Slav Epic seen by 400,000

Cycle of paintings will now go to Asia for a tour

The exhibition of Czech Art-Nouveau artist Alfons Mucha's large-scale cycle of paintings called the Slav Epic was seen by 400,000 people since it opened in May 10, 2012. The exhibition closed Dec. 31, 2016. The paintings are now being prepared for shipment to Asia for a tour, and should return to Prague to be displayed in mid-2018.

The paintings will go to Japan in February, and after that may go to China but those details are not yet clear.

City Councilman Jan Wolf (KDU-ČSL) said the exhibition in Prague was a success and that there should be renewed interest once they return. He added that there was large interest once the exhibition opened and in 2013, but then it slowed down. Interest was renewed once date the closing was announced. Prague will make efforts to ensure high attendance once the paintings return and is planning to create a new gallery for them.

The tour to Japan was first announced in July 2014. The Ministry of Culture authorized the trip to Japan in December 2016, but has not yet approved the three stops in China. South Korea has also been mentioned as stop for the paintings.

The works will be on display in Tokyo from March 8 to June 5. Japan has named 2017 the Year of Czech Culture in Japan, due to the 60th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations with then-Czechoslovakia.

The tour of Asia is not without controversy. John Mucha, the grandson of the artist, says that the tour puts the large and fragile canvases at risk of damage from shipping, climate changes and repeated movements and manipulation. He started a petition to have the tour stopped, and a court will hear his case in January, before the paintings are shipped.

Alfons Mucha bequeathed the paintings to the City of Prague. But an alleged agreement from 1913 required the city to build an independent exhibition pavilion for them. So far, the city has not done so. John Mucha claims that as a result, the paintings should be returned to the Mucha family. The city disputes this, and City Councilor Jan Wolf says there is no actual legal requirement for a pavilion.

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 has been attempting to have the paintings returned, and says the cycle would not exist if the city 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. John Much also favors returning them to Moravský Krumlov.

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 their history and customs of the Slavs in the regions that had been annexed by Austria-Hungary.

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