Home and Homeless

The Umělec art magazine's editor is angered by the closure of Prague's Home gallery

On Wednesday, June 16, when several dozen people gathered for Larke Lauta’s video projection at Prague’s Home gallery (Truhlářská 8), the air was stifling with a mortuary odor; it was announced that Home, one of the last progressive galleries in Prague and in the Czech Republic, will have to close down. On June 9, the company that holds the lease on the building housing the gallery, EasyGo, s.r.o., was given notice by the owner, Prague’s first municipal district, that its lease is to be terminated.

Neither EasyGo nor the subtenant, Home gallery owner and curator, Veronika Drahotová, had heard anything about the alleged critical condition of Home's housing before. City officials have not stated whether the structure's critical condition might actually have something to do with the construction of the mammoth Palladium complex, projected to be built by 2007 in the gutted barracks at Náměstí Republiky, right behind Home’s back wall. Curiouser still is the behavior of City officials, considering that the Palladium is to be constructed on a unique archeological site — they have already inflicted enough damage to the location that their consciences weigh very heavily indeed.

To prevent Home Gallery from perishing, Drahotová has resolved to modify the gallery's conception. She hopes to transfer some of her activities onto the internet and the Home trademark will patronize other actions at different locations. Such alternative activities are most certainly praiseworthy, but with Home's current problems, the whole art scene has gone into a funk. Of Prague's independent artistic institutions, only Display and Futura galleries are in a position to incite real dialogue about what artists do, and provide space where they can prosper. But alone they cannot ensure diversity of artistic life in the city.

For some time now, the substructure of the cultural future has been seeking shelter below bridges. The scene continues to decline with increasingly stale activities. But no one has taken on the task of clogging their troubadours' gorges with any positive gesture. The offices of Prague's central municipal district didn’t bother to say much about this; they served notice of the lease's termination and nothing more. Considering it seems unlikely that there'll be any change any time soon, we have to take to radical measures. Therefore, Umělec magazine hereby gives notice to Prague 1, that whereas there is no single place where anything is happening in that region; those municipal authorities, who are responsible to care about culture, but don't stand up for any, should go grab a blanket and find shelter under a bridge too.

Rules of a Third World Cultural Reality

While Prague 1 is just the center part of the Czech capital city, the story of Home Gallery should be understood as an essential key to the future of the whole town. In the next few years, the city will probably still belong to those scrawny state sloths and their abutting consumerist tourist residences like that Museum of Alfons Mucha, the Kupkaesque Kampa Museum and the proposed future Museum of Salvador Dalí. Except for this they remain as quiet as mice, free of any urge to organize anything. Unless that happens, then we may again find ourselves hunting for Magdalena Jetelová's chair, washed away by another flood, or an invitation to Daniel Libeskind to project another Dalí museum as soon as he's finished with those two towers in New York. The only happy people will be those tourists who want to send home more postcards of that mustachioed Spaniard.

It looks like we will be increasingly inclined toward that sort of sure-fire junk. Apart from supra-national sterilized products for tourists, we will try to save our musty temple of national values. To what do we owe the non-critical glorification of someone like Antonín Slavíček? That came after those orgiastic exhibitions of Preisler and Brožík.
Why all this?! When international specialists show interest in our scene, they tend to turn towards the emerging things. The authors of all the monuments and fountains in Prague and elsewhere, or those systematically propagated Masters of Czech Art, are not interesting for them. We should probably cancel all visits or advise them in advance that the only significant cultural achievement here is in the form of those plastic-wrapped Crocodille baguettes.

If a talented artist becomes a homeless one, his inner creativity won't be destroyed. But we can be sure that in the EU – into which we have so proudly been thrust – those who sent the artists under the bridge will be revealed as ridiculous cultural dwarves. If not, we should admit that we understand the EU as a veil covering the face of the bride to ensure that no one can see who is a slob.

I am not comparing Prague to London or Berlin, but to have only two functioning art galleries in a city, with a population of one and a half million, implies more of a third world reality than anything European.

Umělec Art Mag

This article originally appeared in Umělec Magazine. Get a copy

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