Veletržní palác to be renovated

An international architectural competition will soon be called

Veletržní palác, the main modern art venue of the National Gallery in Prague (NGP), will be renovated.

The NGP will call an international architectural competition by the end of February. The long-planned modification is intended to improve the space for exhibitions, NGP head Jiří Fajt said.

Fajt added that he will address 12 Czech and foreign architects. The winner should be determined by October.

A five member jury will evaluate the proposals. The jury will have an advisory team of 20 experts.

Aside from Fajt, the jury will include architectural historian Zdeněk Lukeš and Wim Pijbes, the emiritus general director of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. The latter museum recently underwent a large-scale renovation that lasted from 2003 to ’13.

Another member will be James S. Snyder, international president and director emeritus of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. He was involved in expanding a museum building there. The final jury slot will go to an architect.

Veletržní palác will not close right away. Once the winner is chosen, it will take two years to plan the project and get permits, and then two more years for the actual work and another year to install new exhibitions. The whole project from signing the contracts to reopening the gallery could take up to six years, Fajt said.

During the time Veletržní palác is closed, some of collections will be loaned to partner institutions in Dresden and other European locations.

Other works normally stored at Veletržní palác will be moved to a new depository in Butovice.

Fajt did not estimate the cost of the renovation. Last year though, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) mentioned investing Kč 3 billion into the building.

The government is in the process of approving a financial package for care for cultural heritage, but it has been delayed.

The NGP is repairing other buildings including the Schwarzenberg Palace (Schwarzenberský palác) and the Sternberg Palace. The Schwarzenberg Palace will reopen to the public Sept. 13 with an exhibition of Old Masters exhibition. The date for the renovations of the Sternberg Palace have not been decided.

Veletržní palác, also called the Trade Fair Palace, opened in 1928 and was designed in the functionalist style. The architects were Josef Fuchs and Oldřich Tyl. The original use was to hold trade fairs, and later it was the headquarters of foreign companies. It opened as a modern art gallery in 1995.

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