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A new cultural institution sparks up Prague’s art scene

A new art and cultural institution opened its doors in Prague: the Kunsthalle Praha took over the spaces of a former electricity substation to spark new creative energy into the Czech capital. In keeping with the building’s past, the first group and opening exhibition explores the links between electricity and art over the last 100 years.

The building that became home to the new institution started its operation in the 1930s as the Zenger Electrical Substation, which supplied power to the city’s tram and trolleybus network. With the development of technology, Zenger closed down and was bought by the Pudil Family Foundation in 2015 with the ambition to revive the building as Kunsthalle Praha. The institution focuses on twentieth-century and contemporary Czech and international art. The renovation of the building has been entrusted to the Czech architectural firm Schindler Seko: Kunsthalle Praha offers visitors three gallery spaces, a bistro and a café. According to their concept, the operating model is based on a varied mix of thematic and solo exhibitions, which Kunsthalle Praha creates in collaboration with external curators and artists.

The opening exhibition Kinetismus: 100 Years of Electricity in Art is a tribute to the past of the Kunsthalle Praha building. The exhibit, running through the 20th of June 2022, explores how the rapid technological development of the last century has inspired successive generations of artists, from the early days of cinematography, through kinetic art, to computer art. Peter Weibel, the exhibition’s curator, says that the public rarely appreciates how electricity has revolutionized art. “Unlike in the field of music, where electric instruments and amplifiers were embraced, in the art world, unplugged art, like painting and sculpture, is so highly valued, and art that uses electricity is debunked,” he said.

The exhibition’s starting point was the work of Zdeněk Pešánek, a pioneer of Czech avant-garde art who had a direct link to the Zenger Electrical Substation building. In 1936, the artist created a kinetic light sculpture for the façade of the building entitled 100 Years of Electricity, but the installation mysteriously disappeared and survived only as a model. So the Kunsthalle Praha team, together with guest curator Peter Weibel, decided to focus on reviving Pešánek’s vision and putting it in dialogue with a whole century of art driven by electricity.

This optically dazzling and comprehensive exhibition features over ninety works. Visitors will encounter everything from experiments by Bauhaus-affiliated artists to cutting-edge immersive technology from the Tokyo-based art collective teamLab. The expo features works by pioneers such as László Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, or leading contemporary names such as Olafur Eliasson, whose installation Lightwave will greet visitors on arrival.

Heinz Mack, Virtuelles Volumen I, 1964
Photo: Studio Mack
Xavier Veilhan, Light Machine, 2015. Perrotin, Paris.
Photo: Claire Dorn, Veilhan / ADAGP Paris, 2021

Alongside the opening show, a special exhibition, Electrical Substation: Electricity in Architecture, Electricity in the City, will also be on display, exploring the building’s rich industrial past and the broader history of Prague.

Cover photo: Lukáš Masner
Interior photo: Filip Šlapal
Exhibition photos: Vojtěch Veškrna

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Source: Press release, Wallpaper

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