Pavel Nešleha - Via Canis

The exhibition of the painter and graphic artist Pavel Nešleha (1937–2003), a prominent personality of the 1960’s generation and Czech nonconformist art, bears the title of one of his photographic series. Succinctly and work from the years 1983 to 2003, this exhibition presents his versatility of expression and richness of ideas within his art. The exhibition includes paintings, pastels, drawings, a visual installation and large format digital prints. For the first time ever, the artist presents light objects that were created in the first half of the seventies. From this exceptional series, Museum Kampa owns an ensemble three works: Hlava I a II (Head I and II) (1971–1972), and an intimate sculpture titled Variace I (Variations I) from the year 1971. These objects are presented her for the first time, together with a presentation of the artist’s unique word wide realization of a luminous space created in 1975 – 1976 in Tehran.


The exposition amplifies the metamorphic character of Nešleha’s reflection of the present world, as well as his desire and courage to experiment, by linking various thematic circles and different means of expression of exposition. The exhibited works accentuate the monumental feature of Nešleha’s art and have a common bond in the phenomenon of light, which suggestively influenced his imagination and led him to uncover the hidden and substantial. He found help in the malleable possibilities of illusive painting and knowledge of romantics, which bolstered his relationship to the natural events and fatality of human existence. This is demonstrated by exhibited pastels from the series Tajemství znaků (The Mystery of Signs) (1993) and Záznamy světla (Recordings) of Light (2002–2003), by the monumental painting Je osamělost prostoru? (Is there a Solitude of Space?) (1992) and by the visual installation Ani na zemi ani na nebi (Neither on Earth nor in Heaven) from 1989. But also by the majestic drawing Oidipus III (Oedipus III) (1992) and a series of large scale digital prints Via canis (1997), Černý koridor (Black Passage) (2000) or (Přírodní struktury) Natural Structures (2001).

Mahulena Nešlehová

Jiří Mrázek (1920 – 2008)

„Terra incognita“

5. 3. 2016 - 6. 6. 2016

The painter Jiří Mrázek is righteously considered a solitaire, who chose his own path in the unfavourable conditions of the 1950’s and the years that followed, even though he was convinced that “modern art will never be done again.” Mrázek experimented and searched for new solutions. He realized that this is the way to verify his art and express what creates the substance of his artistic skills. He searched for a way to communicate his knowledge, because if he was to fail, his efforts would be pointless. A large field of research opened before him and each level brought new discoveries, which had to be conquered and validated.


Even the initial consonant meetings with the painter Václav Boštík and the sculptor Jan Křížek brought a reassurance of the fact that art is a space of freedom that must be rectified by knowledge, which is a basis of the shape that will clarify the symbiosis. Together, they chose an archaic expression knowing that it is a way to capture the unity of the universe.


A significant contribution to Mrázek’s work came from his job in The Institute of Housing and Clothing Culture under the leadership of Antonín Kybal, who appreciated his talent to draw whole series of ornamental patterns. Using a line, he was able to develop his ability to create planar patterns in countless variations.


Mrázek’s personal development reached a milestone with his membership in the UB 12 Group, not only because of mutual acquaintances with other members – painters and sculptors such as Václav Bartovský, Jiří John, Adriena Šimotová, Václav Boštík, Věra and Vladimír Janoušek, Stanislav Kolíbal and Vlasta Prachatická, Alena Kučerová, Oldřich Smutný, his future wife Daisy, Alois Vitík, František Burant and theorist Jaromír Zemina, but also for the respect of work of each of the members and for mutual moral support.

Mrázek’s painting style focused on basic graphic tools – colour, line and shape. He observed geometric bodies since youth – cubes and polyhedrons, which became the foundation of one line of his work, but he was even more interested in the possibility of an independent stream of colour planes intersected by never-ending lines. He let some of these lines “end in infinity to create an impression of space.” Even though Mrázek had no relationship with ornament in his youth, it became the defining element of nearly all of his work. He kept creating new shapes and repeatedly returned to some of the old ones. Together with line and colour, shapes pulsate and dominate the area of the painting. Mrázek did not have many idols, nevertheless, he admitted to admiring Josef Šíma, and also mentioned Egon Schiele or Gustav Klimt. While observing his work, he realized that: “Eroticism can be encrypted in the aggressiveness with which we tackle the canvas, or on the contrary, in the soft and tender way the canvass is touched. I think that in this sense, eroticism is apparent also in my pyramids and grey paintings.” By play of colours, shapes and lines, Mrázek created a new reality full of tension, lyrical halts and exultant joy.





