Forty inhabitants of the village of Líšeň on the outskirts of Brno receive instructions before they get off the bus at the Berlin Wall to take part in the annual Biennial of Art. Near the wall are exact copies of fences they have in their backyards at home. In a while they’ll be climbing over to meet their neighbours. For many of them, it will be the first time they’ll shake hands or talk to each other. The person who brought them together is the Czech artist Kateřina Šedá. When we met in Prague, I ask her where she got this idea in the first
Hundreds of cameras flashed on Thursday when seven representatives of church and state, including President Václav Klaus, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and Prague Archbishop Miloslav Vlk gathered in Prague’s St Vitus cathedral to unlock the chamber in which the Czech crown jewels are stored. The chamber only opens when all seven keepers of the keys unlock seven different locks at the same time. The crown jewels were then taken to Prague Castle’s Vladislav Hall, the traditional site of the coronation of kings, where they will be put on display for
Werich’s villa in Prague’s Kampa Park, once home of the famous Czech actor Jan Werich, will open its door to the public next year. The villa has been uninhabited and falling apart for years, but all the previous attempts to lease it fell through. The city council this week finally rent it to Meda Mládková, head of the nearby Kampa Museum, for the next 40 years. After renovations it will serve as a cultural space for screenings, debates and performances. I spoke to Mrs Mládková earlier and began by asking her a bit about the site’s history.
It’s nearly midday and Prague’s Old Town Square is heaving with people taking photos of the astrological clock, tour groups which you can probably hear behind me, and pizzerias and Czech pubs selling lunchtime fare. But in the midst of all of this hubbub, there is one thing missing, and I’m joined here by Eva Skalická of Prague Town Council, who is here to tell me exactly what that thing is.
The One World (Jeden Svět) festival of human rights documentaries has established itself as one of the most interesting events on the Czech Republic’s cultural calendar, and the biggest festival of its kind in Europe. This year, to mark its 10th anniversary, One World (run by the NGO People in Need) is organising mini festivals in 10 cities around the world – including New York. At the opening at the city’s (under renovation) Bohemian National Hall on Monday night, I spoke to organiser Tereza Porybná.
Hundreds of people used the opportunity on Tuesday to browse the collections of the Czech National Museum for free. The country’s biggest museum has opened its doors to the public to celebrate its 190th anniversary, which falls on the 15th of April. It’s also holding a series of other events to mark its birthday. But most of all it is getting ready for a major renovation project, that will get under way in three years’ time.
Alphonse Mucha’s Art Nouveau paintings are among the most instantly recognisable works in Czech art. He himself considered the Slav Epic, a series of huge paintings depicting the history of the Slav peoples, his greatest achievement, though it has not had the happiest of fates. Mucha donated it to Prague in 1928, on condition that the city build it a dedicated home. Eighty years later, his grandson John Mucha says he is at a loss as to why the artist’s wish has still not been fulfilled.
In this edition of Czech Books we look at the work of Richard Weiner, a Czech writer of the first half of the twentieth century, who was immensely influential on his own and later generations of writers and yet today is little read and little known outside the Czech Republic. Even within the country, among the writers of the period of the First Republic, he is far from being a household name. This neglect is very much undeserved, and one person who has been trying to draw attention to Richard Weiner and his legacy is the translator and literary
Coming up in this week’s Arts – a new opera that’s just premiered in Prague based on Communist Czechoslovakia's most notorious show trial. On June 27th, 1950 Milada Horáková - a democratic MP and campaigner for women's rights - was hanged on trumped-up charges of treason and espionage, despite appeals for clemency from world figures including Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein. This is the first attempt to bring one of the darkest periods of Czechoslovakia’s past to the stage.
Rehearsals for Václav Havel’s new play Leaving kicked off at Prague’s Archa Theatre last week, with the world premiere slated for May 22. The work is Mr Havel’s play in 18 years after an amazing career in politics, so it’s not surprising it is being greeted with excitement. Now it has also been announced that the Orange Tree Theatre in London will stage the English-language premiere of Leaving this autumn.