Exhibition curators: Milan Hlaveš, Sylva Petrová
Consultant: Dušan Seidl
Texts: Sylva Petrová
Exhibition design: Jiří Novotný
Exhibition graphics: Anna Issa Šotolová
This exhibition draws on the renowned glass collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague from the latter half of the 20th century and the early 21st century, showcasing a specific component of the collections: art glass. Selected works from various decades are accompanied by a chronological account of their significance that includes quotations from famous glass artists. The exhibition illustrates how these exclusive works propelled the development of art glass internationally. All the works on show here have their own histories, some extending over decades. Yet these works are timeless and remain aesthetically modern, inventive in their conception and trailblazing in their execution and the technologies used.
The exhibition’s architecture has been designed by the architect Jiří Novotný, who took inspiration from crystals and the urban environment. Visitors walking through the Cubist forms of his imaginary city with its eight pyramids will gradually discover the more than 120 works and art objects on display. The oldest objects are from 1940s while the newest are much more recent.
Art glass is not intended for mass production or even the production of limited series in workshops. These are experimental works that blur the boundaries between applied and fine art.
The development of Czechoslovak art glass was a response to the situation in this country after World War II, when highly skilled glass artists had little opportunity to exercise their talents in the glass industry. Manufacturing was stagnant and the ordinary rules of marketing seemed no longer to apply; only a fraction of the superb designs by these highly qualified artists ever made it into production. As designers, they were underutilised. They did contribute to the large international exhibitions that Czechoslovakia took part in, starting with the 11th Triennial in Milan in 1957 and followed by Expo ’58 in Brussels and several other exhibitions, but back home they had little influence. These highly qualified glass artists therefore started working with a different agenda, one that had an immediate international impact as they took glass into the fine art arena somewhat earlier than the rest of the world.
Emanuel Poche, the enlightened director of the Museum of Decorative Arts at the time, and Karel Hetteš, the collection’s curator, began accumulating these works as they were produced. The next generation continued this grand project, which has resulted today in a unique collection of approximately 6 500 items. The collection primarily maps the history of art glass in this country, for Czech glass artists were some of the founders of this discipline and are still some of the world’s top glass artists today.
Art glass encompasses art objects, sculptures, stained glass, installations, works for real-world and exhibition architecture, and site-specific installations. Several major projects of this kind are commemorated in the graphical mosaic in the exhibition hall’s windows, including Expo ’70 in Osaka and Expo ’92 in Seville. A number of large works that artists have contributed to the Museum’s collection, or that have come from large exhibitions of Czech glass held in other countries, will soon be on display at the Museum as an extension to the present exhibition.