Category: Conversations, Latest

“War Reports” exhibition in Prague, interview with Zuzana Štefkova

The online art platform G.ART Gallery introduces art lovers and collectors to new trends and the most important art events in Eastern Europe. The company’s team recently visited Prague to meet Zuzana Štefkov, a renowned Czech art historian, critic and art curator. Zuzana closely links contemporary art with current political, social and gender themes. Since 2008, she has been the co-curator of the unique Artwall gallery. Our interview with her focused on the gallery’s history and new projects.

Artwall is an open-air gallery. Its exhibition space is a huge stone wall in Letensky Gardens, a large park in the central part of Prague by the Vltava River. The wall has several large niches for displaying artwork printed on rainproof and sun-resistant plastic panels. To get a good look at the wall with artworks, Zuzana says, you have to take a tram and drive along the waterfront.

Among the benefits of the gallery, Zuzana describes its excellent visibility and accessibility to a very large number of people.  You don’t have to set aside time to visit this gallery. It is a great opportunity to admire the work of contemporary artists on themes that concern everyone. 

But there is a disadvantage – viewers often lack context, an explanation of what they are seeing. To solve this problem, Zuzana believes, we need to create art projects with comprehensible texts.

Artwall has existed since 2005, but its history goes back more than thirty years. The idea to show art in the open air came to American-Czech artist Barbara Benish in 1989. It was a pivotal year in the so-called Velvet Revolution. It was a time of a series of peaceful protests that led to the overthrow of the Communists. Exhibitions on the walls replaced the fake political propaganda that used to be displayed on the wall of Letensky gardens. Later, the legendary wall was taken over by the Centre for Contemporary Art and became the official exhibition space. In 2008, however, Artwall had to face the pressure of censorship (almost communist) – the municipal authorities closed the gallery. The struggle for it lasted till 2011.    

The conceptual impulse received at the end of the 1980s is still relevant for the Artwall today. As a curator, it is important for Zuzana to give a platform to both established artists and ordinary people who need to speak out and be listened to. In 2016, for example, there was an exhibition of works by homeless women called Superheroines without Home, which deconstructed the idea of art as an elite language accessible only to a select few.

Artwall is one of the Czech institutions consistently exploring feminism through art. But the themes of the exhibitions and events are very broad: democracy, social criticism, the limits of personal freedom, religion, xenophobia, climate, LGBT rights and others. Every year, she said, she plans to organise at least one exhibition on ecology and sustainability, a topic she finds very important.  

The gallery collaborates with artists from the Czech Republic as well as from abroad. During the visit of the G.ART Gallery online platform team to Prague, there was an exhibition at Artwall space of War Reports featuring Ukrainian artists Yurii Ivantsyk, Tasha Levytska, Dmytro Krasnyi, Sestry Feldman and Kinder Album. From different perspectives they told about their experiences of experiencing the Russian-Putin war against Ukraine. 

Zuzana believes that this is a case where a gallery with this exhibition format is very useful: “We can show works to a large number of people and convey the message that the war in Ukraine is not something distant and far away. It concerns everyone.” Zuzana admits that while getting ready for the exhibition, she was impressed with how many Ukrainian artists are now reflecting on the war through art – often while in immediate danger – and refuting the well-known saying “when guns are talking, muses are silent”.

G.ART Gallery would like to thank Zuzana Štefkov for this interesting conversation and for introducing us to the unique Artwall Gallery.