The Czech Centres in London and New York are getting new directors this spring, with Přemysl Pela assuming control in the UK capital and Miroslav Konvalina taking the helm in the Big Apple. We spoke to both before their departure for the key branches of the Czech Republic’s cultural diplomacy network in the English-speaking world.
When I visited New York in September I heard nothing but praise for the work of the city’s Czech Center in recent years. Much of the credit for this belongs to Barbara Karpetová, its tireless director, whose tenure is now coming to a close. The Czech Center is located in the magnificent Bohemian National Hall on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. When we spoke at its well-stocked, stylish library, I asked Karpetová who the institution’s visitors tended to be.
One of the many successful exhibitions marking the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia is Mini Wonders, which explores the evolution of Czech toy design over the past century. The iconic Czech toys, including the inflatable animal-shaped seats produced by the company Fatra, have already been shown at Czech centres in Tokyo, Jerusalem, London and Prague, and will now travel to Moscow, Warsaw and Bratislava.
Pe’er Friedmann is currently the only active literary translator from Czech into Hebrew. It was his enthusiasm for Karel Čapek, the best-loved Czech writer of the 1920s and 30s, that first brought him from Tel Aviv to Prague eight years ago, and he has been here ever since. In the Czech Republic there is a lively interest in contemporary Israeli writing and at the same time Pe’er has been battling to encourage Israeli publishers to take more interest in Czech literature. He spoke to David Vaughan.
Dining is one of the most important manifestations of material culture. At state dinners the quality of the porcelain and glass used represents a given state. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, we have prepared a photo gallery, documenting the porcelain and glass dining sets used by Czechoslovak and later Czech presidents. They did not necessarily change with every administration, changes in the porcelain, glass and silverware used were usually related to a change of state symbols. So how was the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is known for its skilled glassmakers, getting commissions for lighting installations and glass artworks from palaces, luxury hotels and residences the world over. However this year the studio of Czech glassmaker Zdeněk Lhotský concluded work on a truly unique project – a four-tonne glass case that will serve as a sarcophagus for Denmark’s Queen Margarethe II.
The Czech Centre in London has in recent years devoted a lot of its energies to bringing cutting edge Czech art and design to the UK capital. Now it’s able to do so on its own premises, after relocating to the same building as the country’s embassy and other institutions in the Notting Hill district. I recently stopped by to discuss the Czech Centre’s new location, and some of its projects, with director Tereza Porybná.
Nearly ten years ago, the Bohemian National Hall on the Upper East Side of Manhattan reopened its doors to the public, becoming the seat of the Czech Centre in New York. How difficult is it to attract visitors in a such an extremely busy city? And what is the main focus of its activities? I discussed these questions and more with Barbara Karpetová, who has been in charge of the Czech Centre in New York for nearly three years now:
After nearly ten years of bringing the best of Czech live performance to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival the Czech Centre in London worked to create a wider program bringing a whole season of exhibitions and live art to two cities in Scotland. I spoke to the director of the Czech Centre in London Tereza Porybná about the events being staged within the Czech Season in Scotland.