Without a Beginning, Without an End – In Honour of Aleš Veselý - 1935 - 2015

February 2 – February 28, 2016

Museum Kampa has decided to hold an exhibition in honour of this very important Czech artist, who very regretfully passed away in December of 2015.

With its title, the exhibition symbolically connects a series of exhibitions that Aleš Veselý prepared last autumn to celebrate his eightieth birthday. Shown was a selection of works from the early 1960‘s to the present day, which in brief presented works that belong to the artist's vast creation, which is substantial and approaches the thematic range and depth of his philosophically oriented art.

Most of the works to be presented at this exhibition will be from Museum Kampa’s collection (structural graphics of the 1960s’, monumental expressive paintings from 1985, drawings, the object titled Chair and assemblages), this chosen selection will be enriched by of a set of four interconnected structures with a mirror like surface from 2012, that Aleš Veselý created at a symposium in Mikulov and that has not been exhibited in Prague. The exhibition will be accompanied by excerpts from the artist's texts, which form an integral part of his work. The chosen writings are those that relate to the themes of some works, which explain to the visitor the artist’s focus and reflection. The exhibition is being prepared by Mahulena Nešlehová from the Institute of Art History, Academy of Sciences and Aleš Veselý’s assistant Alena Bartková.



Libor Fára/ Rhythm

November 7, 2015 – February 7, 2016

On the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the birth of Libor Fára (September 12, 1925 - March 8, 1988), Museum Kampa organized an exhibition of artwork of this prominent artist who work with several media and genres: painting, drawing, collage, stage design, typography, or book design.

The exhibition brings into focus the basic principles of Fára’s work in both free and applied art. Whether it is his impressive wooden assemblage, magazine or book cover, or theatre or film poster, all is based on similar artistic attitude which is characterized by terms like rhythm, montage, play. He put emphasis on the use of diverse materials, from wood, metal and paper through to photographs.


Fára’s art work creates tension, clashes, accents, and collectively, it has rhythm. Fára was fundamentally interested in rhythm and he found it in objects and situations of everyday life. The rhythm is crucial to jazz, Libor Fára’s favorite form of music. No wonder Boris Hybner described Fára as the “jazzman in disguise”. Since1941, Fára studied percussion; he played drums in the jazz formation Harlem-Jazz and contemplated career as a drummer. In the text from exhibition Stop-time which took place in 1969, Václav Havel noticed that “rhythm” is one of the basic words in his art work. In 1959, Fára created a whole series with this title. His impulse was jazz and music of his favorite jazz drummers.

Likewise, he also applied playfulness, rhythm and collage principle in his designs of book covers and posters. The work with lines separating areas, the radical cropping of photographs, and the simple shapes, this all expresses the uncomplicated yet visually very efficient artistic language so typical for Libor Fára.


Vojtěch Lahoda Institute of Art History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic


October 10, 2015 – January 31, 2016

The exhibition is divided into two conceptual parts. The first part is placed in the intimate space of Konírna (Stables) and focuses primarily on documenting the development of the Šmidra group (Karel Nepraš, Rudolf Komorous, Bedřich Dlouhý, Jan Koblasa, Jaroslav Vožniak) from neo-Dada beginnings of the student times, through to early seventies, when theorist Jan Kříž crucially evaluated its contribution. The first phase ran from 1954 to 1958. During that period, students of AVU and AMU met regularly at boring military training sessions, which gave them plenty of time to play and naturally build on the Dada movement. Back then, the group organized various art, music, literature and theater events. Initially, a Club was founded in 1954; it was renamed to “Šmidras” in 1957. The exhibition documents this early phase mainly by witty little drawings and object mostly from private collections of the members of the group themselves. In 1957 and 1958, the membership base of the group underwent many changes. The turning point was a creative deflection of Jan Koblasa, one of the founding personalities. He inclined towards abstraction, although we cannot deny that Šmidra’s type of thinking remained with him until today. Almost at the same time, the group was joined by the painter and author of collages and assemblages Jaroslav Vožniak.

