial 19th century into the 20th century. The authors of the exhibition show how design connected new knowledge and technology with the field of artistic creation. The sixth hall, called Utopia, cosmos, the game, shows a chapter in the history of Czech art and design, already made up of cosmic inspirations and utopian visions.
The exhibition is complemented by projections and lightboxes. “The goal of the exhibition was not to create a textbook overview of the history of applied art and design, but to show art in its life movement, in various social roles and functions,” said the main author of the exhibition, Radim Vondráček, who is the museum's director of collections and research.