Shuttered gem on Wenceslas Square to briefly open
Palác U Stýblů will be the center of this year's 4+4 festival
Posted: October 9, 2013
Every year, the 4+4 Days in Motion festival of contemporary art has some of its events in an unusual, abandoned space. This time it is Palác U Stýblů, also known as Palác Alfa, on Wenceslas Square. Save for a few shops on the ground level, the place has been closed to the public since the early 1990s. The upper level was a functionalist-style dancing café and the lower level had a cinema with 70 mm projectors and 1,200 seats.
During 4+4 Days in Motion the now-dilapidated space will host a contemporary art exhibition with a bar, some concerts and dance recitals that will be accessible for an English-speaking audience, as well as some theater in Czech.
The abandoned space is just one of five venues for the festival, which runs Oct. 11-19 and is in this 18th year. Other parts of the festival will be at Divadlo Archa, Studio Alta, Baráčnická rychta and the Orco building at Bubenská 1.
Palác U Stýblů wil be the center of the festival, though. "It is a good invitation to see a unique place in Wenceslas Square," festival producer Markéta Černá told The Prague Post, adding that the exhibition called Problem Is Here with works from 40 artists and an "artistic bar" will be open until midnight.
Getting into the shuttered venue was easier than the organizers expected. "We got access to the place from the current owner, Ondřej Stýblo, who is the great grandson of the original owner. He plans to restore it to its former glory," Černá said. An accompanying program of discussions and walks is only in Czech.
One of the festival highlights, a concert by Theo Hakola and the Wobbly Ashes, will also be at Palác U Stýblů on Oct. 17. Hakola is an American singer based in France since 1978 who has been moving from his punk roots to a more introspective "chanson-noir" sound. The venue will also host an Oct. 15 concert by South Bohemian indie rockers Please the Trees with Elpida, a choir of senior citizens. The concert and a related CD are meant to change the perception of elderly people.
Other venues also have events worth checking out. Italian theater troupe Motus will be at Divadlo Archa with Alexis: A Greek Tragedy. The Oct. 12 performance will have English and Czech subtitles. The play is based on a 2008 incident in Athens where the death of a teenage boy led to widespread riots.
Archa will also have two dance performances. The first is another festival highlight. India-based Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts presents dance, film and sound to give a broad scope of what is happening in India, and it is more than what one commonly sees in Bollywood films.
Dance company Campo will present a dance performance called Victor at Archa on Oct. 15. The piece uses two dancers, 13-year-old Viktor Caudron and professional dancer Steven Michel in "a fragile play of muscles and power play of unequal possibilities."
French-Austrian theater troupe Supermas delves into perspective to create a world where fictional characters meet real life ones such as Muammar Gaddafi, Nicholas Sarkozy and Ariel Sharon. The Oct. 19 presentation at Archa is in English with Czech subtitles.
Additional performances worth noting are a site-specific dance by Czech group Vertedance at Orco from Oct. 17 to 19, and a new piece called Mirage by 420People at the Nová Scena of the National Theater.
Only once the history of the 4+4 festival has it ever returned to a disused space, and if the renovations at Palác U Stýblů take place as planned, it is unlikely the festival will be able to return there. "Abandoned places are getting harder to find," Černá said. "We have almost run out of them." But the festival organizers promise they will find something for next year.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at