The National Gallery's second International Biennale of Contemporary Art called "A Second Sight" opened its doors to the public on Tuesday. The exhibition is the result of close cooperation between 31 curators from all over the world, who have selected works of some four hundred artists from as far afield as Chile and South Africa. This year it's showing at three venues in Prague, covering over 9,000 m2 of exhibition space.
We spoke to National Gallery curator, Tomas Vlcek, at the exhibition opening:
"We chose the subject Second Sight to display something else, something different. We are a small country with a small culture and a small budget and that is why we are unable to feature solely star artists. It is therefore much more attractive for us to initiate a 'pluralogue' with a number of artists and curators on what is and should be different."
Please describe some of the exhibits on show.
"The exhibition includes a number of video art installations, which is surprising because they were in fashion three or four years ago and everyone had enough of them. But the last few years saw some very good video artists appear and with the fashion over, they had no place to show their work. So, we have about 70 video installations here. As far as the paintings are concerned, they are much different today than they used to be. They are full of irony, jokes, depict distances, conflicts, and the clichés in politics, gender, and many more examples of contemporary life. This is fascinating, especially in the artworks from those parts of the world where life is full of tensions."
You've made me curious now. Different countries have different senses of humour...
"The Russian collection, for example, has a painting with a smiling monster over a big city. The Czech collection has a painting that humours the nation's perception of the human body, of sex. It is partially sexy but also deviant because it almost touches on paedophilia. So, this is something very specific. It's this self irony that is very good."
How is Czech contemporary art viewed abroad?
"This is the key question. We can't attract the attention that the art from France, the United States, or Britain attract. But in the future, it will not be the leading cultures of countries that will be relevant. Individual approaches and values will become important and in this new world Czech artists will have the chance to show, pursue, and communicate and that is what a biennale is all about."