The following period includes the beginning of the sixties connected with abstract structural art, which temporarily diverted some of the artists from grotesque irony. This phase was only short and after, a portion of members returned to figuration and the program of “oddity”, which was so typical for the group and so eloquently described by theorist Jan Kříž. The subsequent period is represented by extensive individualization of personal expression while maintaining certain level of “šmidrovství”. From the artistic point of view, it was the time when sculptors and painters from the circle of the group matured and found their own unique expression. Imaginative expression with small diversions was typical especially for Karel Nepraš, Bedřich Dlouhý and Jaroslav Vožniak until the late period. Other Šmidras (Jan Koblasa) and co-Šmidras (Janošek and others) are included in the exhibition only in terms of artwork from periods of identification with the program of the group, and inclination towards Pop art and new figuration movements.

text by: Jiří Machalický


The gentlemen’s club of Šmidras, neo-Dada humorous artistic group, emerged with a gathering of several students of Prague artistic schools during mandatory military trainings, which, once a week, united students of AMU (Academy of Performing Arts), DAMU (Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts), UMPRUM (Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design) and AVU (Academy of Fine Arts).

Here, the first student pranks and fun games such as “Fill this for me” were created. These activities later resulted in satirical meetings of a gentlemen’s CLUB, where members successfully parodied official meetings, including strict hierarchy of members, registrations and official invitations to the next meetings sent by mail.

In 1957, during one of such meetings, the then commissioner of the club Karel Nepraš became a self-proclaimed secretary and supervisor, prompting a negative reaction of his companions, who called him a šmidra. After an insult of one of the members, all members declared themselves as Šmidras, and as a confirmation act of the ŠMIDRA group, all purchased their own Šmidra symbol – a small toy saber, which was also a reference to their own armed forces, and thus to a certain autonomy of the group. And so, Jan Koblasa, Bedřich Dlouhý, Karel Nepraš and Rudolf Komorous became Šmidras. But there was also a broader base of the group, co-Šmidras, who occasionally participated in the activities of the club.

Šmidras continued to organize their regular meetings, took minutes of meetings and carried out extensive correspondence titled with an acronym šm., wrote their Šmidrovničky do kapsy (Pocket Šmidrovničky), invented agricultural innovations and generally contributed to the thriving of the socialist people. All this just to spite social conventions; it was a mockery of the then contemporary ideology in which they were forced to live and work.

A release for the group was regular Malmuzherciádas, evening performances full of absurdity, exaggerations and unbound freedom and other activities of the club, such as the Šmidras’ brass band (1958) or the hockey team Paleta vlasti (Palette of the Homeland).

The group continued to work with dada-satiric performance. Výstava na jeden večer (An Exhibition for One Night) (1957) took place at Střelecký ostrov; for the first time, actors were able to recite and read texts by V. Havel, M. Tobolová and J. Paukert. Slavnostní akademie ku vzpomínce Václava Svobody Plumlovského (Remembrance Evening for Václav Svoboda Plumlovský) took place on June 17, 1960, at Prague’s Reduta, and was also characterized by interdisciplinary overlaps. The evening was filled with transparent declarations of admiration to the writer and poet V. S. Plumlovský (1872–1956), who captured the essence of Šmidra’s gag by his motto “what I write, I have”. The evening’s format in many ways resembled the concept of contemporary Theatre of Jára Cimrman; lectures on the historical figure alternated with presentations of his work in the form of poetry reading competition and other celebratory acts.

At the end of the fifties, the member base of the group changed. Jan Koblasa left, but after a drawn-out, several hours long admission interview, Šmidra’s ranks were extended by painter Jaroslav Vožniak. Formal expression of individual artists also changed. Most of them shortly contributed to general abstract wave at the break of the fifties and sixties.

