Italian artist Franco Huller brings art to weary travelers at Prague’s main railway station

Three years ago Prague’s main railway station Hlavní Nádraží was not a nice place to be – poorly-maintained and dirty, it afforded travelers little opportunity of refreshment. A major reconstruction launched in 2006 is radically transforming the premises which now afford modern terminals, sales counters, boutiques and restaurants. Now the company Grandi Stazioni which is conducting the reconstruction has gone a step further – offering weary travelers some art as well.

Franco HullerFranco Huller The reconstruction of Prague’s main railway station is to continue for approximately another two years and although the improvement is already visible at first glance the ongoing work still presents some inconvenience to travelers. In an effort to make up for it Grandi Stazioni has invited an Italian artist to paint the cardboard walls separating the areas still under reconstruction. Italian painter Franco Huller has spent the last ten days in Prague, hard at work, painting replicas of pictures from the romanticist period. He explains what the project is all about.

“Well, Grand Tour is basically a three-phase project. I have just finished the first one, which is a series of -well, not really frescos - but paintings on the walls of Hlavní Nádraží railway station. It is a project that has to do with a painting from the 18th century by Johann Tischbein – the Grand Tour portrait of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. So it is a sort of dissertation about the concept of traveling, basically.”

Franco HullerFranco Huller With approximately 80,000 people streaming in and out of the railway station every day and more than 150 meters of wall to cover Franco Huller soon found that it was impossible to work in the middle of the commotion. So he’d sleep through the day and work at nights when only a small number of late-night travelers would disturb his concentration. He finished the first part of the project in just a week. Asked why he had agreed to do art work which will inevitably disappear when the cardboard walls come down, Franco Huller said that the surroundings provided a challenge.

“I have been working in the last few years on interactive projects and I am really interested in getting in touch with people who don’t usually visit art galleries. So that’s one reason why it is a good opportunity – you talk to people who are not used to seeing works of art. You have different dynamics and this makes it more interesting. The main idea behind this was to go for a light touch –that is not to be as conceptual and difficult as you can be with art-lovers.”

Prague’s main railway station, photo: Kristýna MakováPrague’s main railway station, photo: Kristýna Maková Franco Huller is not the only artist who is helping transform the face of Prague’s main railway station. Last week the symphonic orchestra of the Prague Conservatory gave a concert in the stations main hallway – featuring the works of Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner – to the surprise and delight of travelers passing through.