Art in Prague #1: Dali, Mucha and Warhol

By Aleksandra Brzezicka

For all of those who find themselves tired just by standing in the middle of the breathtaking yet tourist-packed Old Town Square, there is a secret gateway – the door of the Gallery of Art where the current exhibitions of Dali, Mucha and Warhol will take you to another universe in the heart of Prague.

The gallery, open daily from 10 AM to 8 PM, consists of three floors, each dedicated to one artist. With a student discount, you can access all three exhibitions for 250CZK (about £9), not bad to see world-recognised art.

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The journey starts with entering the surrealistic dream of Salvador Dali, the eccentric Spanish painter known not only for being a pioneer of the style but for his personal scandals.

In spite of that, the exhibition rather lets art speak for the artist with barely any information about Dali persona, family or background. According to Dali’s words, imprinted on the wall – “People love mystery, and that is why they love my paintings” – the curators’ choice seems appropriate.

The huge disappointment, however, is the lack of actual paintings, visitors will get to see mostly lithographs, prints and reproductions. Turning a blind eye to that, visitors will experience Dali in the climax of his strangeness, symbolism and dreamlike sensuality. Strong points are the pieces inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. The surrealist takes us on a trip through paradise and purgatory to end up in the fire of the sadistic inferno.

Besides that, you’ll see various attempts of deconstruction of the image of Venus, iconic sculptures of elephants, rhinos and Dali’s photos taken by the Czechoslovakian photographer, Václav Chochola.

Though the exhibition leaves us a bit unsatisfied, it makes it possible to take a closer look into the mind of the genius – a chaotic mix of mythology, Christianity and obscene madness.

Then the atmosphere drastically changes, to the sublime Art Noveau of Czech painter Alphonse Mucha. While Salvador Dali shocks, Mucha’s women seduce with their graceful poses, blended into nature which makes the frequently appearing nudity naturally sensual and inviting but never in a pornographic manner. The large part of the exhibition is dedicated to Mucha’s contribution to Czech culture and his journey after being rejected by the Prague Academy of Fine Arts to becoming a national artist designing stamps, Czech notes and various kinds of ads.

The main focus of this exhibition was put into Mucha’s brand style and ability to transform objects of everyday use, such as cutlery or furniture, into pieces of art. The Art Nouveau pioneer bent boundaries between the aesthetic and functional in what has become his trademark and is widely recognised in modern culture.

Among the iconic Campbell’s soups cans, countless Marylin Monroe and Mao portraits and the white wig, a rare side of Andy Warhol is to be discovered on the third floor of the gallery. In spite of his firm belief that in the future everyone will be famous for just 15 minutes, Warhol’s influence has stayed alive long enough for his story to be told. If visitors save the main part of the exhibition for later and head upstairs they’ll get to know how Andrew Warhola, coming from a working-class background and living in a Czechoslovakian ghetto, became the pop-art celebrity of the 20th century.

Private letters, family photos and their opinions on Andy are to be found along with his lesser-known Black and White Flowers series. In the second part of the exhibition, visitors will find everything that contributed to Warhol’s persona creation – prints, album covers from John Lennon to The Rolling Stones, his connection to the Velvet Underground and The Factory. One interesting part is a collection of posters for Andy’s films and the little studio where you can screenprint graphics on a T-shirt or cotton bag yourself.

Even though visitors won’t get to see lots of original art, all of the exhibitions are definitely worth visiting. Can any other gallery in Prague can offer visitors that dynamic mixture of surrealism, Art Nouveau and pop-art?

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