Current Affairs The converted warehouse offering Prague's artists a home
A galaxy of stars from the Czech art world met this week to open 'Ztracena nevinnost' ('Lost Innocence') - an exhibition showcasing three generations of Czech artists side by side. But it wasn't held at the National Gallery - the event took place in a somewhat less refined setting. 'Ztracena nevinnost' marks the opening of the Meet Factory, an old warehouse skirting the railway in Prague's rough and ready Lihovar district. As well as providing a space for exhibitions, the Meet Factory serves as a concert venue, cinema, and artists' residence.
The Meet Factory is the brainchild of film director Alice Nellis, rockstar David Koller and sculptor David Cerny. The gargantuan size of the building reflects the scale of the task in hand - to provide a platform for new Czech, and international, art and artists. On Tuesday evening, David Cerny showed me around:
"We are now standing in the gallery, and this is our first show, for which we asked famous Czech artists to use an untypical tool for them - spray-paint. They have used the walls and basically grafittied them, which you can see. Unfortunately as this is radio, you won't be able to see this, but you can come and see it!"
Lenka Lindaurova was in charge of putting together this first exhibition for the Meet Factory:
"David Cerny asked me to come up with some exhibition to open the Meet Factory, and I had the idea, because it is a really alternative space, to get artists to spray-paint art onto the walls. I asked artists who had no experience with this medium up until this point. And I deliberately chose famous artists, in order to raise awareness of the space amongst the public and the media. I got the title of 'Lost Innocence' from an Umberto Eco book."
"So here we are beside a railway, and around this building are heaps of wires. This is because homeless people peel away the outsides of electrical cables, to get to the copper inside, and then they sell this copper on. So I took these copper-less wires and made waves out of them, and then I spray-painted a black submarine coming up out of these waves. And on the top of this submarine is a white horse, which is under the spell of a penguin, and this is a message of love to this building."
As well as a large hall for exhibitions, the building also boasts a bookshop, concert hall, cinema and children's play area. This parent told me what she thought of the place:
"Considering we are in Prague, it is quite rare to have some space for children inside a gallery. So I think that that is just totally great. And just a little detail is that the heating isn't working yet, but when it is in a couple of weeks or so then the whole thing will be just complete. I like it, it's great."
So, the Meet Factory is still receiving its finishing touches. As well as the heating, it is set to be fitted up with a couple of 35mm projectors in the weeks to come. So what did I witness on Tuesday evening then? Was it in fact the grand opening? Again, David Cerny:
"I wouldn't say that this is a grand opening, it's more of a little opening of the doors, or at least showing what is behind the doors. It's not a grand opening."
Grandly or not, the Meet Factory is open to visitors now, and entrance to 'Ztracena nevinnost' is free until it comes to a close at the beginning of next month.