Text by: Petra Patlejchová

Toyen (Marie Čermínová): I see for it is Night

September 5, 2015 – February 16, 2016

Exhibition Toyen: I see for it is night represents the internally focused art of Toyen in several main sections. Carefully selected paintings were provided by many significant state and private Czech and Parisian collections. The viewer will have the opportunity to see Toyen’s key artworks, which were presented at her first surrealist exhibition in 1934, such as Ztroskotání ve snu (Foundering in a Dream) or Člověk z klihu (Man of Glue), and at her second surrealist exhibition in 1938; besides famous paintings such as Finis terrae and Sen (Dream), viewers will enjoy her most famous painting Spící (Sleeping). Spící (Sleeping) is among the most frequently reproduced paintings of Czech art of the last century. The exhibition will also include paintings Toyen created during the Nazi occupation, which includes the magnetizing painting Po představení (After the Performance). In 1947, Toyen decided to leave France together with Jindřich Heisler. The exhibition also highlights key periods of her work: it follows her gradual journey from lesser known paintings of the first half of the 1950’s to significant works of art, which are represented by substantial selection from collection Sedm mečů bez pochvy (Seven Swords Unsheathed) (1957), and especially by the compelling, mysterious painting Poledne půlnoc (Midday-Midnight) (1961), which was admired by members of the Parisian surrealist group of that time. In the second half of the nineteen sixties, Toyen vigorously develops a dramatic relationship between the man and the woman-beast or woman-bird of prey. This relationship impacted the three most significant works of her final creative years – Zástěna (Screen) (1966), Zatmění (Eclipse) (1968) and Když zmlknou zákony (When the Laws Fall Silent) (1969), which are exhibited together in Prague for the very first time.

This unique exhibition is accompanied by a monograph. The author of the monograph and of the entire exhibition project is PhDr. Karel Srp, an expert on the works of Czech and European Modernism.

Zdeněk Burian - To the End of the World


December 16, 2014 - February 15, 2015

Museum Kampa and Retro Gallery present over forty paintings by the eminent Czech painter and illustrator, Zdeněk Burian (1905—1981). This will mark the first time that many of these works are being publicly displayed.

The exhibited works fall into three separate thematic groups. The largest part of the show is made up of front covers for adventure stories commissioned by the publishing houses Toužimský a Moravec, Stanislav Nikolau, Sfinx and Smena. While the majority of the works date from the interwar period, there are several examples of Burian’s works from the 1950s which are among some of the best he ever created. The small–format book covers are comple¬mented by a series of larger oil paintings from the geographical collection Širým světem (The Wide World), capturing remote and exotic parts of the world together with their inhabitants. Four works from the series Země a lidé (The Earth and its People) depict the faces of people from the far corners of the earth (Māori; Indian Chief; Indian of the Chaco; Indian of the Mataco).

The exhibition’s title, To the End of the World, brings the three thematic groups together. In his works, Zdeněk Burian encompasses the whole world — be it through the covers of books for adventure stories, the dramatic landscapes from the Wide World or the faces of indigenous people. He will take you to the mighty Amazon River, American skyscrapers, scorched deserts, swollen rivers and roaring waterfalls. And maybe even to the end of the world.

Jiří Kolář - The Collection of Jan and Meda Mládek


Lichtenstein Song Bird, 1970

Intercollage 18.8 x 12.5 cm
Photo: Oto Palán

September 23, 2014 - February 8, 2015

Museum Kampa has organized an exhibition on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jiří Kolář, who is represented in the collection of Jan and Meda Mládek by a body of works of extraordinary range and quality from the important period from the 1940s to the 1970s. At that time Kolář’s position had crystallized and he was slowly becoming a natural and at the same time an original part of Czech and European contemporary art. Later he consistently developed his ideas and enriched them through other discoveries and techniques, but the foundations had already been laid and the direction of his development had been determined.

Well-represented are early confrontages and rapportages, which employ motifs from mostly black and white reproductions of magazine illustrations or xylographs. These reflect certain circumstances which may not be obvious at first sight and that can also be interpreted by viewers as they like according to their experiences.

