On the City, Landscape and Art / Olomouc 1919-1989

22 Oct 2020 - 09 May 2021
Museum of Modern Art
Karl Stratil: ("Žerotín Square" in Olomouc), undated, line etching, paper, h. 223 mm, d. 148 mm, h. 502 mm, w. 350 mm, Museum of Art Olomouc
Karl Stratil: ("Žerotín Square" in Olomouc), undated, line etching, paper, h. 223 mm, d. 148 mm, h. 502 mm, w. 350 mm, Museum of Art Olomouc

The exhibition presents urban, architectural and artistic activity in Olomouc over the years 1919 to 1989. The focus in on the wider urban whole along with its landscape framework and with linked overlappings into the more distant surroundings. This comprehensive approach allows for a range of themes, which are divided into seven basic thematic chapters in the Nave exhibition hall. The rich, in terms of material, exhibition includes works of art (sculpture art, paintings, drawings, graphics, photography), architectural and urban plans and building models.

A blue line intertwines the exhibition space from the beginning to the end, serving both as the frame for the thematic arrangement and as a symbol of the river which formed the landscape which allowed Olomouc to come into being. The desire and need of the landscape to organise and adjust to the functions of the city lie at the beginnings of the cultural roots of Olomouc, culminating precisely at the time depicted in the exhibition. The Morava river and the landscape around Olomouc are the focus of the introduction to the exhibition. The value of the natural frame, manifested clearly by the protective barrier of the Litovelské Pomoraví nature area, finds its counterpart in art work with motifs of suburban landscapes and city suburbs. The descriptively depicted landscape finds its counterpart in internal and imaginative reflections by Olomouc and non-local artists. 

We have the landscape as well as the historical legacy, the latter being another defining aspect in the formation of Olomouc in the twentieth century, with its ever changing relationship to the past of the city. Artists were inspired by the renowned monuments and impressive squares as well as by the ancient, mysterious streets. The supervision of the particular historical points of interest and the overall protection of the city became one of the main themes for architects and more recently also monument preservationists. The exhibition demonstrates the various concepts involving terms of coming to terms with the historical tissue of the city.

Moving from the landscape and historical frame, the visitor’s attention moves to the city itself. The branches of the river and the wreath of parks serve to introduce the landscape into the town. The series of regulation plans of the city, presented for the first time in their entirety, testify to the ongoing interest in establishing both a functional and aesthetic city. What were the views concerning the ideal city during the First Republic and how did they change after the War? The prestige enjoyed by Olomouc between the wars is in evidence due to the collection of successful investments by the ASO company. Another major success was experienced by Olomouc in the 1960s in the form of the international Flora expositions accompanied by exhibitions of Czechoslovak art work, the Sculptural  Shows of 1965 and 1967. Apart from these remarkable aspects, the current exhibition maps out in detail the development, for example, of different types of family, tenement and collective housing. Also included are public structures and work with the public space, these being demonstrated by models of monument work.   

A separate and insightful chapter entitled Město nepostavené  / The Unbuilt City acquaints visitors with unrealized structures and a number of architectural competitions, often involving the names of renowned Czech architects. The unrealized buildings lead to the final part with the title Neklidné sny  / Unquiet Dreams, which present the rich spectrum of the Olomouc art scene. 

The exhibition does not attempt to completely map out the architectural and art developments in Olomouc during the time period 1919-1989, as it would not be possible due to the size of the exhibition space. It instead focuses on a selection, where the primary criteria is the quality of the work and the emphasis on the thematic whole which are of key importance for the contemporary interpretation of the cultural history of the city over the observed period. As indicated by the title, the exhibition is based upon the comprehensive and in many respects innovative publication by Pavel Zatloukal Meditations on a City, Landscape and Art: Olomouc 1919-1989, which will be published upon the occasion of the opening of the exhibition and available at the Olomouc Museum of Art bookshop. Visitors will receive a map of the city as part of the concise guide to the exhibition which will include two hundred of the most significant structures, houses and sculptural works  – the preserved and the no longer standing or even those which only remained in closed drawers and in the unquiet dreams about this lovely city.

Martina Mertová and Šárka Belšíková, 21 August 2020

Author: Pavel Zatloukal
Curators: Šárka Belšíková, Martina Mertová