Yet another location recommended for Slav Epic

The city is still looking for a place to display the 20 paintings by Alfons Mucha

The city has come up with a new proposal for where Alfons Mucha's Slavic Epic will be displayed. The Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR) has suggested a narrow strip of land in Těšnov, where there is now a grass belt across for Atlas cinema. Prague 8, however, would like to build a new pavilion at another disused site.

A different part of the Těšnov area was first suggested by IPR in 2016 when the city first began to look for a permanent home for the 20 large-scale paintings. There is a large green area on the opposite side of the Magistrála highway where a neo-Renaissance train station used to stand. It was destroyed to make room for the highway.

The newly suggested smaller lot is more suitable because its dimensions closely match the amount of space needed to exhibit the Slav Epic (Slovanská epopej). IPR spokesman Marek Vácha said the larger lot at Těšnov is more suitable for a residential building or several buildings. The smaller lot at Těšnov is also closer to the Municipal Museum at Florenc.

But Prague City Hall id not convinced about the smaller space. The Prague 8 district, where the Těšnov lot is located, also doesn’t like the new option.

Prague 8 Deputy Mayor Radomír Nepil (ANO) told daily Mladá fronta Dnes that the district wanted to build a pavilion on a large area where there is a “not very striking park” with a billboard.

Prague City Councilor Jan Wolf (KDU-ČSL) prefers the larger Těšnov lot because the pavilion could absorb part of the noise from the adjoining highway, which would help existing housing.

IPR rejects the notion that their recommended lot is too small and narrow for a gallery. They maintain that a slim building is not unusual and that New York has its landmark Flatiron Building, for example.

The IPR study states that the hall should have a minimum width of seven meters and a maximum of 23 meters.

When the paintings were shown at Veletržní palác they were viewed from about eight meters, which allows people to see a whole large canvas at once. The paintings were shown there from 2012 to ’16.

The Municipal Gallery, which has rights to the Slav Epic, declined to comment on the issue, claiming it was premature.

The final decision is up to City Hall, which is also considering other sites and taking into account several factors to determine which space would be best.

IPR examined two sites at Výstaviště two years ago. The current parking lot in front of the main entrance to the grounds seemed most suitable. A pavilion inside the exhibition grounds was also considered, but without the revival of the entire exhibition grounds, many people would not go to see the paintings.

The Prague 1 district previously announced that it wants to build a modern, gold-tone oval gallery adjacent to Štefánikův most (Štefánik Bridge) to house the Slav Epic, though the city has not been receptive to the idea.

The pedestal of the former Stalin Monument at Letná, the National Monument at Vítkov, Letohrádek Hvězda, Colloredo-Mansfeldský palác, the Klementinum and Letohrádek královny Anny have also been suggested.

The exhibition of the Slav Epic was seen by 400,000 people at Veletržní palác between May 10, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2016. In 2017 they went to Japan for an exhibition and have been returned.

Before the paintings were moved to Prague, they were on display at a chateau in the town of Moravský Krumlov, where they were seen by some 20,000 people per year. The city of Moravský Krumlov had been attempted to have the paintings returned, and said the cycle would not exist if the town had not protected and preserved it during and after World War II, as Mucha was not highly regarded by either the occupying Germans or the communists. That effort to get them returned has not been successful.

The Slav Epic is a series of 20 monumental canvases painted between 1910 and ’28. The largest measures over 48 square meters. Mucha devoted the latter half of his artistic career to this work. The idea was formed in 1899, while he was working on the design for the interior of the Pavilion of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which had been commissioned by the Austro-Hungarian government for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. In preparation, he traveled widely through the Balkans, researching the history and customs of the Slavs.

A key role in creating the famous cycle of paintings was played by Mucha's American patron Charles Crane, who offered him $100,000 to finally paint the works.

The Slav Epic was created in Mucha's rented studio at Zbiroh Castle, and the finished canvases were turned over to the City of Prague as they were completed.

In 1919, the first 11 canvases were displayed in the Prague's Klementinum. In 1921, five of the paintings were shown in New York and Chicago. In 1928, the complete cycle was displayed for the first time in Veletržní palác.

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