Kolář fully developed his striking techniques after his times of experimenting and collecting materials at the end of the 1950s and in the early 1960s. One of his early discoveries was crumplage, in which by crumpling images (xylographs, reproductions, maps, musical scores, etc.) the original motifs were deformed so that they could be perceived from unusual points of view. Another important technique became rollage, which consisted of cutting reproductions into strips or squares. Kolář put them together according to certain rules into new compositions. Prollages, on the other hand, interconnected different worlds or epochs.

An extremely interesting, but only briefly used was the technique of stratifie, which consisted of gluing coloured sheets of paper together and cutting through them by a scalpel. By this the underlying layers became unveiled, giving rise to images reminiscent of the flow of energy. An extraordinary role was played by chiasmage, which exploited lettering in a new way. Kolář tore out pages of old and new books printed in various languages in a variety of typefaces. In this sense he also used manuscripts, musical scores, geographical, historical, or stellar maps, textile patterns and chess notations.

Kolář’s oeuvre also includes classical collages, in which he used his extraordinary literary and visual imagination. He created anticollages by having the main motifs from reproductions of famous paintings disappear. For example, from Rousseau’s self-portrait from the National Gallery in Prague Kolář removed the figure of the painter, which forces the viewer to think, to perceive reality in an unusual way. Many collaged objects from the 1960s and early 1970s are very beautiful and imaginative as well. Worth mentioning are banners and curtains, which responded to criticism that Kolář’s art was not politically engaged and with gentle humour parodied the atmosphere of May Day parades.

An important part of the collection consists of works exhibited in 1975 at Kolář’s first show at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which were subsequently purchased by the Mládeks. However, they were in regular contact with Kolář from the 1960s on, so in the course of several decades this extraordinary collection gradually grew, and now it amounts to more than 250 collages and objects created by all these above-mentioned artistic methods. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication featuring reproductions of all the works by Jiří Kolář represented in the collection, which Meda Mládek donated to the city of Prague.

Jiří Machalický


Jan Švankmajer, untitled

October 18, 2014 – February 1, 2015

A variation on the old Kunstkammer (or Cabinets of curiosities) of the Renaissance and Baroque era, and above all on Rudolf II’s Kunstkammer at Prague Castle, we can call Švankmajer’s Gesamtkunstwerk. That is to say a compendium of artworks which apply not just to a wide range of creative methods, but also to a surrealist philosophy of life to its fullest extent, seeing the world as a ‘magic universe’ in which imagination rules as the ‘queen of human abilities’.

While Švankmajer’s Kunstkammer has sections which are based on those of traditional Kunstkammers, in a peculiar way he flips the macrocosm to the microcosm, i.e. from a description of the world to one of man. To a kind of universal source of reality, which he creates in his imagination and then makes material – either through new artefacts or through empowering existing objects, giving them a new purpose and context.

With the brash conviction of the child in its ability to build its own universe, to be its creator, here a new reality is born which compared to the reality codified in natural sciences displays a marked tension, and not exceptionally is its persiflage, using the weapon of black humour and eroticism. In this sense, he takes a distinctive dialectic perspective in which, however, – and it could not be otherwise – the role of the Kunstkammer ‘demiurge’ inseparably also takes on the role of pronounced critic of our civilisation.

In contrast to the Kunstkammers of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, then, we do not find respect for the mysterious order of nature and human creation, copying and adding to this order in Švankmajer’s Kunstkammer. Nor do we find the faith in the perfection of creation which was typical for the hermetic sciences (magic, alchemy and astrology), from which the author’s work also finds inspiration. For him, man is not the ‘great miracle’ he was for the Renaissance humanist, but rather a treasure trove abandoned and covered with the alluvia of civilisational ballast. Švankmajer is convinced that in a situation where Western civilisation has exhausted its ability for spiritual development, and has merely come to rest on the laurels of its technology, man must be shaken from his passivity, his imagination must be awoken and all must be created anew from the beginning.

