Lenka and Richard Bakeš are colorful and versatile players in the Prague cultural scene: they run a creative studio and a gallery, Richard is a graphic designer and Lenka is an artist, and this year they are organizing the first Prague Art Week program series. The Berlínskej Model gallery, which they run, presents rapidly rotating exhibitions focusing on social and ecological themes, and this year, they published a book on their ten years of existence.
We visited the couple at their home in Prague, where we were greeted by refurbished second-hand designer furniture, contemporary artworks and treasures in their collection, such as records, books, pocket knives and synthesizers. Lenka and Richard enthusiastically talk about the Prague cultural scene and themselves, and on the way to the Berlínskej Model we got to know not only them but also their favorite places in the area.
HOW THEY MET
Richard: We first met at the gallery that we now run together in Prague, Berlínskej Model, where, at the recommendation of my friend, Lenka was supposed to have an exhibition. But then we met by chance at a techno party, which we left together, and we’ve been together pretty much ever since. So, it all happened pretty quickly and with no complications [laughs].
Lenka: Yes, it was fast and intense, like a trip. But our “day-to-day” lives gradually started to fit together perfectly and became one.
HOW THEY CREATE
Lenka: We are working really hard right now, but only because we are currently doing what we resolved to do. The main conditions are creativity, sustainability, and ethics. Our work can’t be separated from our lives. I practice yoga, Richard has always been politically minded, and we are both artists. So even when we’re doing business, it’s about leaving the world better than we found it. Practically speaking, we help contemporary art and artists get established, interconnecting contemporary art with other segments, whether it’s the media, patrons, or companies. For example, we are currently preparing the first annual Prague Art Week (Prague Art Week will take place between 9 and 15 September—the Ed.).
Richard: As an umbrella entity for both of us, we created the studio Sharp Objects, where we handle overall communication strategies for various clients, create visual design and PR for the culture sector, and also support ecological or environmentally focused collectives and companies. I’m a graphic designer, so I take care of everything to do with graphics and web design, and Lenka handles communication with clients, copywriting, and all the PR—but also the art direction for photographers because she studied conceptual art photography. Lenka is also the first critic for my work, and we consult each other on everything. In our gallery, Berlínskej Model, which we’ve been running together for five years now, we also work together very interconnectedly. We co-create the program, choose the exhibitions, or curate them all—we each take care of different things every time. We mostly work from home, but each of us in a different part of the apartment, and we have meetings in the gallery. The atmosphere is sometimes tense because we have different opinions on what music is best for work. I can’t work without music, but Lenka, on the other hand, needs silence—luckily there are two doors between us.
Richard: As a designer, I find inspiration absolutely everywhere. I’m a human observer. It’s mostly in completely ordinary things—on the web, of course, or in the supermarket or the forest, which sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. I’m interested in a lot of fields, from science to art to building bikes—even picking mushrooms and cooking. Before I started the gallery, I did politically engaged art for eight years, so I focused a lot on politics too, which has now shifted toward environmentalism and related literature, such as Timothy Morton’s books. And, well, what I’m getting to is how Lenka inspires me, and that is her interest in these topics, where she’s the one who comes up with new tendencies in the field and brings new topics to our long conversations in the car when we’re driving to our cottage in the Orlice Mountains (going to cottages and mushroom picking are the Czech national sports). But most of all, it’s her energy, strength, and persistence. I often lack patience and energy. In short, in women there are a few qualities that are more strongly developed than they are in men, and fortunately, Lenka and I complement each other well—another cliché.
Lenka: Absolutely everything inspires and shapes us. Everything is connected. I don’t perceive the world as something that surrounds us but rather as something that lives inside of us. But in a world saturated with external stimuli, perhaps the most inspiring thing for me is silence. Since art is our daily bread, I am more inspired by philosophy, poetry, and literature. Five years ago, I named my art group after the novel Dune by Frank Herbert. I’m a dreamer, and by nature I’m a bit too gracious and, in a word, naïve. Richard taught me to be critical and see the world realistically. In the context of the current war in Ukraine, realism and a healthy skepticism about the future is in order.
PRAISE OR CRITICISM
Richard: As I wrote in my reply above, Lenka is my first critic, and with visual things, it’s important to have an immediate reflection. Sometimes I take her advice, sometimes I don’t. We often argue too, but that’s usually when I’m criticizing her work—she’s awfully stubborn [laughs].
Richard: Just as many people grew tired of machines and new technologies during the Industrial Revolution, we too are growing tired of the city and the digital environment in general. We would like to move outside of the city and do culture—to remain connected with the structures of the gallery and our work in Prague but to live elsewhere, where there isn’t so much culture yet.
Lenka: It’s not a big or impossible dream—it’s a seemingly ordinary thing. Nevertheless, there’s beauty in simplicity, if one can see it. We sometimes joke, in accordance with Beuys, that our life is a social sculpture—so this future statue of ours also has to fulfill our ideals.
FAVORITE STORY TOGETHER
Richard: Our best experience together was definitely our wedding last year, which we managed to pull off even in these complicated times, and I think that we also made our families happy, which was actually the goal of the event.
Lenka: Another social sculpture, carved to perfection [laughs]. It was extremely demanding physically and mentally; we organized everything ourselves. Right after the wedding, we were flooded with endorphins, and for a few weeks we were so happy. You don’t get feelings like that very often anymore. You can compare it to the first time you go scuba diving, the first time you take LSD, or the feeling we had when we survived a hurricane on a deserted island—but that story is for another time.
Photos: Balázs Mohai