Kunsthalle Praha: an electric addition to Prague’s art scene

Kunsthalle Praha: the electric new addition to Prague’s art scene

Housed in a former electrical substation, the Kunsthalle Praha sparks new creative energy in the Czech capital. His remarkable inaugural group exhibition celebrates 100 years of electricity in art

Kunsthalle Praha, a major new non-profit arts and culture organization has opened its doors to the public in the Czech capital.

The building housing the new institution began as the Zenger Electric Substation in the 1930s, generating electricity for the city’s streetcar and trolleybus network. The station became obsolete as technology advanced, but was acquired by the Pudil Family Foundation in 2015 with the intention of giving the building new life as Kunsthalle Praha. The institution focuses on 20th century and contemporary Czech and international art and will function as an “open meeting point” where art lives but also engages a wide audience.

Interior view of the new arts center Kunsthalle Praha, in a former electrical substation, which was brought back to life by architects Schindler Seko. Photography: Filip Šlapal

Czech architecture studio Schindler Seko was commissioned to reinvent the building as an art destination, which now includes three large galleries, a bistro, a café and an expansive retail space. But it was not without challenges. After structural problems and contamination rendered the entire interior unfit for use, it was gutted and replaced with a monolithic concrete structure, with the monument-protected facade left intact. “It is difficult to create a good space for contemporary art in a building that is not purpose-built,” says Ivana Goossen, director of Kunsthalle Praha.

Structural problems and contamination rendered the building’s original skeleton unfit for use; it was gutted and replaced by a monolithic concrete structure whose monument-protected facade was kept intact. “It is difficult to create a good space for contemporary art in a building that is not purpose-built,” says Ivana Goossen, director of Kunsthalle Praha. ‘[But] it gave us an opportunity to create a space that was truly made for art.

Installation view of ‘Kinetismus: 100 years of electricity in art’ at the Kunsthalle Praha. Photograph by Vojtech Veškrna

Although the collection is important to the identity of the institution, it will not be the primary focus. “From the beginning, we never wanted this place to be a temple for the collection,” says Goossen. ‘[The collection] allows us to exchange; when we ask for something on loan, we can give something on loan. So it’s a very important part of what we do, but we never intended to have a permanent display of the collection. We wanted to experience the concept of “kunsthalle”.

This has created a model based on cooperation and a diverse mix of thematic and individual exhibitions, for which Kunsthalle Praha often partners with external curators and artists to develop a vision for each exhibition. “Depending on the exhibition, the artists and the opportunity, we will support the creation of new works. It’s a bigger story we want to tell. I think it’s so important for artists to have the support to venture into a new realm,” says Goossen.

Inaugural exhibition of the Kunsthalle Praha: “Kinetismus: 100 years of electricity in art”

Installation view of ‘Kinetismus: 100 years of electricity in art’ at the Kunsthalle Praha. Photograph by Vojtech Veškrna

The opening exhibition ‘Kinetismus: 100 years of electricity in art’ is an ode to the original fabric of the Kunsthalle Praha. On view until June 20, 2022, the exhibition explores how electricity has transformed artistic movements and practices from the early 20th century to the contemporary era.

Although the show is international and multi-generational, its core is a tribute to the work of Czech avant-garde art pioneer Zdeněk Pešánek. In 1936, the artist produced a kinetic light sculpture entitled 100 years of electricity for the facade of Zenger’s substation, but the installation mysteriously vanished before she had the chance, surviving only as mock-ups. The Kunsthalle Praha team, led by guest curator Peter Weibel, has chosen to focus on the revival of Pešánek’s ideas, in dialogue with a century of electrical art.

Installation view of ‘Kinetismus: 100 years of electricity in art’ at the Kunsthalle Praha. Photograph by Vojtech Veškrna

This optically dazzling and comprehensive exhibition includes more than 90 works divided into four categories: cinematography, kinetic art, cybernetic art and computer art. Visitors will discover everything from the pioneering experiences of Bauhaus-affiliated figures to the cutting-edge immersive technology of teamLab. The exhibition will include the work of pioneers such as Mary Ellen Bute, Carlos Cruz-Diez, László Moholy-Nagy, Martha Boto and Marcel Duchamp; established living icons such as Julio Le Parc, Cerith Wyn Evans and William Kentridge; and other contemporary big names including Ryoji Ikeda, Refik Anadol, Shilpa Gupta, Olafur Eliasson, Xavier Veilhan, Random International and Angela Bulloch.

Alongside the inaugural exhibition, Kunsthalle Praha also unveiled a permanent commission by conceptual artist Mark Dion titled Cabinet of electrical curiosities, as well as a separate exhibition, “Electrical Substation: Electricity in Architecture, Electricity in the City”, which explores the building’s rich industrial past and the history of Prague more broadly. §


Source link

Comments are closed.