Ivo Purš

Technology, Cars, Motorcycles


Daimler Motorkutsche (1886) und Benz Patent-Motorwagen (1886, 1987, Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas 234 x 640 cm (92 1/8 x 252 in) on the overlap signed by Frederick Hughes, the executor of Andy Warhol’s Estate.
Lower right the stamp of the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board Inc with the no. A 100.042 Andy Warhol, titled Motorkutsche Daimler, 1986, MIURA Hotel Čeladná

October 14, 2014 – February 1, 2015

The theme of technology and machinery in Czech art appears in the works of various artists as early as the first half of the 20th century. Vilém Kreibich’s sensitively painted images of racing cars attract interest to this day, although his approach to painting was perhaps too traditional. The well-known sculptor Otakar Švec created a remarkable sculpture of a Motorcyclist which has been part of the permanent exhibition of Prague’s National Gallery for many years. It was first located in the former sculpture park at the Zbraslav Castle and then taken to the Trade-Fair Palace. His civil style is close to that of Bedřich Stefan, who dealt in his sculpture, among other things, with the theme of the car. However, the theme of technology and its development was most explored by the artists associated in Group 42, who chose the city and its life as one of their main themes. For example, František Gross’s paintings feature figural machines; Ladislav Zívr’s sculptures refer to scientific discoveries; and Jiří Kolář was interested in urban folklore and created an impressive crumplage with a car theme, which is part of the collection of Jan and Meda Mládek.

A special relationship to landscapes marked by human intervention can be found in the work of Kamil Lhoták. His paintings contain hidden secrets accompanying strange stories. He did not like to reveal his secrets; everybody had to guess at them or get their own ideas about his personal reminiscences. Lhoták had no formal art education, but his distinctive approach to his favorite motifs was very appealing from the beginning. This is evidenced by the success of his first exhibition in Prague in the Beaufort Gallery in 1939. His untrained but very spontaneous art was, in a way, rather close to that of the other members of Group 42, who were also interested in the environment of a big city associated with the attributes of technological progress. Lhoták was keen on the world of technical inventions – balloons, airplanes, motorcycles, bicycles and cars. His paintings are particularly intriguing for their clarity, for their romantic sentiment, and for the nostalgia with which he evoked his own memories, reminding us of our own experiences.

Theodor Pištěk, another great figure of Czech art who was himself a successful race car driver, took a completely different approach to the world of cars. A number of his paintings, which are now scattered among various public and private collections, were inspired by an environment that was well-known to him, that of car races. Unlike Kamil Lhoták’s paintings, which give an impression of intimacy, his paintings seem monumental. This is evidenced, for example, by the installation entitled The End of the Forest, an integral part of which is an engine damaged by fire. For several years this was exhibited at the Museum Kampa, where it formed a dominant feature of the permanent exhibition. Pištěk’s technical treatment of these themes is also quite different; in fact, through its perfection, Pištěk’s art is close to the international art movement of hyperrealism or photorealism, although it can only be loosely associated with it. Pištěk invited his friends to the races he competed in, among them the well-known painter Jaroslav Vožniak, who became his fan and even created a painting for him inspired by this outstanding environment. Bedřich Dlouhý, whose artistic expression is close to that of Vožniak, has a similarly well-developed imagination and is able to express himself with equal technical perfection. Although the car did not become a frequent motif in his art, his one and only landscape with a car is extremely strong and convincing. Group 42 was followed by the Radar group; some members of Group 42 joined Radar, meeting with the next generation there. Its representative, Dobroslav Foll, has been attracted to the world of technology and has devoted a number of his paintings to the theme of the car. His paintings, in which he expresses himself through simplified signs, create a very impressive atmosphere and have shaped Czech art from the 1960s to the present. They have become increasingly appealing to collectors in recent years especially, and their prices have been rising.

At present, for various reasons, the car still remains a theme for Czech artists. Let us remind ourselves of the Trabant on elephant legs from the workshop of the sculptor David Černý, which was displayed on the Old Town Square in 1990. That became a symbol of resistance to Communism and was a response to the situation of the East Germans, who in 1989 tried at all costs to get to West Germany in such vehicles. The car appears in other contexts in Černý’s work as well. Indeed, when Černý won the Chalupecký Award for his installation of small cars hanging in the central hall of the Trade-Fair Palace, the then-director of the National Gallery, Milan Knížák, would not let Czech President Václav Havel present the award on the premises of that institution. The car also appears in several of Černý’s group sculptures, portraying crucial moments of our history with an eye for the detail and the absurdity of the selected situations.

Jiří Machalický

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