The Sculpture Line summer festival is back – bringing sculptures to the streets of Prague and in one case to the Vltava River

The Sculpture Line summer festival is back – bringing sculptures to the streets of Prague and in one case to the Vltava River. In all, some 17 works by Czech and foreign artists are on view all around the city throughout the summer months.

Photo: archive of Sculpture Line festivalPhoto: archive of Sculpture Line festival I spoke to Sculpture Line’s Filip Tomášek about public art and why some say there should be more of it in Prague.

“The main aim of Sculpture Line is to bring art into the streets: it is not only for people who are familiar with art and the scene but who maybe don’t go to art galleries often. So we are bringing art to them. It can surprise you on the street, on the way to work, during a weekend walk. For some it will be the first time they see work by this or that acclaimed author. We have artists from around the world and while this exhibition is temporary some of the pieces may end up being made permanent in places around the city.”

That dynamic, that kind of confrontation, is growing more and more popular, isn’t it?

“I think it is a pleasant surprise. You see an object which wasn’t there before. That is why we are carefully choosing the locations. The location and the objects should communicate with one another. There should be a certain interaction between the place, the spectators and the object itself. We talk with the artists and curators and architects, about choosing the right space for every single piece.”

Photo: archive of Sculpture Line festivalPhoto: archive of Sculpture Line festival I am glad that you mentioned that interplay: in effect, you are not looking at the work in a vacuum or on its own, you are re-evaluating the space it is in and the surroundings…

“Many of the artists themselves are very happy about seeing their work outside, it being perhaps the first time it has been exhibited in the public space. It gives new life to the piece, new explanations, new interpretations – it’s adventurous, and adventure is an important part of Sculpture Line.”

How does the selection process work? Is there a jury or a group of curators or does one person make the final decision?

“We have a team of five or six people who plan the festival over the course of the year. We aim to have a different curator every year, this year it is Josef Záruba-Pfeffermann. Together with the director Ondřej Škarka and the sculptors themselves they discuss the different possibilities. Michal Gabriel, who is internationally-recognised, is also part of the team this year. He was also instrumental in bringing new artists to Prague.”

Photo: archive of Sculpture Line festivalPhoto: archive of Sculpture Line festival What is the balance in domestic and foreign artists and who are some of the people taking part?

“I think the festival is more international this year than last but it is about fifty-fifty. We have artists from Mexico, Japan, Italy, Austria, the variety is bigger this year.”

Who are some of the people involved?

“It is difficult to choose only one or two – if I should pick one I would mention Jun'ichiro Ishii whose question mark is floating on the Vltava River. Last year, we featured The Explorers by Michal Gabriel which were figures walking on the water. His question mark is a wonderful wooden piece floating on the river and I think it may become one of the symbols of this year’s festival. That, or Riccardo Cordero’s Meteorite.”

What about some of the Czech artists who are involved? Some people will be familiar with the work of Jakub Flejšar, known not only as an artist but one of the trainers of snowboard Olympic champion Eva Samková, who won at Sochi.

Photo: archive of Sculpture Line festivalPhoto: archive of Sculpture Line festival “That’s right. Jakub Flejšar has a new piece with us this year and we were very happy that his work last year is now permanently installed. That is one of the festival goals – to find permanent spots for some of the work.”

How does Prague rate when it comes to public art? It seems you see much more in big American cities like Manhattan, where it is also a matter of scale, massive works with the backdrop of massive buildings. But perhaps that wouldn’t be appropriate here. Is there enough public art in Prague?

“There can never be enough art. But certainly, if we can manage to have one, two or more pieces permanently added each year, that is one of the goals.”

Sculpture Line has been greeted very positively: do you have an overview of ‘how’ people experience the exhibition? Do some try and see it in a day, take a check-list, that kind of thing?

Photo: archive of Sculpture Line festivalPhoto: archive of Sculpture Line festival “I am not sure it is doable in a single day but certainly it is possible over the course of a weekend, some people come to Prague solely with the intention of seeing the whole line. Others see maybe only a few of the works but even that can be inspiring or have an impact. As last year, there is also a photo contest. We get a lot of feedback, people especially enjoy being able to touch sculptures of the festival in cases where it is allowed. And they have time from now until the end of September to enjoy it.”